To some, baking a potato seems like a pretty easy task. Baking the perfect baked potato is another story.
There are lots of ways to bake a potato. You can throw your taters in the microwave, “bake” your spuds in the slow cooker, or put your potatoes in the oven.
While the perfect potato has a lot to do with personal preference, the Test Kitchen is here to provide you with step-by-step instructions for the tastiest tubers.
First, heat your oven (or toaster oven) to 400 degrees (or 375 if using convection). Then give your potatoes a good wash. We used a firm vegetable brush to scrub the potatoes, but be sure to avoid stiff brushes that break the skin.
Then use a fork to pierce the potatoes in the shape of cross on one side. Piercing prevents the potatoes from bursting open in the oven. The cross shape is where you will open or “blossom”( we’ll get to that later) the potatoes before serving.
Once the potatoes are pierced, rub the skin with a little vegetable oil. The oil will help the skin get crispy while the potatoes bake.
Before baking, sprinkle the tops of the potatoes with salt for added flavor.
If you’re used to wrapping the potatoes in aluminum foil before baking, don’t this time. When the potatoes are fully covered, they steam instead of bake. You’re left with soft, mushy potatoes instead of potatoes with a crispy skin.
Instead, put a sheet of aluminum foil on the oven rack and place the potatoes on top (in a single layer). The foil will catch the oil and salt, preventing dripping onto the bottom of the oven and making a mess you’ll have to clean later.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until the potatoes are tender.
Before serving, pierce the potatoes again in the same place as before. Then hold the potatoes at both ends and squeeze towards the middle. This technique is called “blossoming” and makes for a beautiful presentation.
Whether you’re eating your baked potatoes with a pat of butter and a little extra salt and pepper or adding everything but the kitchen sink on top for a loaded potato, these are delicious any and every way.
The next time you reach for a bag of spuds, remember these tips and tricks for making the best baked potato.