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.
The Perfect Baked Potato
- 4 (6-ounces each) russet potatoes
- Vegetable oil
- Kosher or sea salt
- Heat oven to 400°F or 375°F if using convection.
- Choose a firm vegetable brush to scrub the potatoes. Avoid stiff bushes that break the skin.
- Pierce the potatoes in the shape of a cross over the top of the potatoes. Piercing prevents the potatoes from bursting in the oven. The cross shape is where you will open the potatoes when they are ready to serve.
- Rub the skin of the potatoes with a little vegetable oil to make them shiny and crisp in the oven.
- Sprinkle the tops with salt for added flavor.
- Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil and place on the oven rack. Forget wrapping the potatoes in foil. It steams them instead of baking. Placing foil on the oven rack prevents the oil and salt from dripping in the oven and making a mess.
- Place the potatoes in a single layer on the sheet of foil.
- Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- To serve, use a fork to pierce again in the cross area. Press the ends towards the center. The Idaho Potato Commission calls this the “Blossoming” technique. The potato will push upward and be more fluffy than if cut with a knife.
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