How to Cook Perfect Baked Potatoes in the Oven
It took me a while to get oven-baked potatoes just right, so I thought perhaps there are others out there who need to know what I needed to know: how in the heck do I cook the best baked potato?! One that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside? And how long too bake potatoes, anyway? I did a little research and baked up a few test batches, and now I think I’ve got it down.
It’s definitely not as simple as giving a potato a rinse and slapping it in the oven. There are a few secrets to cooking the perfect baked potato. Baked potatoes with pillowy-hot insides just waiting for melty butter and crispy, flavorful skins that you actually want to eat.
Step 1: Choosing Your Potatoes
Start with a nice, firm (not soft or spongy) russet potato (sometimes called “Idaho potatoes” or “baking potatoes”) with very few blemishes or eyes. If baking more than one potato, try to select potatoes that are similar in size for even cooking.
Step 2: Wash Your Potatoes
Hold the potato under water and scrub well with a vegetable brush to clean the skin. Blot dry with a towel.
Step 3: Rub & Salt
Rub the entire potato with a drizzle of olive oil and generous pinch of kosher salt. It’s messy business, but your hands will feel so soft afterwards! Bonus.
Step 4: Prick It, Prick It Good
Prick each potato with a fork three or four times to allow steam to escape while baking.
Step 5: Bake ‘Em!
Place potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake at 400 degrees until tender. How long to bake potatoes? Usually 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. I test to see if they’re done one of two ways:
- Inserting a fork into the potato (it’s done if the fork goes in easily) OR
- Give the potatoes a quick squeeze (they’ll give easily if they’re done).
Step 6: Slice Open ASAP
Remove from the oven and, as soon as you can handle them, slice them down the middle. Then place your forefingers and thumbs on the bottom corners (as much as potatoes have corners) and squeeze toward the center. This “fluffs” the insides and keeps moisture from getting trapped inside the skin as the potatoes begin to cool.
Try to imagine both hands squeezing here – I had to take the photo with my other hand!
Step 7: Top and Devour!
That’s it! Serve warm with butter, vegan butter, sour cream, bacon, chives, scallions, salt, black pepper, sauteed mushrooms, chili, grated cheese, salsa, steamed broccoli, pretty much whatever you want. The perfect easy meal – and each potato can be endlessly customizable. Perfect for vegetarians and carnivores living together.
Originally published on August 21, 2012. Updated March 3, 2016.
How to Cook Perfect Baked Potatoes
The perfect baked potato. Crispy on the outside, pillowy on the inside. Here are a few key secrets for making it happen!
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Scrub the potato with water and a vegetable brush until well-cleaned. Blot dry with a kitchen towel or paper towel.
- Rub the entire potato with olive oil, then sprinkle on some kosher salt and rub that all over the potato as well.
- Prick each potato with a fork three or four times. This will allow the steam to escape while baking.
- Place potatoes directly on the oven rack. Bake until potatoes just begin to appear wrinkly and papery on the outside, and when you squeeze the potato, it gives – 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of your potato. Another way to test is to insert a fork into the potato (it’s done if the fork goes in easily).
- Remove from the oven and, as soon as you can handle them, slice each potato down the middle. Then place your forefinger and thumbs on the bottom ends and squeeze toward the center. This helps to fluff the insides, and helps keep moisture from getting trapped inside the skin as the potatoes begin to cool.
- Serve warm with butter, sour cream, bacon, chives, scallions, salt, black pepper, sauteed mushrooms, chili, grated cheese, salsa, steamed broccoli, pretty much whatever you want. The perfect meal!