It was during my first six weeks at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute that I learned how to REALLY cook a baked potato. Up until that point, I thought that baking a potato meant wrapping it in aluminum foil and tossing it in the oven until it was ready (I mean, that’s what my family had always done!). I had no idea that I was actually steaming the potato and that an exponentially better baked potato could be had just by changing my cooking method! It’s been fourteen years since I first learned how to cook a perfect baked potato and I’ve never used another method since. Below is what I learned in culinary school that day and I hope that these tips will help you too when baking potatoes for your family:
Start with a Good Baking Potato Such as a Russet – The starchiness in a Russet potato makes it ideal for baking and will result in a lighter and fluffier baked potato. And, when using the cooking method below, the thick skin on a Russet will turn into a perfectly seasoned crispy potato skin that’s absolutely irresistible!
Buy Potatoes That Are Uniform In Size – This is super important because you want all of your potatoes to cook evenly and be done at the same time. A potato is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F. Different sized potatoes = different cooking times!
Inspect Your Potatoes Thoroughly Before Buying Them – Steer clear of potatoes that have sprouts or a green tint to the skin. Also, try to avoid potatoes that have noticeable blemishes or bruises on them.
Perform the Squeeze Test – This is a simple test to do before pulling your potatoes from the oven. If you squeeze the middle of the potato and it gives in easily, your potato is done. If your potato isn’t ready, continue to cook it at 15 minute increments and do the “squeeze test” periodically to check for doneness.
Yes, You Can Microwave Potatoes to Cut Down on the Cooking Time – Ok, I didn’t learn this in culinary school, but have learned this time-saving trick while baking potatoes for my family. You can cut down the cooking time by almost half if you first microwave the potato for 4-5 minutes (piercing it with a fork first) and then place it in the oven. You will need to microwave each potato individually so this may not be optimal if you’re cooking a large number of potatoes.
So, without further ado, below is the cooking method I learned for making perfect baked potatoes each and every time. Whether part of this Saturday’s Steak Night or next week’s Meatless Monday, these spuds are sure to steal the show! Enjoy!
Perfect Baked Potatoes
4 Russet Potatoes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Thoroughly scrub potatoes under cold running water. Dry potatoes and pierce them four times each with a fork or sharp knife. Thoroughly rub olive oil on potatoes and sprinkle them all over with kosher salt. Place potatoes on the middle rack of the oven, then place a baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven to catch any drippings. Bake potatoes for 1 hour or until done (large potatoes will take longer to bake).
*If potato is not done, continue to cook it at 15 minute increments, checking periodically for doneness.
Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.