How to Bake the Perfect Potato
First, we must describe the perfect baked potato. The perfect baked potato has a crispy seasoned golden brown skin and a light, white, fluffy texture inside.
That is the goal. What you do to it once you achieve perfection is your choice.
What Is the Best Potato to Bake?
Select the proper potato. The proper potato needs to be one with high starch and low moisture.
High Starch – Low Moisture potatoes are also described as having high solids.
This type of potato has large starch granules that expand and explode during the cooking process. This is what produces that fluffy inside that we are going to create.
Most everyone agrees that the Russet potato is the best for baking. That is what all the fine restaurants use. Idaho is famous for its Russet potatoes.
How to Select the Best Baked Potato
When selecting your russets at the store or produce stand, go to the individual potato bin and select your potatoes by size. This way, they will all cook at the same time.
Another reason to hand-select your potatoes rather than just buying the bag is to ensure that the potatoes are blemish and bruise-free.
The perfect Russet potato should have reddish-brown skin. It should be long, slightly rounded and have a few shallow eyes.
There should be no green color to the potato. If you see green, most likely the potato wasn’t stored properly.
When the time comes to prepare your baked potatoes, they will need to be washed thoroughly. They were grown in fertilized dirt, right?
Wash each potato carefully with a brush or a clean new sponge, careful not to damage the skin. The skin has lots of beneficial fiber and we want to eat it. Place the potatoes on a clean paper towel and let them dry.
Sometimes a potato can explode in the oven during the baking process. It is not likely, but it can happen.
To prevent this from happening to your baked potato, pierce the potatoes a few times with the tines of a fork.
Coating the Potatoes
To achieve that golden brown tasty, crispy skin, you'll want to coat the skin with an oil of some kind lightly. I use olive oil for its flavor, but any oil you have will be fine.
Do not saturate the potato; just a very light coating will do. Too much oil will create soggy skin.
Then you'll want to season the potato. I use kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper on the job. I might even use a seasoning blend like Montreal Steak Seasoning at home. It just depends on what you are serving the baked potato with.
Once the potatoes are bathed, dried off, pierced, lightly oiled, and seasoned, it is time to bake them.
Baking the Potatoes
Before you turn on your oven, arrange your oven racks as follows. Place one rack in the center of the oven and one rack below it.
Place an empty sheet pan or cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings from the potatoes that will cook directly on the rack above, with no pan. Putting the potatoes in a pan will form a hard spot on the bottom; we do not want that.
Preheat your oven to 325° F. Once heated, carefully place the potatoes on the center rack above the sheet pan and close the door.
An average Russet potato for baking will weigh about 8 ounces and cook in about one hour and 30 minutes. Carefully turn your potatoes with a pair of tongs once during the cooking time to prevent over-browning where they touch the racks.
To test for doneness, you can lightly squeeze the potato. It should be soft. The ultimate and best test for doneness is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the potato and look for an internal temperature of 210° F.
If you increase the temperature, you will cook the potato faster and have drier skin. You may also have a drier potato, so I recommend a temperature of 325° F.
We like to stick a metal skewer through the middle of the potato before baking. As the metal heats up, it helps cook the center of the potato so the outside doesn't overcook while the inside needs more time. Optional.
Once the potato is perfectly baked, you can open it by taking a fork and poking it into the top in a straight line from one end to the other and gently pinching in each end towards the center. This will expose the fluffy white interior of the potato.
Now comes the fun part...dressing your potato.
Baked Potato Recipe from a Professional Chef
I was thrilled to receive another email from Certified Master Chef Hartmut W. Kuntze. You may remember his excellent description of how to make Professional Mashed Potatoes.
As a home cook enthusiast, you can’t believe how exciting it is to learn from a professional. Chef Hartmut knows potatoes and has baked a few in his day.
Here is his version of baked potatoes from "a professional chef’s point of view."
- Wash and scrub well. 3M makes a green scrubby that works well.
- Pat dry.
- Prick the ends with a fork to let moisture escape during baking. This will make the potato fluffy instead of gummy.
- Oil or butter lightly. I like butter for flavor but will use bacon grease if available.
- Season lightly with kosher salt and a few twist of the pepper mill on all sides.
- You can place a baking sheet on the lower rack of your oven to catch any dripping from the potatoes.
- Place the potatoes spaced ½ inch apart on the center rack and bake at 400°F for about 1 hour, depending on size. A potato will yield to pressure when done.
- Cut open in a wave shape with a paring knife and squeeze ends.
- Serve immediately.