How to Bake a Potato

Everyone should know how to bake a potato! A baked potato topped with cheese and some steamed vegetables can be an easy and nutritious meal. Of course, nothing goes better with a steak than a baked potato with a bit of sour cream! Fortunately, baked potatoes are extremely easy to make. Here's how to bake a potato.

What kind of potatoes to use

If you are having a craving for baked potatoes right now, go ahead and use whatever potatoes you have in the house. They will be just fine. But if you want perfect oven baked potatoes, and you can plan ahead, choose "baking potatoes". They will have that lovely mealy baked potato texture. They tend to be long with a coarse skin. These are the varieties that the experts recommend for baked potatoes:

  • Idaho potatoes
  • russet potatoes

Should you wrap the potatoes in foil?

In a word - no! Not unless you want steamed potatoes rather than baked.

Even though the supermarket sells potatoes already wrapped in foil, and calls them "baking potatoes", this isn't a good idea. For a baked potato with the classic baked potato texture, don't use foil. (Of course, individual tastes differ. if you like your baked potatoes to have a soft, limp, skin and moist insides, go ahead and use foil.)

How long should you bake them?

That depends on how big they are, and how you like them. Here are some general guidelines:

  • smaller potatoes will take at least 45 minutes
  • larger potatoes will take at least 1 hour
  • for potatoes with thick, crackly skin, bake even longer - up to 2 hours for a large potato

How to know when your baked potato is ready

When you think the potato might be cooked, use your oven mitts to remove the potato from the oven. Test it using one of these methods.

  • Squeeze it. If it is soft, it is probably done.

  • Poke it with a knife. If the knife slides in smoothly, with no resistance, the potato is probably done.

  • Use a food thermometer. If the internal temperature is 210 F/100 C, the potato is probably done.

I say probably because individual tastes differ. Some people like their potato to be absolutely, completely, utterly soft on the inside, with a well done skin. Others like a bit of firmness to their baked potato. Do what is right for you.

You can eat baked potatoes on their own, as part of a special meal, or use them in recipes. The very best baked potato recipe I know is this Twice Baked Potato recipe.

Check that you have these staples at home

  • potatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter

Get out your equipment

  • Essential

    • a vegetable brush
    • a fork
    • oven mitts

  • Nice to have but not necessary

    • a food thermometer

How to Bake A Potato

Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.

Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush in water to remove all dirt.
Poke each potato with a fork in several places.

Place the potatoes on the oven rack, slightly separated from one another.
Cook until done (see guidelines above).

Serve immediately, while the potatoes are still very hot.

Add salt, pepper and butter to taste.

Ideas for making this recipe your own

  • Top the baked potato with your choice of condiments. How about some sour cream or plain yogurt, or some bacon bits and chives?

  • Turn a baked potato into a complete meal by topping it with steamed vegetables and some grated cheese - or baked beans and salsa. Be creative!

Menu suggestion

Serve this dish with

Now that you know how to bake a potato, you may want to learn to cook potatoes in other ways:

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