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The Perfect Baked Potato

  • Dommy Mar 28, 2007 11:21 AM
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I admit, I have no idea how to cook a PERFECT baked potato! I mean, the type you get at fancy restaurants that are all pillowy and melty. So good all you need is butter and pepper and you can even eat the crisp skin... Mine always come out a little dry and burt on one end and always TAKE so darn long! :P

So tonight I want... no NEED this baked potato. What are some of your tips and hints to get that restaurant quality one? A certain technique? Temp? Potato type?

Also, what should I make as a main to go with my my baked beauty? I had meatloaf last night, so that's out...

--Dommy!

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  1. I have never mastered the perfect baked potato either. I tend to always order them out because they are so much better. But with my potato, I always want a perfect rare steak.

    1. Here's what I do to get my version of perfect for me and my DH: I nuke 3 Idahos for 3 mins, just to get them started. Then into a pre-heated 425 oven for one hour. Very crisp skin, dry fluffy interior...DH loves the crisp skins so much, that he eats 2 potatoes, skin only....I eat one potato, insides + skin....simple but perfect!

      PS: I save the scooped-out insides and save them for another night. I put the rough chunks into a oval gratin, dress with olive oil, s&p, rosemary & roast for about 40 mins at 375...they come out light, crispy & delicious...

      Serve with just about any simple main...roasted/baked chicken, meat or fish...also very good with hamburgers....

      14 Replies
      1. re: fauchon

        Don't you have to pierce the skin first? Otherwise, I'd think the potato would explode in the 'wave.

        1. re: mojoeater

          thanks...forgot to include that I pierce the Idahos with a fork before nuking...

          1. re: fauchon

            If you think a burst potato in the microwave is bad - you should see it in the oven. I once forgot to pierce it before baking and they exploded inside the oven. Yikes. It was EVERYWHERE. Took me hours to clean up. And it made quite the noise when it happened too but I didn't put 2 and 2 together fast enough. I didn't realize at first what was going on until I smelled an unusual earthy odor and smoke started filling up the house.

            1. re: sivyaleah

              Hmm...when I make a baked potato in the oven, I never pierce the skin and they have never exploded. I only pierce them if I'm in a hurry and have to microwave them first to get them started.

              1. re: sivyaleah

                That's odd, I have never had one explode in the oven, and I just started piercing them a few years ago...I was told it was to let the steam out so the skins would remain crisp and not steam from within...I guess I got lucky.

          2. re: fauchon

            Do exactly the same... par bake in the microwave, then put in the toaster or oven to bake... ActuallyI think I prefer the toaster, as it gives a great crisp skin.

            1. re: Emme

              After years of making them in the oven and never understanding why they didn't come out how I like them, I learned that they come out better in my toaster oven. It was just coincidental since my oven was filled with other stuff and I had no place to cook the potatoes. Lo and behold, they come out so much better in my toaster oven. Haven't made them in the regular oven since.

              1. re: valerie

                Holy cow! Maybe I can cook them up here at work! How long does it take?

                --Dommy!

                1. re: Dommy

                  Same amount of time, maybe a little less. About an hour. But as Emme said above, you can cook them for a bit in the microwave and then put them in the toaster oven to finish.

                  1. re: valerie

                    Yes, I use a toaster oven to finish off my baked potatoes as well. Makes the skin perfect.

                    One thing no ones mentioned yet (perhaps it's too gauche nowadays?!) is to rub the skin liberally before cooking with...CRISCO. My Grandmother did this, and they were always good, nice crisp skin as well.

                    Do people even use Cristco anymore!? *ponders*

                    1. re: Honeychan

                      I rub mine with bacon grease, I just don't usually tell anyone.

                      1. re: coll

                        Ohhhhhh..*drools* THAT sounds like a great idea! (your secret's safe with me!)

                        1. re: Honeychan

                          I know, I used to use Whirl or some type of buttery sauce but this might even be a little healthier ;-) I do like to mound some kosher salt on top before baking too. With all that flavor you hardly need butter or sour cream.

                  2. re: Dommy

                    I was thinking the same thing Dommy. I have a toaster oven here at the office and microwave and the room all to myself.

            2. Of course, you should use a Russett Burbank, or other good Idaho-type potato. Scrub, dry, pierce with a sharp knife and rub with soft butter. Bake on a bed of coarse salt (this prevents the scorched, tough area on one side) at 400 degrees for 1 hour (a bit longer for a truly huge potato). Excellent Russetts will have a dark, almost pebbly -- rather than smooth -- skin. If you can find these, they are invariably fluffier and sweeter than other baking potatoes. If you live in the right part of the country, you might be able to find some excellent heirloom varietites at a farmers' market or stand.

              In my book, just about anything goes with a good baked potato, but aside from the obvious steak, I really like a juicy piece of swordfish!

              7 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                Whenever I've buttered baking potatoes, the skin doesn't come out super crispy....am I doing something wrong....

                1. re: fauchon

                  I agree - I never butter/oil the skin.

                  I also put the potato directly onto the racks - never on a baking pan. That way they get even heat all around.

                  1. re: sivyaleah

                    So do I...the potatoes go right on the racks, never on a pan of any kind....ah, so many details in the pursuit of perfection! I've been using "my" method for so many years, I half forget the details when I go to write it down!

                  2. re: fauchon

                    I wonder if it might have something to do with temperatire. When I butter potatoes and put them on my Kamado grill, they come out nice and crispy. But I usually start it out around 550 degrees and then bring it back down after about 15 minutes to around 350.

                    I also like to put coarse salt on the outside of the potatoes. The best way I've found is to put the buttered raw potato in a plastic bag with the salt and then manually push the salt into the potato skin through the bag.

                    As they cook, I baste them with melted butter. Sometimes with 50/50 melted butter and Texas Pete hot sauce.

                    1. re: fauchon

                      I think that if you're going for super crispy, almost brittle, you shouldn't butter the skin at all. I like a mode tender skin.

                    2. re: pikawicca

                      I also butter the skin well and always use russetts. My only addition to this is get to a kitchen shop and get some potato nails. They are aluminum spikes with a loop at one end and are about 6" long. You insert the spiked end all the way into the potato prior to baking and leave it there until they are done. The help cook the insides more evenly and quickly.

                      1. re: Candy

                        I know this is a very old thread, but you don't have to buy "potato nails". I have some old metal skewers that I put the potatoes on for the same effect. And because they're long grilling skewers, I can fit 2 potatoes on 1 skewer. The skewers are flat, so the potatoes don't spin and they have a loop at the end as well.

                    3. I wish I could offer some advice but I too have not been able to master this. My latest idea was to boil a skin-on potato for maybe 10 minutes to try to get the inside partially soft and then bake it at a high temp to finish it but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

                      I had a perfect baked potato in Dominican Republic this past December - at an all-inclusive resort. No kidding. It had the perfect texture and taste. I emailed the resort after my stay to get their recipe but haven't heard back, as I'm sure they think I'm a complete nut. But if they do share their recipe I promise to post it here.

                      1. I use a russet baking potato, and wash the potato, and allow to dry. I then pierce the skin in a couple of spots with a wood skewer, and then rub the potato down with vegetable shortning. I season with kosher salt, and put in the oven on a rack on a cookie sheet. I cook in the pre heated convection oven @ 375-degrees for about an hour.

                        I alos enjoy baked potatos with steak, or a nice piece of grilled fish.

                        1. I wash a russet, dry it, pierce it, and rub it with either olive oil or butter. I bake it at 425 or 450 for 1:15 to 1:30 or more, depending on how large it is (half pound or more). I cook it directly on the rack. Since I cook it for so long and at such high heat, I find that the skin gets too hard if it's not rubbed, but it is nicely crispy this way. When I remove from the oven, I cut into the potato immediately, to release the steam. This keeps the inside fluffy, rather than pasty. we eat baked potatoes with steak.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cocktailhour

                            I agree with 'cocktailer'.....I do the same thing...make sure the potato is totally dry after being washed,,,,pierce well...coat my hands with olive oil and rub into the potato...sprinkle all over with kosher(coarse) salt and bake directly on the oven rack at 425.....till done....xcut it immediately to release steam...eat with lots of butter or sour cream (chives optional)

                          2. Has anyone ever used those baking nails that you poke into the potato for a heat conductor? Do they cut cooking time?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Pat Hammond

                              I don't find that they cut cooking time, but they do make the insides cook more evenly.

                            2. Start by making sure your oven is well-calibrated and that the heat is evenly distributed inside.

                              Then make sure you are buying good quality Russet potatoes.

                              Rinse skin and scrub clean.

                              Pierce skin in the four quadrants of the potato.

                              Preheat oven to 425.

                              Bake for anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size of the potato.

                              Rotate and turn the potato at the midpoint of the baking process (e.g. if baking for 60 minutes, rotate/turn at 30 minutes)

                              When done, cut an X in the top of potato to allow steam to escape.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                My method is:
                                Large Idaho potatoes scrubbed well, pierce the skin once on the top and once on the bottom with a small knife. sprinkle the entire potato all over with salt lightly.

                                Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, once the oven is at temperature
                                Place potatoes directly on the middle rack in the center of the oven
                                Set the timer for 1 hour then I test them with a fork. Usually they will require another 15 to 20 minutes it depends on the size of the potatoes
                                You will have to check them, but being careful with the skin, and don't bring it out to soon.
                                When its done wipe the salt off, slit the top and squeeze to open it up for the goodies.

                                (For extra crispy potato skins for twice baked potatoes, cover it with more salt, this will help the skins hold up so you can scoop the inside out)

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  I am a 425 er but straight on the rack like you. Always fluffy, yet crispy.

                                  You can cook potatoes somewhat ahead and and pull them out and then slap them back into the oven to finish. Foil first and then unwrap to crisp. for 20 minutes in the oven. That way you can time things better.

                                  Also, little known fact, potatoes cannot sit interminably in a low oven to wait while you cook and eat apps and drink wine. The soon turn into petrified wood. Better to mostly bake and then relaunch them.

                                  Oh - and my sister cooks great potatoes. She plunges a skewer down the center longways. It speeds them up. Every time she comes to dinner I make sure to do potatoes so she can tell us her trick (she does every time. It gives me a laugh).

                              2. I follow the same procedure as everyone else(scrub, dry, pierce, no rack), and it may sound ridiculous, but I find that I get the fluffiness from cutting the x and then pushing the ends of the potato so that the flesh puffs up and out. It is amazingly fluffy and doesn't get all hard and compressed as I load on the sour cream. I have been eating one of these every night as my midnight snack.

                                1. I thought I heard- on Chowhound, in fact- that restaurants, esp. old steakhouse restaurants, deep fry those baked potatoes, but I don't know what the truth is behind that...

                                  We used to have a restaurant in the town I grew up in called "Smooth Moves"- all they served was baked potatoes and smoothies, but they were THE BEST baked potatoes EVER, and of course, I can't get the same results not matter how hard I try! They did use a mixture of cottage cheese and sour cream on the finished potatoes that was very good.

                                  1. I wash mine, dry them off, and stick them in a 400 degree oven for an hour. I always use russets. And they have a nice crisp skin and fluffy innards. In my opinion, microwaved potatoes are rubbery and have soggy skins, usually, and I never wrap them in foil. That almost guarantees a soggy skin for me. I have never pierced the skin on mine and haven't had one explode on me in 16 years of cooking.

                                    If I'm in a hurry, I like to cut a russet in half lengthwise, rub all sides with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and bake them on a baking sheet cut side down at 400. That takes less time - about 35 minutes. The cut side develops a nice almost fry-like crust, but the inside is still nice and fluffy. Most of the time, my husband and I split a potato like this for dinner because I buy pretty big taters and a whole one is just too much.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Andiereid

                                      I'll second Andie's first method exactly. To me less is better. However, I always take a small paring knife and just insert it to each potato before baking. I only "insert" the knive once... I once had a potato explode..that's all it takes..............;) Always buy russets too.

                                    2. I like mine crunchy and fluffy inside. The thing is you can't RUSH a good baked potato. I wash, dry and pierce a good russet potato, put it directly on the rack of a 450 oven, and bake for anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes..I reach in and give it a squeeze, it should feel crispy but soft inside. Absolutely no fat on the skin! But once you take it out, you must cut into it or the crust will soften, I agree about cutting an X in the top and squeezing so that the innards fluff up. For me this is the perfect potato, and I am passionate about my baked potatoes!!

                                      1. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                        Above is a link to Alton Brown's instructions.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: blue room

                                          Has anyone tried brining potates?

                                          http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                          1. re: jules127

                                            NO WAY!!

                                          2. re: blue room

                                            WOW! Thanks everyone for the great tips! Luckily my Irishman was feeling a little better and steped up to the task of making the tatters. He used Alton's recipe above and sadly because of some oven issues, they didn't come out as I had hoped. Still, even a slightly good baked tater with lots of butter is fantasitic! He also ended up picking some rib eyes... YUM!! :) and made Alton's Cesar Salad. Thanks P!

                                            --Dommy!

                                            1. re: blue room

                                              Alton is wrong. His potatoes' skin isn't what you want.

                                              Bake them at 425, using his instructions otherwise unaltered, though ghee is better than canola oil here.

                                              When you have company, don't oil them lightly. PACK THAT FAT ON. Oil 'em till they're like a greased pig.

                                            2. Cook's Illustrated is what I always follow for my baked potatoes:

                                              of course scrub and dry, coat in olive oil and with sea salt (I do this in the palm of my hand and then scrub my hands with the oil and salt and wash with a bit of soap - so soft), place directly into a 425 oven for exactly one hour. I use big russets. Come out perfect every time and I never have to think about it while they are in the oven. I often use them for mashed taters for a nice earthy potato taste.

                                              If you've got hot spots in your oven, that's another issue altogether.

                                              The skins on this are DEVINE.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: krissywats

                                                Do they come out crisp at all? I have to admit, the idea of salt on the crust is most intriguing!!

                                                1. re: prunefeet

                                                  yes - they do come out slightly crisp but the interior is beautiful and fluffy and I swear the salt does something to the interior flavor as well - I introduced my best friend to this method and he thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

                                                  1. re: krissywats

                                                    Ok, I am going to have to cast aside my aversion to oiling potatoes and try this....the salt thing won me over.

                                                    1. re: prunefeet

                                                      lol - please do let me know what you think - and seriously do the hand scrubbing thing...it's gorgeous!!

                                                2. re: krissywats

                                                  BINGO! I love them like that. the salt is essential and coarse sea salt is even better.

                                                  1. re: krissywats

                                                    I like to do the salt thing also; either with kosher or sea salt. I find that brushing the spud with beaten egg white really helps to make the salt adhere through baking.

                                                    1. re: krissywats

                                                      My method is almost identical to what Krissywats described except that intead of olive oil, I rub the skins bacon grease. This has always resulted in perfectly baked potatoes.

                                                    2. Scrub and pierce a Russet Burbank or a Yukon gold ( I prefer the Russets) and lightly coat with corn oil. Bake at 400-F on a open rack for 2 1/2 hours, or until they are soft and a inserted knife has no resistance.

                                                      Do not ever wrap in foil, or they will steam and the skins will not get crunchy.

                                                      I like to bake them for 2 hours the first time and then re-warm them the next day for about 1 hours in a 300 degree oven. The potato will be very soft and buttery but you need to start with a potato twice as large, as the double baking will eliminate most of the moisture.

                                                      1. My darling Purple Nannie, (bless her) made the worlds most perfect baked potatoes.

                                                        Good quality 'taties (I'm in Australia, I use Pontiac or Coliban). Cut in 1/2 and place cut side down in a baking tray.

                                                        Add a good dollop of lard, or duck fat and cook in high in a GAS oven (canna get the same crispiness in an electric, according to Purple Nannie) for 1 hour, basting with fat frequently.

                                                        Drain, sprinkle with salt, top with sour creme and snipped chives.

                                                        Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevine!!

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: purple goddess

                                                          Whoa -- this sounds great! The mention of duck fat really caught my eye. Will try.

                                                          1. re: purple goddess

                                                            I just made these (lovely organic russets, duck fat, kosher salt) and they were FABULOUS. I have no idea if they were as good as your Nannie's, but at 450 in an electric oven for half an hour, and 400 for the second half hour, basted 5 or 6 times with the duck fat, they were incredibly crispy on the outside and amazingly light and fluffy inside. I may never make a baked potato any other way again. And while I would eat cardboard if it had sour cream on it, these needed no enhancement at all. THANK YOU! (Will also try Andiereid's similar and healthier olive oil version posted a few up from this.)

                                                            1. re: GretchenS

                                                              yup.. pretty good, hey???

                                                              Sometimes she used to par boil them first, but I think that was in the 40's when potatoes were grown in an old tyre in your back yard. These days, with the range of gourmet tatties, I don't bother.

                                                              they do get all cruspy and yumacious on the bottom tho, don't they!!!

                                                              And you can mash 'em roughly and mix 'em with other left over roast vegies and left over cabbage and shredded lamb from the left over sunday roast and make them into little patties. Fry 'em off in lard/duck fat until golden and scoff. Purple Nannie used to call this "Bubble and Squeak", and we'd have it for breakfast!!

                                                              1. re: purple goddess

                                                                Mercy, please, you're killing me!

                                                          2. My technique for the perfect baked potato, guaranteed!

                                                            Russets, pierce once with a fork and again on opposite side.
                                                            Scrub under running water and LEAVE WET.
                                                            One at a time liberally sprinkle kosher salt on all sides and ends.
                                                            Place directly on rack in 375 oven.
                                                            (If you are baking other things any temp 300-400 is fine, just affects the length of time.)
                                                            To test if done, use a hot pad to squeeze a potato -- when it gives easily you're there.

                                                            Use lots of kosher salt -- most of it falls off or you can brush off the finished potatoes if it's too much for you. The salt gives a wonderful shell to the potato and flavors the inside.

                                                            No oil or butter on the outside (or foil ever!).

                                                            Make lots of extras -- the leftovers make fantastic fried potatoes another day.

                                                            ~Puzzler

                                                            1. Oooooh, I know how to do this!!!! Courtesy of Mom. Wash off your Idaho leaving it a little(not very) damp. Give it a cut lengthwise and across its belly. Wrap it in tin foil. Bake it atleast an hour at 375-400 (and maybe higher temp depending on your oven). Unwrap the foil and give it a fork test. If it goes in easy, allow your unwrapped tater to bake for another 10 while the skin crisps up Take it out of the oven, grab your oven mits and press on either side of knife cuts to reveal your delicious innards. Fill with what you desire. And voila, your perfect baked potato....

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: MellieMac

                                                                that's a different technique, never thought to cut the potato before baking. Why not? Must try perhaps it helps with the cooking...

                                                              2. so easy...

                                                                wash/scrub/drry potato...pierce 3/4 times with fork...450 oven for one hour...take out and pierce a fork line lenghthwise on top of potato and puff up by pressing the ends up

                                                                cooking 101

                                                                1. Well first you take your potato and scrub them clean to get all the dirt and fertilizer off them once there clean nuke them in the microwave for 5 mins. Take them out and let them cool down a bit pearce the potato with a fork a couple of times then pop then into a preheated 425 degrees oven for 25 mins then flip them then pop them back in for 20 more or until gently squeezed the potato is soft.

                                                                  There are tones of varyations of the potato if your looking for a extreamly good baked potato i always take the potato and scrub them clean to get all the dirt and fertilizer off them once there clean nuke them in the microwave for 5 mins. Take them out and let them cool down once there cool i make small deep incesions with a knife 4 or 5 incesions depending on the size of the potato in each slit add a little bit of butter or margarine then once i have done that i fill them with garlic green red and yellow or one of the kind of peppers some onion and put them in the slits at the top of the potato sprinkle with garlic powder fresh chopped parsley italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste then i bake them.

                                                                  I normally serve the baked potatoes with a fresh tbone steak or pork tenderloin steak sholders sauteed in onions and mushrooms.

                                                                  as potatoes are starch this gives you lots of vegetables to make up the majority of the four basic food groups

                                                                  1. Well, I'm glad to see this topic, but I seriously doubt that cooking methods, apart from some outliers, are really the problem. "Pillowy and melty" is a pretty good description--although I'd add "powdery" as opposed to wet-and-waxy. I've baked potatoes with several different methods--have used the pre-bake microwave option (2 minutes), have tried boiling them first for (I forget) maybe ten minutes, whatever. Whatever the method, when repeated it didn't necessarily produce the save results. My standard--400 degrees for 1 hour, produced quite various results--and I always try to get approximately the same sized potatoes, just because I like that size. Once in a while I get my ideal, most times not. My guess is that the key variant is the potatoes themselves. And I have distant memories (obviously something we all need to be skeptical about) of a time when most baking potatoes turned out the way I like them. So maybe something has changed in the potato market. One or more the posters below mentioned preferring restaurant baked potatoes. Has anyone thought about the huge increase in the number of premium steak houses in the last 20 years? Maybe they're simply getting all the best potatoes out there. I dunno. What we need is a expert potato farmer to weigh in on this.

                                                                    1. an old thread, but some things are timeless. i made baked potatoes the other night for some friends. close to alton brown's method but not quite. I did not pierce the potatoes, but after throughly washing them, I popped them in the hot oven for about 5 minutes to dry the skins out. Then i rubbed them thoroughly with butter, the phone rang and I forgot to salt them as I put them back in to the oven - directly on the racks, no pan. I turned them once about half way through baking. I baked them for about 1:45 at 375. Perhaps with the lower temperature (as opposed to 400 and above) there is less chance of exploding? The skin was nicely crisp and firm, the inside were so creamy and smooth they almost didn't need any toppings - but I didn't let that stop me.

                                                                      Good thing I made extras because two of my guests ate two potatoes each, and these were not small potatoes, and two more split a second. I was happy with the one, and the last one I saved for breakfast. Yumm.

                                                                      1. I rub the outside with margerine (it's softer than butter) and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Bake @ 400 for 1 hr and 15 minutes. They always come out perfect. The butter and salt on the outside give them a terrific crust.

                                                                        And no microwave, please!

                                                                        1. For me, here's the ultimate. You can do this only certain times of the year. When the russets first appear at the farmers market, get the smallest ones you can get. I put them in the oven with no fat and bake until very soft in the middle and very crunchy on the outside. I use high temperatures also. I'm sure any of the suggested methods would work.

                                                                          I think the next time I'll try some of the fats suggested and baste them a couple of times. I do have to wait for that time of year though.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: shoo bee doo

                                                                            wow, i can't imagine living someplace where potatoes are seasonal.

                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                              They only get harvested once a year. They just store well.

                                                                          2. I don't think anyone has mentioned this method -

                                                                            Scrub, dry, place on oven rack.
                                                                            Once half the cooking time has passed pierce the potatoes ( I use a fork 2 or 3 times depending upon size).

                                                                            I've had perfect results ever since I started piercing at this point!

                                                                            1. So I started to read all the replies and then about half way down or so I was like I just need to reply and hope no one has already said this haha When I worked at Arby's back when they did baked potatoes, our secret were as followed:

                                                                              Set your oven on 325
                                                                              Rinse with water
                                                                              Set aside a baking sheet
                                                                              Puncture the large potatoes about 6 times with a large cleaned thermometer
                                                                              On a hard surface slam the potato against it hard to break apart the inside of the potato
                                                                              Hand roll the potato back and forth against the surface to help continue breaking up the potato
                                                                              Place on rack and sprinkle with salt to taste

                                                                              They turned out rather good in my opinion

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Hollowkat

                                                                                When you were slammin and rollin how did you keep from breaking the skins?