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Adjust the rack in your oven to the middle position and preheat oven to desired temperature (see Cooking Temperature Chart below).
Rinse and scrub (I use a stiff-bristled brush) each potato under cold running water, as you will be eating the skins of these perfect potatoes. Do not soak the potatoes (that will make them soggy. Also do not use hot water or you will start cooking the outside and the inside will not catch up). Dry each potato thoroughly with a clean towel.
Look the cleaned potatoes over and remove any bruises or discolored spots with the tip of your knife.
Pierce each potato deeply with a fork or sharp knife four (times on each side at approximately 1-inch intervals (this will allow steam to escape during the baking). If you do not pierce the potatoes, they may explode during baking in your oven. You do not want this to happen as it makes a terrible mess in your oven!
Wrapping the potato in aluminum foil will produce a soft skin (not crispy). Technically this is steaming rather than baking (as the moisture in the potato remains trapped) and the light, flaky texture will be missing. The texture of a steamed potato is entirely different from that of a perfect baked potato. Save yourself the trouble and expense of wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil and serve perfect baked potatoes. My suggestion is to NEVER use aluminum foil when baking potatoes!
For a crispier potato skin: Rub the outside of the potato with olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter over the skins. I like to roll the potatoes in coarse or sea salt after rolling in the oil and before baking. Place coarse salt onto a small plate. Roll potatoes lightly in the salt. The skin is so yummy to eat when baked!
Bake on racks of oven until tender.
Bake according to the Temperature Chart below. Do not overcook potatoes as the insides will be dry, so it’s important to be vigilant.
The higher the oven temperature, the shorter the cooking time will be and the crustier the skin. Larger potatoes will take longer to bake. Bake potatoes along with whatever else you are baking and gauge the cooking time according to oven temperature.
Turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time to prevent browning of the undersides where they touch the oven rack.
Potatoes are done if tender when pierced with a fork to see if it slides out easily and you can check the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. You can also test for doneness by gently squeezing the middle of the potato (using a pot holder or oven mitt). If it gives in easily to your touch, it is done.
When baked to perfection, remove potatoes from the oven. Slit across the top with a sharp knife. Gently pinch (squeeze) in each end of the potato towards the middle (using your thumb and index finger). The potato will then pop open and loosen the fluffy white interior from the skin. Be careful as there will be some steam.