Inexpensive and hardy, potatoes are often the side-kick to a great meal, but add a few toppings and you can turn your baked potato into a complete, delicious meal that’s ready in just a few minutes.
The best potatoes for baking are starchy ones like Idahos and other russets. When cooked, their light texture allows these potatoes to absorb amazing flavors like butter and sour cream. Substitute starchy potatoes with the slightly-sweeter sweet potatoes for a different flavor and a boost of fiber and vitamin A.
Choose potatoes that feel heavy for their size and are firm to the touch. A few spots on potatoes are okay (they grow in the ground so it’s probably just dirt!), but avoid potatoes with gouges or big black spots. Although it might be cheaper in the short run, don’t buy bulk-packaged produce. You won’t be able to inspect each potato and you may end up throwing a few bad ones away.
Because you’ll be keeping the skin on to bake potatoes, the first thing you have to do is thoroughly scrub the potatoes under warm water. You can use a clean nail brush to make sure you’re getting all of the dirt off.
There are a few different ways to bake potatoes. The simplest and fastest method is in a microwave, which leaves you with soft skin. Use a fork to poke holes in the potatoes. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then (depending on the size of the potato) microwave for about 5 minutes. Flip it over and microwave until you can pierce it easily with a fork, a few more minutes.
For oven-baked potatoes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use a fork to poke holes in the potatoes. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake the potatoes in foil if you like softer skin, but skip the foil if you like crispy skin. Bake until easily pierced with a fork, about an hour. This is a good method if you like crispy skins and/or you plan on preparing the rest of the meal while the potato cooks.
Baked potatoes are one of the easiest side dishes to make and there are endless opportunities to get creative with just one ingredient. Take your baked potato game to the next level with a few easy additions.
Baked Potato Bagel
Classic Twice-Baked Stuffed Potato
Julie Ruggirello is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @TDMRecipeEditor.