Potatoes are a pantry staple. And as long as you have a few of the popular root vegetables lying around, you can always bank on at least one component of dinner being a hit. Although mashed and scalloped are popular ways to prepare spuds, baked potatoes reign supreme. Whether you dot them with butter, tower on the crumbled bacon and sour cream, or even add a heaping scoop of chili, baked potatoes are an easy and hearty part of dinner.
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To get the ultimate baked potato, there are a few ways that you can prepare them. But, before you start, there are some things to keep in mind. Choose a russet potato, which has white, dry, and mealy flesh, and is ideal for baking. Be sure to wash and scrub each potato with a vegetable brush and prick each potato all over with a fork. This allows for the steam inside the cooking potato to release without the risk of bursting. Here are four ultimate ways to prepare a baked potato.
Oven Baked Potatoes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and dry each potato and using a fork, poke it all over. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place them on a baking sheet or directly onto the oven racks with a baking sheet underneath to catch any drippings. Bake for one hour, until the skin is crisp and the flesh can be pierced with a fork without resistance.
Microwave Baked Potatoes: Rub each cleaned potato with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Pierce each potato all over with a fork and place in a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high for about five minutes. Turn them over and microwave for another three-to-five minutes. This is the quickest way to cook a baked potato.
Grilled Baked Potatoes: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill. Wash and pierce each potato all over with a fork. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and tightly wrap each in heavy duty foil. Place the potatoes directly onto the grill grates and cook for about 45 minutes, turning frequently using tongs.
Slow-Cooked Baked Potatoes: Rub each cleaned potato with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and wrap each tightly in foil. Place the potatoes into a slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 4 ½ to 5 hours, or low for 7 ½ to 8 hours until tender.
So, next time you are wondering what to make for dinner, pick one of these ultimate ways to bake a potato. Even if you are strapped for time, a baked potato can cook in minutes. With these easy directions for baked potatoes, it just begs one question: what to use for the toppings?
Emily Jacobs is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes.