Rich in potassium and vitamin C, but also utterly delicious as a meal or side dish. Baked potatoes often get a bad wrap because they take so long to cook, and they are relatively high in the oft vilified carbohydrates. Despite the perceived difficulty, and misguided avoidance, they can actually be quite easy to prepare, and in a lot of ways, they rival some of the healthiest vegetables when you tally up all of the vitamins and nutrients, especially when you eat the skin. If you’re looking for the perfect pair for that steak on the grill, or if you just want a hearty snack late at night, cooking a potato, and slathering on your favorite toppings, may be just what the doctor ordered. It doesn’t matter if you plan to melt some cheese on top, pour on homemade chili, or just keep it simple with a thick slice of butter, the initial cooking process will be the same. Once prepared to perfection, you can continue to add on whatever ingredients you prefer in order to create a delicious side or main course to enjoy.
Speed and technique will vary depending upon which method you choose below. They will all result in a similar texture, and level of doneness on the inside, but the outside will only be crispy if you use the oven for some portion of the cooking process. No matter which method you select, the most important step is the one at the beginning where you poke holes in the skin. If you skip this step, heat and pressure will build up inside the spud until it causes an explosion to let the steam out. Unless you want to clean up a mess, and start all over, be sure to puncture your potatoes with a fork after you wash them. Continue reading to find out about five different ways to bake a potato and have it turn out perfect.
1. In The Oven
The most traditional way, and the method that offers the best finished product, but also one of the most time consuming ways to do it. When using a conventional oven, you will have to wait about an hour to enjoy your russets, but if you wait it out, and do it right, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a finished potato that is crispy on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside.
- To begin, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.
- Gather your potatoes, and wash them thoroughly. Larger ones will work best, and if cooking several, try to choose some that are similar in size.
- Once clean, use a fork to puncture the skin several times on each one.
- Leave them plain, or add extra flavor by rubbing with olive oil, and then sprinkling with some salt and pepper.
- Once prepped to your liking, place them into the oven on a baking sheet, or directly on the rack.
- Continue cooking for 50-60 minutes.
- Check them to see if their done by testing the skin, and poking with a fork. When finished, the outside should be crispy, and your fork should poke in without any effort.
- Once done, carefully remove from your oven using tongs, pot holders or something similar.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes, then split open, dress, and serve.
2. In A Slow Cooker
With the right technique, you can use a crock pot to cook potatoes and have them turn out like they came from the oven. The skin won’t be quite as crispy, but the inside will be almost identical. This method takes even longer than using a conventional oven, but it doesn’t produce as much heat, and you can let them cook unattended. Many people like this way of preparing baked potatoes because they can set it up in the morning, let it cook all day, and then enjoy a mouth watering dinner with very little effort.
- Wash your potatoes and pierce the outside with a fork.
- Leave them all natural, or add some additional flavor by coating with olive oil, and then dusting with salt and pepper.
- Wrap each one individually in tin foil and then place them into your slow cooker.
- Make sure you only have a single layer on the bottom for best results.
- Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
- Test to see if they’re finished by poking with a fork. If it slides in easily, they are ready to eat.
- Once all the way cooked, split open, add additional ingredients, and enjoy.
3. In A Pot
That’s right, you can even achieve an oven baked finish by cooking your spuds in a pot of boiling water. This method is often used by restaurants because it offers a quick way to finish the job. You won’t get crispy skins like you do in the oven, but you will be able to plate the finished product in less than half the time. This method will take about 20 minutes depending upon the size and qty you are cooking, but if you don’t want to use the oven, and you don’t have a slow cooker, it’s either this or the microwave method that follows. Don’t confuse this with traditional boiling because with this method the water will not soak in as much, so it will end up similar to what baking provides.
- Wash potatoes with water, dry and then puncture with a fork.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Wrap potatoes individually with foil.
- Place into water carefully, and cook for 15-30 minutes.
- Test to see if their finished by removing one and poking it. If your fork enters easily, they are finished.
- Use tongs to fish out your finished product, and be sure to allow any excess water to drip down safely.
- Unwrap, cut open and add your favorite toppings.
4. In Your Microwave
Some people don’t like the inconsistent results that a microwave offers, but few can argue with the fact that it’s one of the fastest ways possible to prepare a baked potato. From start to finish, you could be eating your food in less than ten minutes if you choose this method of cooking. You won’t get a crispy exterior, but you should be able to achieve a delicious and fluffy center if you do it the right way. With this method there is no advanced planning necessary, so it’s perfect for last minute meal ideas, or impulsive cravings, and many people choose it as their method of choice because time and effort are most important to them. If you would like to improve results when cooking a potato in the microwave, a specially designed pouch can be used to eliminate guess work, enhance the quality, reduce time, maintain consistency, and guarantee results.
- Wash your potatoes and poke them to prepare for cooking.
- Keep them plain, or rub with oil and sprinkle with salt for added flavor.
- Place them into a microwave safe dish, and then stick it into the microwave.
- Cook on high for five minutes, then remove and flip over.
- Stick in again, and then heat on high for another five minutes or less.
- Check by poking them with a fork. If not finished continue microwaving for as long as necessary, one minute at a time.
- Once finished, remove, cut open and enjoy.
With a Microwave Potato Cooker Pouch
- Wash spuds and leave slightly wet.
- Poke with fork to vent.
- Wrap in wax paper if desired, and add oil and salt and pepper if you wish.
- Place one or two potatoes inside the bag, and place into the microwave.
- Heat on high for four minutes for a single potato, and heat for six minutes for two.
- Remove from microwave and test for doneness.
- If not quite finished, cook for another minute and test again. repeat until finished.
- Once done, cut open, add toppings and eat.
5. The Hybrid Method
Some people resort to a combination technique to get the perfect results, but still save time. If you reduce cooking times for the microwave or boiling technique above, and then finish the process in the oven, you can have the best of both worlds. You will save a bunch of time, but you will still get the crispy exterior you prefer. Just pre-heat your oven while you’re washing and cooking for the first few minutes, and then toss them into the oven to complete the process. Your microwave or the boiling water will do most of the work in a short amount of time, so 10-15 minutes in the oven should be plenty to complete cooking. If you choose to try this method, wash, poke and season like outlined above, and then microwave for 3-4 minutes, or boil for 5-10 minutes. After that, use the oven to crisp up the outside, and cook until done. This usually takes another 10 minutes. You can save tons of time when compared to traditional baking, and the results will be almost identical.
Most people probably never knew there were five different ways to bake a potato, but there are probably even more methods out there that we left out. If you have your own method that works well, and you don’t see it in the list above, please share with others by using the comments box below.