Today I’m sharing a few simple steps essential to the best baked potato recipe. These tips require no extra effort — just a little bit of strategy. Try it, and I can almost guarantee you’ll want to make these perfectly fluffy spuds the star of dinner from now on, which is why I’m also including a roundup of some excellent recipes below to give you inspiration for what to do with that perfect potato.
A few years ago I read an article in Cook’s Illustrated on how to cook the perfect baked potato. Many of these tips come from the magazine’s excellent work. To get these results, Cook’s Illustrated baked 40 potatoes (so that we don’t have to!), adjusting time and temperature and assessing the results. For more detail on why and how their technique works, read the full article here.
Type of Potato
Use a russet potato, which will become super fluffy when cooked. Other potato varieties are delicious for other purposes, but for a baked potato, go with Russet.
How to Clean
Wash your potato with a stiff brush and cold running water, then dry it off.
Heat your oven to 450, which is the maximum heat you can use without burning the outside of the potato before the inside is done. 450 is also helpful because it cooks your potato as quickly as possible: it should take just about an hour, depending on your potato’s size.
You can either bake your potato directly on the oven rack or place on a metal cooling rack nested inside a baking sheet.
Brine the Potato
To brine something means to soak it in salty water. Here, you’re just going to dunk your potato in salty water before baking. The water will evaporate while it bakes and leave a salty skin behind.
If you want to coat your potato in olive oil, avocado oil, butter, bacon fat, etc…. don’t do it at the beginning. Wait about 55 minutes, then take the potatoes out, coat them in the fat, and return them to the oven to get extra crispy.
Take the Potato’s Temperature
How to tell when your potato is done? Take its temperature. This mean seem like an extra step, but it’s important: your potato can seem done by squeezing the outside, but actually is much cooler in the middle.
Pull out your potato using an oven mitt (or better yet, use a digital cooking thermometer with a probe you can leave in the oven) and take it’s temperature. When it registers 205, it’s done! No second-guessing yourself; it’ll be perfect every time.
Cut the Potatoes Open Right Away
Another great tip from Cook’s Illustrated: cut the potatoes open immediately after finishing the baking, and let all the steam out. This makes sure the potatoes end up light and fluffy. If you let the potatoes sit unopened, they will reabsorb all that moisture and become soggy.
Best Baked Potato Recipe
Not all baked potatoes are created equal... in this post, I'm outlining the simple steps necessary for baking the perfect potato. This best baked potato recipe requires little effort and yields a perfectly fluffy spud, ready to be the star of dinner with just a few easy toppings.
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1/2 cup water
- russet potatoes
- olive oil, avocado oil, butter, or bacon fat
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Wash potato with stiff brush and running water. Dry.
Prick each potato with a fork in a few places.
In large bowl, mix salt into water until salt dissolves. Toss potatoes in the water to coat evenly.
Add potatoes to middle rack of oven, directly on rack. Bake for 45-65 minutes, until internal temperature of largest potato registers 205 degrees. (If you want to add fat to your potato, pull it out at about 195 degrees, brush with oil or butter, and return to oven for remaining time).
Cut open immediately to let steam release.
Turn Your Potato into Dinner
Now the question becomes: what to do with the potato?
My favorite way to use a baked potato is as a base for chili. My favorite chili, Chocolate Chili with Turkey and Black Beans, is very rich so the potato helps mellow it out a little.
Here is a handful of inspiring recipes to help you get creative with your baked potato, keeping dinner time both simple and delicious. A few of these call for sweet potatoes, but I think a baked Russet would be just as good!
Vegetarian Stuffed Baked Potato
Salt and Lavender stuffs her potatoes with black beans, a quick lime dressing, Greek yogurt, avocado, and chives. 100 percent right up my alley!
I also love the simplicity of these Parmesan and Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes from Abra’s Kitchen. I might add some slivered almonds for some crunch. Looks like the perfect weeknight dinner.
Pulled Pork Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Butter Your Biscuit’s Pulled Pork Loaded Baked Potatoes. Love the idea of making pulled pork ahead of time in the crockpot for the ultimate easy dinner! Or, the next time you make pulled pork sandwiches, double the batch and save the leftovers for this meal a couple of days later.
Taco Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Peas and Crayons’ Easy Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are the perfect twist on the standard Taco Tuesday. And it seems like a little less effort to stuff a few potatoes than it is to assemble a dozen (or more) tacos for the family.