Perfect baked potatoes? Yes, we think they are. A crisp, lightly salted, burnished exterior that gives way to fluffy, slightly sweet, and tender insides? Heck yes. And then you can slather them with anything you want, including cheese, sour cream, or bacon. Double heck yes!
Shhhhhh, do not tell anyone my weird secret. I ate my baked potatoes with ketchup growing up. Okay, I lied—I still do it. You guys! If you think about it, it’s like a french fry, so it’s not that weird, okay? (Not as weird as my dad’s peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches, anyway.)
Now that I’m older, while it might not sound like I’m any wiser, I actually have learned a few things, one of which is how to make perfect baked potatoes. My secret? Ditch the foil; it’s your number one mistake! (Did all my Idaho friends just stand and cheer?) — Carrien Cheney
Perfect Baked Potatoes
For the baked potatoes
- 5 large (2 1/2 to 3 lbs) russet potatoes*
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 4 tablespoons flaked sea salt such as Maldon
For serving (optional)
- Sour cream
- Shredded Cheddar cheese
- Cooked and crumbled bacon
Make the baked potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easier clean up, if desired. Place an oven-safe cooling rack atop the baking sheet. (The rack allows air to circulate around the potatoes and ensures a crisp skin; the baking sheet prevents any excess oil from dripping onto the oven.)
- Wash and thoroughly dry each potato. Pour oil in a shallow bowl. Spread salt over a small plate.
- With a sharp knife, carefully cut a shallow zigzag pattern in the skin on top of each potato. Alternatively, use the tines of a fork to pierce the skin in a zigzag pattern.
- Roll each potato in oil to completely coat, then roll in salt to make an even but not thick coat. You can use more or less here according to taste, keeping in mind the saltiness of any toppings you plan to serve with the potatoes.
- Arrange potatoes on the cooling rack and bake until the tines of a fork slide easily into the center of the potatoes, 70 to 80 minutes.
- Gently squeeze the potatoes to open. Top with butter, sour cream, cheese, and/or bacon crumbles, if desired.
*What type of potatoes are best for baked potatoes?You can, technically, bake any kind of potato and hope for the best. Russet potatoes, however, are the family of potatoes that were made for baking. The skins of russets are nice and thick, which allows them to get crisp in the oven while retaining the moisture of the potato's insides. Their insides are also starchier than other potatoes, which helps them to bake up extra fluffy and slightly sweet.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I normally make my baked potatoes in a similar manner as this recipe, with the exception of the zig zag pattern, which I'll add when I make them in the future. These perfect baked potatoes come out with a wonderfully crisp skin, and the salty crust comes through in every bite. I just dumped a bit of butter into the potato and it was perfection.
These perfect baked potatoes are definitely worth the wait. I say that because my usual method is to microwave them, wrap them in foil, and then throw them in the oven or on the grill while I finish up the other dishes. We haven’t eaten potato skin in years but that will change now.
I put a small piece of foil on the baking sheet under a roasting rack for a super-fast clean-up. Prepping the potatoes took mere minutes. I did bake the potatoes for the full 75 minutes.
The lower heat cooked the potatoes perfectly right to the center so they were nice and fluffy. But it’s all about the skin. I used Maldon flaky sea salt and the skin came out crispy, salty, and amazingly delicious. Small changes to a cooking method can have such a huge impact.
For dinner we had them with butter and sour cream. I fried the leftovers for breakfast the next day and had them with ketchup. They do taste like french fries!
The instructions “or secret” for making the perfect baked potato certainly did produce a wonderfully fluffy white interior with a crisp and salty exterior. No gummy or undercooked interiors with wrinkled skins with this technique.
These baked potatoes were so much better than what you get in most restaurants, but we couldn’t leave well enough alone, and took these baked beauties on to twice-baked cheesy gloriousness! Just the mention of serving these baked spuds with butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and crumbled bacon is all it took to take them a step further. And since there are just the two of us, I now have a freezer full of stuffed potato shells just waiting for that extra sprinkling of cheddar before hitting the oven for future meals.
I purchased 4 very large russet potatoes, weighing about a pound each. After scrubbing them well, I oiled them and rolled them in Diamond Crystal sea salt coarse crystals since I didn’t have enough flake sea salt on hand. The salt adhered well to the potatoes and I cut the zig-zag pattern on top of each. I placed them on a rack on a rimmed cookie sheet and put them in the oven to bake. Since these potatoes were so large, it took a total of 1 hour, 55 minutes until my ThermaPen slipped through the potato with no resistance and registered an internal temperature of 210 degrees. Obviously, a smaller potato would have taken the recommended time as noted in the instructions. The zig-zag pattern was prominently displayed atop each potato creating a very pretty presentation which would make it very easy to squeeze the potato ends together to open up the potato to expose its fluffy white interior. But for my purposes, I sliced the potatoes in half lengthwise and scooped out the interiors to make my cheesy twice-baked filling. So good!
I will definitely use this “secret” technique when baking potatoes in the future. We also loved the salty-crisp exteriors, but in an effort to limit our sodium intake, will opt to use a little less salt the next time.
Two standout details upgrade the baked potato everyone thinks they know how to do, making the most basic comfort food all that more lovely. By using a rack, the entire potato gets a nice crispy skin that begs you to enjoy it, and the salt is a finishing touch that you can take as far (or restrained) as you wish. I was already in the habit of oiling and piercing potatoes to bake, but had not considered using a rack, and had never explored the salting of the outside. The zigzag pattern—well that's really a fun touch I'll be playing with for a long time, but the use of the rack is a method changer I'll now be applying to even my baked sweet potatoes.
When you pick up the crispy potato with tongs and can hear the crunchy confirmation that it is perfectly cooked, you definitely can pat yourself on the back. My potatoes were over 9 ounces each, and checking them at 60, then 75 minutes, I let them go another 5 minutes -- if your potatoes are larger (is everyone else seeing huge Russets in the market?) you'll want to allow a little more time. While this took me all of 5 minutes prep while the oven was heating if you scale this recipe up for a larger batch give yourself more prep time. I considered the salt balance of the entire meal when deciding how ambitiously dense I wanted to coat the potato in pretty flakes of Maldon sea salt (my bacon and cheese would add more salt).
Super fun lesson on changing up my potato game, we're happily looking forward to repeating this recipe for perfect baked potatoes.
Simple and versatile, these perfect baked potatoes stand alone as a meal or complement your main dish. I've never been a “wrap-in-foil” type because I love the flavor and texture of a crisp potato skin. Here they are first rubbed with olive oil and then rolled in flaked sea salt. Tops were scored with a zig-zag pattern, allowing sweet-smelling steam to waft through our house. After an hour, our patience was rewarded. We served these beauties with plenty of butter, sour cream, and crumbled bacon. The strip steaks were the after-thought!
I’m not a potato expert, despite coming from two potato eating cultures, and I’m certainly not a baked potato expert, so I love this assertive approach to the best way to bake a perfect baked potato. I'm definitively a fork piercer rather than a knife piercer.
The timing range was perfect, and my timing was on the longer side of the range. I probably could have taken them out a little bit sooner, but still within the 60-to-75-minute range. As we're not bacon eaters, we used all the toppings, minus the bacon. Butter + cheese + sour cream makes for a pretty rich experience, which could affect the portioning. One potato per person for portioning is fine, maybe plenty, maybe more than plenty especially with all three toppings. This also depends on the rest of the meal, how serious potato eaters the diners are, and that the potatoes are enormous! For some, a half potato could be plenty. If that were the case, this would serve up to 10, rather than the 5 as stated.
Originally published April 27, 2021