How to Make The Perfect Baked Potato
Learn how to make the perfect baked potatoes! My guide gives you perfect timings, tips, and answers FAQ’s to make perfectly baked potatoes that are crispy and salty on the outside with fluffy centers. Load up these baked potatoes with your favorite toppings!
It’s taken me seven years to gather the courage to start a “how-to” guide for things like making the perfect baked potatoes.
Making baked potatoes doesn’t really require rocket science, and there are a handful of ways to make them. We’ve pretty much all had a microwaved baked potato at least once in our lives, right? You know, where the skin separates itself from the center mass that sort of falls in on itself. It’s not exactly a great baked potato. It might be cooked in the center, but it won’t be luxurious, creamy, or fluffy. I’m sure my fellow children of the eighties and nineties can recall tossing potatoes into the microwave oven and zapping them a few minutes before dinnertime. Scary as it sounds, I couldn’t figure out why they called it a baked potato when you zapped it in the micro. It wasn’t until I was older that it hit me that a microwaved potato was a cheaters hack for quicker “baked” potatoes. YIKES!
As an adult, I was rather curious to see whether an actual baked potato was so much better than it’s microwaved brother. My eyes have been opened. Salty and crispy skin that gently tugs away from the fluffy, light, and airy centers. It’s carb heaven, I tell you.
The good thing about making baked potatoes in an actual oven rather than a microwave is that the procedure is pretty much the same. Give the potatoes a good scrub, wipe them down, and score them. But this time, rub them with just a hint of oil or butter and give ’em a generous sprinkling of salt before you pop them in a hot oven. And in no time you’ll have sinfully delicious ultra-tender baked potatoes.
So let’s hop to it!
What should I expect from a ‘perfect’ baked potato?
This is subjective, but for the most part, the inside of the potato should be light, airy, and fluffy, and the skin is crisp and salty without being overly dried out or worse, burnt.
What kind of potatoes are best when you want to make baked potatoes?
Russet potatoes are generally considered king when you’re making baked potatoes. The thicker skin allows the interior to steam, and the starchy content of a russet potato leaves them tender and fluffy when you bake them. That does not mean you can’t bake other types of potatoes! Sweet potatoes bake up wonderfully, too.
What makes your baked potato recipe so much better than all the others?
I think what really sets my baked potato recipe apart from so many others is the low baking temperature and the slower baking time that I use. My baked potato recipe is like the jacket potatoes that our friends make across the pond make. Jacket potatoes are often baked at a lower temperature and for longer than a traditional American baked potato. Sometimes, they’re even baked twice.
What do you need to make the perfect oven baked potatoes?
- Russet potatoes: if you are baking more than one at a time, I suggest making sure that all the potatoes are about the same size in weight so that they all cook up in precisely the same amount of time.
- Oil or butter: I usually just use oil for the potato skin (and if you don’t plan on eating the skin, oil is a more economical option.) However, I do find that melted butter gives the potato skins a much nicer and richer flavor than the oil. Both will work for this recipe, though.
- Kosher salt: This (affiliate link) is the salt that I use for all of the recipes I make for the blog. If you’re looking for a substitute, please see the FAQ section below.
How to make the best baked potatoes:
- Heat the oven: Before starting anything else, start your oven! You want to preheat it so that the potatoes can start cooking right away.
- Prep the potato: Give the potatoes a good scrubbing under cold running water. I like to hold the potato with both hands and gently but firmly twist in opposite directions. This helps loosen and remove all that dirt. Once cleaned, dry them off with a paper towel. Then, place the potatoes on a clean surface.
- Brush them with oil/butter and salt: brush the potatoes with melted butter or oil using a basting brush (affiliate link.) Sprinkle all the sides evenly with kosher salt. Then, grab a sharp paring knife (affiliate link), and run the knife in a straight line through the longest part of the potato (to score them) about 1/8 of an inch deep.
- Bake it: Place the potatoes in the oven. You can do this directly on the oven rack, or you can place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the potatoes for 90 minutes and flip them around the halfway point.
- Serve them: Pull the potatoes out of the oven and run the knife deeper through the area that you scored before baking. Gently squeeze the sides to open and fluff the potato. Serve immediately topped with desired toppings.
Why do you suggest scoring the skin of the potatoes?
I’m not really sure if potatoes have ever exploded in the oven (I’ve never heard of anyone having this issue), but I’m certainly not trying to find out whether that’s a possibility! It’s common to use a fork to prick the potato a few times before placing them in the oven or microwave when baking. I’ve always found the concept weird and pointless, so I use a sharp paring knife and run the knife in a straight line through the longest part of the potato to score them. This helps release excess steam. Then, just run the knife through that same line, pinch the sides, and serve.
Faq’s about baked potatoes:
- My mom always wrapped baked potatoes in foil, do I have to do that for this recipe? Nope, not at all! Wrapping a potato in foil before baking it *might* cause it to cook faster. I prefer to leave the foil off because it’s basically like you’re steaming the potatoes rather than roasting it. Now, if you prefer softer skin on the potato, then that may be the way to go.
- I’ve always heard that you should place the potato directly on the oven grates when making baked potatoes, is this true? It’s best if you put the potato directly on the grill as the air circulates more evenly around the potato, therefore cooking it more evenly. However, I know not everyone wants to end up with a puddle of oil at the bottom of their oven! So after testing this recipe both ways, personally, I’ve found that it’s not a huge difference in texture between a potato baked directly on the oven rack and one that was cooked on a sheet pan, so long as you flip the potatoes roughly halfway through the baking process.
- Do I need to microwave the baked potatoes before placing them in the oven? You do not! The extended baking time will ensure that the potatoes are evenly cooked through and through!
- What if I don’t have kosher salt, can I use anything else? You can use flaked sea salt instead of kosher salt. Just be sure not to use fine salt as it would be way too much.
- Can I make baked potatoes in an air fryer? You can; I would suggest following the same method of cleaning, drying, and prepping the potato with oil and salt. Then, preheat your air fryer to 350ºF and bake the potatoes for 68-80 minutes (depending on the size of the air fryer and the number of potatoes you are making at one time.) I would check at 68 minutes, and it should almost be cooked all the way through if it’s just one potato. Just like a conventional oven, I do suggest flipping the potatoes about halfway through.
What to top your oven-baked potatoes with:
- sour cream/butter
- chopped scallions/chives
- shredded cheese
- a ladle of homemade broccoli and cheese soup
- Mexican chili, pumpkin chili, vegetarian chili, or Texas chili
Other potato recipes you’ll love:
- amazing cheddar mashed potatoes
- smashed potatoes
- skillet breakfast potatoes
- garlic herb instant pot potatoes
- twice baked potato casserole (Potatoes Romanoff)
- cheesy scalloped potatoes
- 2 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and dried (about 8 ounces each)
- 2 teaspoons high heat oil or melted butter
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- for serving: sour cream, butter, scallions, chives, chili, bacon bits
- PREP: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF. If using a baking sheet, line with parchment paper and set aside. While the oven is preheating, scrub and dry the potatoes really well. Then, brush with oil or melted butter and sprinkle each potato with kosher salt. Then, grab a sharp paring knife, and run the knife in a straight line through the longest part of the potato (to score them) about ⅛ of an inch deep.
- BAKE: Place the potatoes in the oven; you can do this directly on the oven rack or you can place them on a lined baking sheet (your call!) Bake the potatoes for 90 minutes (YES 90) flipping them about halfway through.
- FINISH: Pull the potatoes out of the oven and run the knife deeper through the area that you scored earlier and gently squeeze the sides to open and fluff the potato. Serve topped with your desired toppings!