My dad loved a good baked potato. And while this isn’t my Dad’s official Baked Potato recipe—as one, technically, does not exist—it is made precisely in the way he would have loved, that is, with a crispy flavorful skin and a warm fluffy potatoey interior….perfect for a little melted butter, chives, and whatever other fixins’ we might have had in the fridge.
As a kid, I liked baked potatoes, but they were never something I craved. That changed when I was in law school. Me and my girlfriend at the time used to frequently go to this restaurant in Athens, Georgia, that served fantastic Baked Potatoes. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant and I don’t know if it is still there.
Their potatoes were nothing like anything I had ever had. First, they were the size of your head. I am not joking. These things were huge! One potato would make a meal and they often did. As a law school student, I was always looking to save a little money, and these potatoes were the answer. Second, they were made in a way that I had never had it before. The skin was super crispy and it had flaked salt coating the exterior. This was a defining moment for me in my potato-eating life.
Do You Eat the Skin?
I remember when I was a kid, I never liked the skin of the potato. It was bland and boring. I equated the skin of the potato to the crust on my white bread…meh! Nonetheless, I remember both my mom and dad scrubbing and cleaning the potatoes really well (with their dedicated potato-cleaning brush, I might add) because they loved eating the skin of the potato. At that time, I didn’t get it.
Regardless, every time we had baked potatoes, I would hear, “you should try the skin.” I would give it the obligatory try and the already queued response, “I don’t like it.” Admittedly, however, their routine asking planted the seed in my mind that the skin of the potato was good…so that when I was on my own, I could choose eating the skin my own idea. (This may be way too deep for a cooking blog, but the psychology of the human mind is fascinating…and a funny thing.) Truth be told, I’ll probably be the same way with my future kids as my parents were to me.
As I noted, when I had that Baked Potato in law school, I started to appreciate what the skin of the potato was and what all the rage was about. It’s what gave the potato character…otherwise, you’re essentially just making mashed potatoes in a fancy shell. Which is not bad…but a baked potato could be so much more. And it’s not hard to make a good potato great!
Not to mention, the majority of vitamins, minerals and fiber are in the skin so eating the skin makes a baked potato even more nutritious.
Russet is the way to Go
As you saw in the video above, I mainly use Russet Potatoes for baked potatoes. These are the standard potatoes you see most often here in the US…and they’re also the kind that you can usually find at a lower cost than other potatoes. So, not only are you using the best potato for baking, you’re saving a little money too!
Russets have a rich, flavorful skin and superbly fluffy interior, perfect for a great baked potato. I have tried them all, Yukon Gold, Red, White, you name it…I always come back to the standard Idaho Russet potato for baking.
Seasoning is the Spice of Life
You have to season the skin! Hands down, this is the single most important thing to making a great baked potato. That seasoning comes in two forms, olive oil and whatever spices you like.
At a minimum, you need salt. This is one time when I highly encourage you to get flaked salt, rather than just using table salt. It makes a big difference because it gives you a bit of a crunch…and the added surface area of the salt flakes enhances the flavor of the baked potato.
Unless I’m baking, the regular table salt sits in the pantry. I use flaked Kosher Salt for pretty much everything and it’s not much more expensive than regular salt, which is already pretty inexpensive. I like a Kosher salt that is flaked rather than some brands that are a bit thicker…so look around to find your favorite. (I’ve linked my favorite in the recipe below in case it’s of interest to you.)
If you’ve got salt and oil, you’re set for making a great Baked Potato.
But you could try some different varieties that produce some amazing results. I love adding Pepper, Garlic Powder and Onion Powder too. Yum Yum! And if I have Paprika sitting around (and I always have Paprika sitting around…well…except, funny enough, right now, when I just looked at my spice rack and I need to replenish it), I add some of that.
Paprika is just dried chili peppers; it gives it a nice subtly smoky flavor.
Foil is for Lining, Not for Wrapping
If you want a surefire way to make a boring potato, just wrap it in aluminum foil. I am not sure when this became popular, but it is one of those cooking trends (like dried parsley) that I cannot get behind. DO NOT WRAP YOUR BAKED POTATO IN FOIL! The results will be a steamed spud with soggy skin…and who wants that?
Instead, just line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat and place your potatoes right on top. You don’t necessarily need the non-stick kind of aluminum foil that I am using; because of the oil on the potato, regular foil will work just fine.
Should I Poke the Potato?
I get asked a lot when I make my baked potatoes why I don’t poke them with a fork. Well, when I making the usual Russet, I never do. The skin of the potato seems to be a touch more porous than other potatoes and so it’s never been an issue for me unless I put it in the microwave. If you do that, you must poke it!
If I am baking a sweet potato, I will poke the skin a couple times with a fork to help stop the pressure from building up inside the potato resulting, ultimately, in its explosion. (OK, explosion might be a bit dramatic) But, I have had a couple of instances where sweet potatoes broke open in baking. And in the microwave, they will explode (no hyperbole there)…and it will make a mess.
While there is great debate on this, I think it all comes down to how thick and permeable the skin is. If you’re using a potato that has a really thick skin, poke it a couple of times with a fork…can’t hurt.
Based on my experiences, though, if you’re using a normal-sized Russet Potato, it shouldn’t be a problem.
I see a future potato skin experiment on the horizon!
Top it Off Like a Pro
While I like butter, bacon and chives, however you finish off your potato is up to you. Score the potato with an “X” and then push the ends of the potato together to reveal that fluffy interior. (Be careful; the steam is HOT!)
Top it off with your favorite toppings. If you truly want to make it a meal, a little chili or Brisket makes a solid choice.
While I know making a baked potato seems easy…and it is, there are just a couple of things to keep in mind that will help you transform a blah-blah baked potato into a truly Rockin’ Baked Potato.
Hope you enjoy and please let me know in the comments some of your favorite toppings!
SO WHAT YOU'RE GONNA NEED IS:
- 2 Russet Potatoes
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Paprika
- To taste Butter
- To taste Sour Cream
- To taste Chives
- To taste Pre-cooked Bacon
- To taste Cheddar Cheese
YOU'LL ALSO NEED:
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Baking Sheet
- Non-stick Aluminum Foil
- Wash and dry Potatoes.
- Place Potatoes in a Mixing Bowl and coat with Olive Oil. Sprinkle them with Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika, Pepper and Salt.
- Place seasoned Potatoes on Baking Sheet lined with Aluminum Foil.
- Pop in a 400°F oven and bake for 1 hour, turning over after 30 minutes.