Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Spud's For You! How to Make the Perfect Baked Potato

Looking for a cozy comfort meal? Pair baked potatoes with soup or salad for a wonderful cold-weather meal. Get ready for a simplistic post....

Last night, I made the closest I've ever come to the PERFECT baked potato. Just like at a steakhouse....This is one of those dinners that you can customize with whatever toppings you have on hand. Below is my research--maybe you can use it too. Despite all my wording below, it's a RIDICULOUSLY easy process. But yes, it does take time. You have to plan ahead a bit.

I don't know about you guys, but I have always wrapped my baked potatoes in foil before throwing them in the oven. Apparently, that just STEAMS the potatoes instead of actually BAKING them (resulting in mushy crust).

 A couple of tips:
  1. Use Russet or potatoes labled as 'baking' potatoes--they are white fleshed and starchy (which gives the their 'fluffy' texture). This will ensure that you have a mild tasting and not overly sweet.
  2. Make sure the potatoes are smooth, hard to the touch, and do not have roots (sprouts) protruding from them.

  • Russet or baking potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt (or kosher)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Scrub your potatoes clean with COLD water (hot water starts them cooking and then the rest won't catch up) and dry them off with paper towels. Do not soak the potatoes in water either--it will make them soggy.

Poke your potatoes with a fork 8-12 times--you need to give steam an opportunity to escape. If not, they can explode (imagine that mess!).

Lightly rub your potatoes with oil (some people like canola, but I prefer the taste of olive oil). They should be shiny, but not dripping with oil. This also helps regulate the moisture in the potato and also create a crispy skin. Sprinkle the potatoes or roll them in salt.

Now there are two ways to do this--1) You can place the potato directly on the top rack in the center of the oven. You will have to place a baking sheet underneath the rack where you place the potatoes so that you can catch any of the moisture/oil dripping (and therefore prevent a mess). 2) You can place the potatoes directly onto a baking sheet. This is the only method I have tried and my results were great!

Depending on the heat of your oven and size of your potatoes, they will be done within 60-90 minutes--if you have a few small potatoes, they can sometimes be ready in as little as 45 minutes--but check first. To check for 'doneness', use fireproof gloves and give the potatoes a squeeze. If the skin feels kind of crunchy but the middle feels tender, the potatoes are ready!

And to serve--cut them in half lightly and squeeze the ends while slightly pushing them inward (this is after letting the potatoes cool for a few minutes, or using fireproof gloves).

And here's the fun part--TOPPINGS!!!!

Topping Options:
  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Salt & pepper
  • Green onions and/or chopped chives
  • Chili
  • Cooked broccoli and cheddar cheese
  • Bacon
  • Beans
  • Salsa
  • Cottage Cheese, Parmesan cheese, blue cheese, feta, or any other kind of cheese!
  • Mushrooms
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Caramelized onions
  • Smoked salmon
  • ETC., ETC., ETC
You are only limited by your imagination.....

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