Discover tricks to lead your run-of-the-mill baked potato to its best life. Something as simple as baked potatoes may not get the ooo’s and ahh’s at the dinner table, but if they happen to be lacking this may be a big problem. The versatility of this starchy goddess is incredible, and not only can it be an “ingredient” it can also be the centerpiece and that’s what we are talking about today.
A baked potato in its working clothes is about as good as it gets when it comes to a steakhouse inspired meal at home. However, making it the center-of-plate is simple and soul-warming, especially when the cool weather sets in… like today when I woke up to SNOW in central Iowa.
To make your baked potatoes as delicious as possible, try this:
Pick the right potato variety
For baked potatoes, you have to have the proper variety. Russet potatoes are the best potato for the job because they have a sturdy skin, perfect for getting nice and crisp. That crisp exterior gives way to the perfectly fluffy interior. Russets are starchier and less waxy than say, red potatoes and even the beloved all-purpose Yukon Gold variety. The starchiness of the Russet will absorb butter and sour cream perfectly and maintain the light and fluffy final product you’re looking for.
Scrub and dry that potato
Potatoes aren’t grown on trees if you didn’t already know. They are harvested from the ground and need a good scrub to get the dirt off before you eat them. Scrub your potato well, then hand dry with a kitchen cloth (paper towels will leave a paper residue if you get too excited during the drying process.) If you don’t dry your potato, the water that remains on the surface of the skin will generate steam in the baking process and leave your baked potato’s skin a little soggy and unappealing.
Once the potatoes are dried, brush them with vegetable oil and a generous rub of sea salt. Some people say add pepper at this time too but I disagree. Add freshly ground black pepper at the end of baking. If you add it now, the pepper can burn (in ovens like mine when the convection cycles and blows hot air across the potatoes mid-bake) and can taste gross. The salt scrub will draw more moisture out of the potato skin and add seasoning.
Pierce the potatoes
Potatoes can explode! No kidding. Give your potatoes the steam vents they need to bake properly. I poke my potatoes all over with a paring knife or fork so steam can properly escape.
Bake at 350 degrees
Bake potatoes at 350 degrees F for about 1-1 1/2 hours depending on size. Too hot (ie: 400 or 425 degrees F) means the skin will cook too quickly, and the inside of the potato won’t be done. Usually an hour of baking at 350 degrees F does the trick if the potatoes are medium sized. You can test doneness by inserting a smooth edged paring knife into the thickest middle part of the potato. If the potato slides off without much resistance, it is done baking. (For larger potatoes, 1 1/2 hours of baking should be sufficient.)
Butter and chive sour cream
There is a steakhouse here in central Iowa called “The Big Steer”. We eat here frequently and they have excellent baked potatoes. They serve chive sour cream on the side, and you should too!
- 4 Russet potatoes
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 TBSP sea salt
- 4 TBSP butter
- ½ cup AE Chive Sour Cream or make your own!
- Ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Scrub potatoes.
Dry potatoes with a kitchen cloth. Rub oil onto potatoes then sprinkle evenly with salt.
Pierce with a paring knife or fork all over potatoes.
Place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for an hour or hour and a half depending on size of potatoes.
Potatoes are done baking when a paring knife inserted into thickest part of the potato slides out without much resistance.
Serve with butter and sour cream. Sprinkle with black pepper if desired.