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The Perfect Baked Potato

Alright all you kitchen virgins, now that your kitchen cupboards are fully stocked, you’re ready for a few kitchen basics.  First stop?  The potato!  Inexpensive, satisfying, and versatile, the potato is the perfect ingredient for kitchen newbies to begin their first attempts at cooking.  Although I wouldn’t add potatoes to the average ‘kitchen essential’ list, I do think it’s a great staple to keep in your pantry,  as it’s a fantastic go-to dinner helper when you find yourself in that overwhelming midweek rush.  Before we delve into different types of potato recipes, let’s start with the most basic way to prepare a potato, baked! I’m sure that all of you have had your fair share of baked potatoes in your life, and have even baked some yourself, but have you ever wondered what the absolute best way to bake a potato is?  I’ve got the answer for you in my easy step-by-step instructions on how to bake the perfect potato.  Whether you choose to bake your potato in the oven or pop it in the microwave, baking a delicious, fluffy, tender-skinned potato is super simple and incredibly delicious when dressed up with some of my unique baked potato toppers and mix-ins.  So what are we waiting for?  Let’s get baked!

Step 1: Choose Potato

  • In order to make the perfect baked potato, you must choose the perfect baking potato.  You are looking for a white and starchy potato here, you may either use the ones in the grocery store specifically marked as “baking potatoes” or look for any type of Russet Potato.
  • Inspect your potatoes and pick ones that are firm and free of sprouts.
  • Choose medium-large potatoes, depending on how big your meal is.
  • Make sure all your potatoes are the same size so they all bake at the same speed.

Step 2: Prep Potato

  • Wash and scrub your potatoes to remove any excess dirt.
  • Using a fork or sharp knife, poke holes in your potatoes, about every inch or so, to allow steam to vent.  DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP or else you will have a potato explosion.
  • Using clean hands, rub your potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  This will help to create a tasty and tender skin.  This is important because most of the potatoes nutrients lies just below the skin, so you want to encourage your diners to eat it!

Step 3: Bake Potato: Oven Method

  • Preheat oven to 325º.
  • Place prepped potatoes directly on oven rack.
  • Bake for about 90 minutes, or until potato is tender.
  • To check for doneness, pierce potato with a knife, if there is little resistance and potato feels soft it is done.
  • Remove potatoes from oven and serve!

Bake Potatoes: Microwave Method

  • Loosely wrap potatoes in a damp paper towel.
  • Place potatoes directly in microwave or on a microwave-safe dish.
  • Microwave potatoes on high for about 6 minutes for a large potato, 7 minutes if making 2 or more potatoes.
  • After potatoes have baked, let them rest in the microwave for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove from microwave and serve!

Step 4: Top Potato

There are many different toppings and mix-ins that are fantastic to add to a baked potato and can easily turn your simple side dish into something really special! You can even set up a potato topping bar at your next dinner party! Here are some suggestions:

  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese (grate hard cheeses and cut soft cheeses into little bits to allow it to melt on top
  • Bacon
  • Fresh herbs (chives, mint, basil, parsley, lemon balm, rosemary)
  • Chili
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Black beans
  • Cream cheese or mascarpone cheese
  • Caramelized onions
  • Green onions
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Green Peas
  • Sauteed mushrooms

Leftover Potatoes?

Whenever I bake potatoes, I always toss in an extra to save for the next morning to make hash browns.  Store any leftover potatoes in your fridge.  When you’re ready to eat your leftover potato, simply slice it into 1/4-inch rounds and saute with olive oil, chopped up bacon, and even some salsa for a delicious side with your morning eggs!

For my list of kitchen cupboard essentials click here!  And for more recipes, tips, tricks, and reviews check out my food blog Ginger Rose!

Danielle Rose is a food enthusiast and author of the food blog Ginger Rose

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