If you want to make perfect baked potatoes every time, you need to choose the right potato. Preferably, you'll want to use those large baking potatoes that are sold individually, but you can use standard bagged potatoes if you wish. They should be of a rather thick-skinned variety such as russet, and they should all be fairly large and pretty close to the same size. If you use potatoes of different sizes, some will probably end up overdone or underdone.
Now that your potatoes are ready, it's time to start baking.
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
- Choose your potatoes to be sure they are all similar in size.
- Wash the potatoes thoroughly, but do not peel!
- Coat the potato jackets in a thin layer of cooking oil, then sprinkle with kosher salt.
- Wrap each potato in a single layer of aluminum foil.
- Put the wrapped potatoes directly on the top oven rack.
- Set a timer for 45 minutes.
- Check the largest potato by poking it all the way through with a pointy-tip knife.
- If the largest potato feels soft, you can remove the potatoes.
- If the largest potato still feels a bit crunchy, put them back in for 15 minutes and try again.
- Keep adding 10-15 minutes to the time until they are done, but most potatoes should take around an hour.
Now you know how to bake a potato! To serve a baked potato, wait for them to cool just enough for you to handle them, but not too cool that butter won't melt on them! You should use a sharp, pointy-tip knife to make a slice through the aluminum foil down the length of the potato from one end to the other, stopping about 1/2 inch from each end. You're essentially cutting a "pocket" into the potato. Now, grab the potato near the bottom on each end and push toward the center. What you want is for the slit you cut to open up wide, and for the insides of the potato to start to mash up a bit and begin to stick out of the slit slightly.
Butter or margarine and shredded cheese should be added while the potatoes are still warm enough to melt them. All other condiments such as sour cream, bacon bits, and chives or green onions should be added at the table. Most people enjoy their toppings cold as a temperature contrast to the potato itself.