Most people love potatoes, which is probably why this versatile vegetable is enjoyed in so many different forms. While potato fries and mashed potatoes are among the most loved forms, baked potatoes are healthy and very yummy too. In its simplest form, it is baked, then scooped out and eaten, though more often cheese, sour cream, ham, chicken or other embellishments are added to it. Also called a jacket potato, it should have a crisp skin with a melt in your mouth fluffy filling.
You can bake a potato in a convection oven, on a grill, a microwave oven, or on/in an open fire. If you are wondering how long to it, in a conventional oven, it can take between an hour or two to cook, whereas it would not take more than twelve minutes in a microwave. I agree with baked potato connoisseurs who say that there is no other way of baking potatoes than in a convection oven, especially since you do not achieve the crispy skins in a microwave, and you get charred skins on an open fire. The best kind of potatoes to use for baking are Russet or King Edward potatoes, owing to their size and consistency.
How to Bake Potatoes?
To start, pick potatoes that do not have any deep bruises, discolored spots, or sprouts. It is also very important to pick potatoes that are about the same size. Now wash the potatoes you have picked under running water and if required, scrub them with a brush to take off grit. Then, pat them dry with paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. If you find any sprouts or spots on the potatoes you have picked, just scoop out the spot with a knife. Then, jab your potato with a fork 6 to 8 times, and make sure you space out the holes evenly. Then, lightly coat the potatoes with olive oil or canola oil. You can do this by dipping each potato in a shallow container of oil or you can brush some oil onto each potato.
Arrange the potatoes on the baking rack in the middle of the oven and bake them for an hour. After this time period, you need to keep checking if they are done. With an oven mitt on, carefully take out one of the potatoes and squeeze it. The consistency you are looking for is very soft on the inside (will give in to little pressure), with puffy, crispy golden-brown skin. Once they are done, take them out, let them cool slightly before opening them.
Baking a Potato in the Microwave
For those who don't have the luxury of time (or a convection oven), you can bake potatoes in a microwave oven with great results. The procedure is pretty much the same, with a few changes. While you need to wash and dry the potatoes as before, this time add a few more holes with the fork than you did the last time. Now wrap each potato in a paper towel and place it in the microwave oven. A large potato needs to be baked for 5 to 6 minutes on high while a medium-sized potato should get done in 4 minutes. A small one only requires 3 minutes! After it finishes baking, wait for 5 minutes before you take it out, slice it open and dig in. Check the potato using the above mentioned method before you open it and if it is not yet done, put it back in for a minute or two.
A tip for baking a potato is to wrap it in an aluminum foil before cooking, in order to retain maximum moisture. If you want to know how to bake a sweet potato, the procedure is the same.