To produce baked potatoes with an evenly fluffy interior, we figured out their ideal doneness temperature: 205 degrees. Baking them in a hot (450-degree) oven prevents a leathery “pellicle” from forming underneath the peel. To season the skin, we coat the potatoes in salty water before baking; we crisp the skin by painting it with vegetable oil once the potatoes are cooked through and then baking the potatoes for an additional 10 minutes. Open up the potatoes immediately after removal from the oven in step 3 so steam can escape. Top them as desired. [Ed. note: below the main recipe, we've included America's Test Kitchen recipes for two baked potato toppings: Creamy Egg Topping and Herbed Goat Cheese Topping.]
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 1/2 cup water in large bowl. Place potatoes in bowl and toss so exteriors of potatoes are evenly moistened. Transfer potatoes to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake until center of largest potato registers 205 degrees, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Remove potatoes from oven and brush tops and sides with oil. Return potatoes to oven and continue to bake for 10 minutes.
3. Remove potatoes from oven and, using paring knife, make 2 slits, forming X, in each potato. Using clean dish towel, hold ends and squeeze slightly to push flesh up and out. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Why You Shouldn't Microwave
A microwave might seem like a fast way to “bake” a potato, but we found two reasons why it’s actually the worst approach. First, microwaves heat foods very unevenly, so some parts of the potato might rapidly reach 205 degrees while others get to only 180 degrees. Second, rapidly heating a potato causes pressure to build and cell walls to burst, releasing starch molecules that glue together the broken cell walls.
Creamy Egg Topping
Makes 1 cup
The combination of cornichons, capers, and mustard gives this creamy topping some kick. Leftover topping makes a great sandwich filling.
Stir all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Herbed Goat Cheese Topping
Makes about 1/2 cup
Fresh chopped parsley and grassy extra-virgin olive oil enhance the herbaceous flavors of the goat cheese in this topping. Our favorite goat cheese is Laura Chenel's Chèvre Fresh Chèvre Log.
Mash goat cheese with fork. Stir in oil, parsley, shallot, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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Reprinted with permission from America's Test Kitchen, 2017
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2017, America's Test Kitchen. Reprinted with Permission.