How to Bake Potatoes

Simple and satisfying, the best baked potato needs little more than a pat of good butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. But don’t let that stop you from piling on all your favorite toppings, either. Here’s how to bake potatoes perfectly, with only the fluffiest results.

Baked potatoes are perfect for chilly outdoor gatherings. Serve them with Wisconsin Beer Brats and a big bowl of Pasta Salad at your next tailgate. Or try my favorite Twice-Baked Potatoes. Click on over to find so many other easy potato recipes!

Three whole potatoes being poked with a fork.
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Sure, anyone can throw a potato in the oven and cross their fingers, hoping for the best. But when you want a perfect, fluffy-on-the-inside and crispy-salty-on-the-outside potato, it pays to know the specifics hows and whys.

Whether you’re making baked potatoes for Twice Baked Potatoes, a baked potato party, (it could happen!) or just a quiet dinner for two, this is the how-to you should bookmark. It covers the old-school method using an oven (plus a way to speed it up using the microwave) and the new-school method: Using an air-fryer.

All you need is olive oil, salt, and pepper. And of course, the mighty potato.

Making Baked Potatoes for everyone in the house? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What are the best potatoes for baking?

Technically, you can bake any potato. But for the ultimate baked potato, choose a russet which has a higher starch content and makes a fluffier potato.

A Russet potato is easy to spot, because it looks like a classic brown spud with dull skin—think Mr. Potato Head.

What about sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes work, too! If that’s what you have, by all means use this technique to bake up that sweet potato tonight.

How to make Baked Potatoes in the oven:

  1. First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
  2. Next, gently wash and pat dry the potatoes. With a fork or skewer, poke some holes in each potato to let moisture escape while it cooks.
    Four whole potatoes.
  3. Then rub the potatoes all over with a light coating of olive oil, and season them with some salt and pepper. This is a crucial step for salty, perfectly seasoned potato skin.
    Four whole baked potatoes on a silver baking sheet.
  4. When the oven is hot, place the seasoned, oiled potatoes directly on the oven rack. Place a baking sheet underneath the rack to catch any oil, if you’re worried about drips.
    Four potatoes baking in an oven.
  5. Bake the potatoes for 50 to 60 minutes, until they’re tender and can be pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife. The skin should feel crisp, but the flesh underneath should be soft.

Baked potatoes at 350? 425? 450?

Sometimes, a potato isn’t the only thing you’ve got in the oven—I get it! There’s definitely some wiggle room with the cooking temperature, so throw them in if you’re cooking something else. Depending on the size of the potato and the oven’s temp, you may have to cook it longer, or pull them out early.

All things being equal, 400 degrees is a great temperature for potatoes and roasting vegetables because it results in a crispy skin you won’t leave on the plate.

How to bake a potato in the microwave:

For a quick baked potato, use a microwave to speed up the process. You get the potato party started in the microwave, but use a hot oven to finish the cooking and crisp up the skin.

  1. First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and move the oven rack to the middle position.
  2. Then carefully poke a few holes in each potato with a fork or skewer. This is so they don’t explode in the microwave. (Don’t learn this the hard way!)
  3. Microwave the potatoes on HIGH power for 8 to 12 minutes, until the spuds are slightly soft to the touch. Flip them halfway through the cooking time so they cook evenly.
  4. After that, carefully remove the potatoes from the microwave and coat with olive oil. Next, give them a good sprinkling with salt and pepper.
  5. When the oven is hot, place the potatoes directly on the oven rack. You can place a sheet tray under the rack to catch any drips, if you like.
    Bake the pre-cooked potatoes for another 20 minutes or so, until they’re tender when you pierce them with the tip of a sharp knife. The skin should feel crisp, but the flesh underneath should be soft.

Cooked potatoes that are halved with some scooped out in a glass bowl.

Air fryer baked potatoes:

Unlike the Instant Pot, baking a baked potato in an air fryer keeps the skin super crispy and the insides fluffy. Plus, there’s no waiting for pre-heating or depressurizing with this countertop appliance, so it’s a win-win.

However, it’s important not to overcrowd the fryer basket, so this technique is best for maybe four medium-sized potatoes, at most. If you plan on making baked potatoes for a larger group, use the oven.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. First, lightly coat the potatoes with avocado oil (or some other cooking oil with a high smoke point) and season them with some salt and pepper, if desired. No need to poke the potatoes when using the fryer, but you can if you’re used to it!
  2. Then place the potatoes in the air fryer basket. Cook the potatoes in the air fryer for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees. You should flip the potatoes over with some tongs after about 20 minutes, to ensure even cooking.

Baked potatoes: foil or no foil?

No! Please hear me out.

While it looks good and it seems like a great idea, wrapping a potato in foil before cooking traps steam inside and makes the potato skin soft.

For an irresistibly crispy skin, stay away from the foil and bake the potatoes directly on the oven rack to fully circulate all that hot air and render the skin super crisp and salty.

But most importantly, a foil-wrapped potato can be dangerous to eat. Keep reading.

Food safety and baked potatoes:

Sure, potatoes may look like the most innocent things on the planet, but if mishandled or neglected they can give you food poisoning.

Just like warm cooked rice, baked potatoes are breeding grounds for bad bacteria. Why? Potatoes stay warm longer and are loaded with starch and simple sugars, creating a perfect environment for food-borne illness. You might not want to know this, but lots of people have gotten very sick from steakhouse foil-wrapped potatoes!

Here are some tips for safely handling cooked potatoes, to keep everyone in your life healthy and well-fed.

  • Never wrap potatoes in foil, even to store in the refrigerator. Not only does a bare-skin baked potato taste better, but aluminum foil traps heat, so the baked potatoes never cool quickly. All the bad bacteria really love warm, humid environments.
  • Never eat a baked potato that has been out at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Even a cool 70 degrees is warm enough for bacteria to grow.
  • Cool completely before freezing or refrigerating. When it's time to reheat, baked potatoes have to reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees before they’re safe to eat.

Baked potato toppings:

Dare to dream! Your options for baked potato toppings are limitless.

5 from 1 vote

How to Bake Potatoes

Simple and satisfying, the best baked potato needs little more than a pat of good butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. But don’t let that stop you from piling on all your favorite toppings, either. Here’s how to bake potatoes perfectly, with only the fluffiest results.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword potatoes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Calories 239kcal
  • 4 large russet potatoes scrubbed and dried (2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To cook potatoes quickly (about 30 minutes):

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Poke a few holes in each potato with a fork.
  • Microwave potatoes on HIGH until slightly softened to the touch, about 8 to 12 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
  • Rub each potato all over with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer potatoes to preheated oven and bake directly on oven rack until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 20 minutes.

To bake potatoes traditionally (about 60 minutes):

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke a few holes in each potato with a fork.
  • Rub each potato all over with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer potatoes to preheated oven and bake directly on oven rack until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour.

Recipe Notes

For safety reasons, I do not recommend wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil before baking. If you insist, however, please remove the foil before storing potatoes in the refrigerator. Failure to do so could cause botulism.

Nutrition

Calories: 239kcal

 

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  1. Ernest Contreras

    excellent instructions as a retired professional chef and instructor, I appreciate good instructions something I always encouraged on my students, great recipes here.
    Chef Ernest5 stars

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