4largerusset potatoesscrubbed and dried (2 pounds, see note 1)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butterfor topping, optional
Sour creamand sliced chives, for topping, optional
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.
Slice open each potato, fluff with a fork, and add your favorite toppings such as butter, sour cream, chives, salt, and pepper.
Potatoes: 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. Sweet potatoes work, too.
Yield: This recipe makes 4 baked potatoes.
Storage: Store leftover baked potatoes in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Slice up leftover baked potatoes and fry in bacon fat, add to scrambled eggs, or make a small batch of potato salad.
Microwave shortcut: For a quicker baked potato, start it in the microwave. Poke holes in your potatoes so they don't explode, then microwave on HIGH power for 8 to 12 minutes. Flip them halfway through the cooking time so they cook evenly. Remove the potatoes from the microwave and coat with olive oil and give them a good sprinkling with salt and pepper. Finish in a 450-degree oven until the skin is crispy, about 20 minutes longer.