How to Bake a Potato

One potato, two potato—you’ll be making more when you use all the tips here for fluffy baked potatoes with crispy skin.

November 12, 2021
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Photo by: /Getty Images

/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

It’s quite possible that the best baked potato you ever had was at a steak house. Maybe it just had butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper – or maybe it was loaded with sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon and green onion. Either way, it probably had crackly-crisp thin and unbelievably fluffy inside. What’s the best way to achieve said baked potato perfection? There are a few specific tips and steps you should follow; we’ve outlined them here.

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1308536193

A top view image of several organic russet potatoes on a burlap sack.

Photo by: PamWalker68/Getty Images

PamWalker68/Getty Images

Baked Potato Cheat Sheet

How Long Does It Take to Bake a Potato?

In a 400 degrees F oven, potatoes take 45 minutes to 1 hour - they're done when they're soft when squeezed (with oven mitts, of course!).

What Internal Temperature Should a Baked Potato Be Cooked To?

A baked potato will register 210 degrees F on a quick-read thermometer when fully cooked. A sweet potato might register up to 212 degrees F because it has so much sugar in it.

Should a Potato be Wrapped In Foil?

No, No, No. Not if you want that delicious crispy skin. The foil traps the steam that escapes the potato and the skin will never crisp.

How to Shop for Russet Potatoes

Let’s start with the single most important factor: you must use a russet potato for a fluffy baked potato. A russet is a brown, high-starch potato that can be grown anywhere, but we most frequently call them Idaho potatoes or just bakers. High starch gives you a fluffy baked potato, whereas a red potato is low starch, much better and more stable in a soup or stew or chowder because it won’t break down easily. Buy potatoes that are as close in size as possible to one another so they will bake in the same amount of time. Select firm, smooth potatoes, free of cuts from shovels and spots that are sprouting (these are called “eyes”).

How to Store Russet Potatoes

Store potatoes in a cool, dark, dry spot, being careful not to place them anywhere near onions: onions produce ethylene gas, which can cause potatoes to sprout, soften and rot. And don’t ever store potatoes in the refrigerator. The cold temperature tricks the potato into thinking that it’s winter and it needs to feed itself, so it converts its starch to sugar. Sugar isn’t fluffy and starchy, and you’ll end up with dense baked potatoes.

Prep the Potatoes for Baking

To start: Position the oven racks in the bottom and middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Wash and dry the potatoes. Using a fork, pierce each potato twice, once on each side. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil.

Add oil: Use a pastry brush to evenly coat the potatoes with the oil.

Season with salt and pepper: Season the skin with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake the Potatoes

Place potatoes on the oven rack: Put the potatoes directly on the upper oven rack - you want the air to move freely around the potato to keep the skin dry to encourage crisping - and put the baking sheet on the rack below them to catch any drippings. Bake until the potatoes are soft when squeezed and the skins are crispy, about 45 minutes.

Serve the Potatoes

Cut down the middle of the potato: Using your sheet pan, transfer the potatoes from the oven to the counter. Cut a slit about 3/4-inch down the length of each potato.

Push the potato open: Hold an end of the potato in each hand and push down and inward to open the potato up and squish some of the potato out of the skin so it fluffs up.

Top the potato: Top each split baked potato with butter, salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with chives and any ingredients you’d like for loaded baked potatoes.

How to Bake a Potato In an Air Fryer

Fun fact: the high-speed fan will crisp the skin better than any other method.

  1. Follow all the steps for prepping a potato in a regular oven.
  2. Set the Air Fryer to 375 degrees F and bake the potato for 50 to 60 minutes.
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1227223189

Two baked potatoes ready to cook in a microwave oven

Photo by: Andrew Gardner/Getty Images

Andrew Gardner/Getty Images

How to Bake a Potato In the Microwave

This is the fastest way to make a baked potato, but it doesn’t make for crispy skin. For crispy skin, pop the cooked potatoes in a 425-degree F oven for five-ten minutes after microwaving.

  1. Prick them with a fork four or five times: you don’t want the steam to build up in the skin and explode your potato.
  2. Rub them with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place two potatoes max in a shallow microwave safe dish. If you’re cooking one potato, cook it for 5 minutes. If you’re making two, cook them 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the potatoes and cook them about 3 minutes longer, checking for doneness by sliding a fork or knife into the center – the potatoes are done when it slides in easily.

How to Bake Sweet Potatoes

Baking sweet potatoes is almost exactly like baking Russet potatoes. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Wash the sweet potatoes and prick them a few times with a fork. Put the sweet potatoes on a sheet pan and bake them on the sheet pan: sugar will ooze out of the potatoes as they bake and will drip to the bottom of the oven if you bake them on the open rack. Check for doneness after 45 minutes. For more in-depth directions and pictures, check out How to Bake Sweet Potatoes.

Baked Potato Recipes 

This baked potato recipe calls for small potatoes, so keep an eye on the time when baking them: they'll be cooked through in less than 1 hour.

Cheese-Stuffed Baked Potatoes are actually Twice-Baked Cheese-Stuffed Baked Potatoes. You can make them early in the day and then just reheat 20 minutes before dinner.

These Sloppy Joe Baked Potatoes are super easy, but we think their best attribute is that they are a dinner in one dish: the chili makes it a meal. Add a fresh salad and dinner is done.

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potatoes-section-opener-v2-0316.tif

Photo by: Ryan Liebe ©Ryan K Liebe 2014

Ryan Liebe, Ryan K Liebe 2014

Using horseradish is not for timid eaters: its flavor is strong but oh-so-delicious when mixed with sour cream.

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KK_12_0618_FNM_338.tif

Food Styling: Karen Evans

Photo by: Kang Kim

Kang Kim

Bacon, cauliflower, buttermilk, cheese and scallions: all this in a potato? Yup, that’s why we call them Super-Stuffed.

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