Whether you call them spuds or taters, potatoes are the one of the cheapest, wholesome and most filling foods to be found in the supermarket today. A bag of potatoes can cost less than three dollars, they are nutritious so the body is not starved for something better, and they are filling so they last quite a while. How do you make the perfect baked potato?
Picking out your potato and preparing it. You will want a nice, large spud with no dark brown spots appearing on or under the skin. This can be a sign of rottenness. White potatoes with brown skin tend to be larger, but some people prefer the sweeter red-skinned white potatoes and they go well with butter, salt, pepper and chives. Use a heavy duty dish scrubber to scrape all of the dirt off of your potato under running water, and rinse it off. Using a paring knife trim any dark or suspicious spots and all of the eyes off of the spud.
After cleaning and trimming your potato, use a stick of butter to coat the skin with a light layer of oil. This will make the skin crispy and deliciously edible. If you put oil on the skin instead, do not get too much or the oil will drip down and burn in your oven or it will overheat in the microwave. Lastly, poke some holes in the potato with a fork and position it, holes up, on a cookie sheet in your oven. The holes are release for inner heat and pressure and keep the potato from exploding in the oven.
Oven temperatures and times. Some people like their potatoes a little crunchy, but for our purposes, I will give you the times for soft baked potatoes. Set your oven for 350 to 400 degrees. Some people do not even time their potatoes but just wait until they can smell the baked potato. However, to be more exact, you will put small potatoes in for 40 minutes, medium potatoes in for 50-60 minutes and large potatoes in for 1 hr and 15 minutes. Be sure and check the reliability of your oven thermostat.
Do not use a microwave on your baked potato. It is far less tasty and it destroys certain nutrients you are receiving from your spud.
Ingredients. After your potato is cooked, there are many variations of ingredients. Some people like “all the fixins,” which includes butter, salt, pepper, sour cream, bacon bits and chives. More people seem to like all of the toppings, minus the sour cream. Putting nothing but salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of paprika on your potato gives it an old-world flavor. Any ratio of salt, vinegar and barbecue sauce can be mixed together to taste, and spread lightly over your baked spud. Sometimes parsley flakes, tarragon, salt and butter are the combination of choice. As you see, the “perfect” baked potato is highly subjective. Try some of these combinations or develop your own mix of spices!