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The Baked Potato


Ellen Shapiro
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I loved baked potatoes, and make them often. Scrub and prick. If I'm feeling lazy, that's it. If not, an olive oil rub and salt.

One thing I've also been known to do, if I'm in a time bind, is to start them in the microwave and finish them in the oven. Works like a charm, and you'd never know that they hadn't spent the whole time in the oven.

Edited to add this Baked Potato topic.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I once baked a large number of potatoes for a potato bar to feed a large group, and that's when I discovered one of the many "gotchas" of quantity cooking: a large mass of something takes a lot longer to heat up to cooking temperature than a smaller mass of the same something. I had restaurant-quality ovens available to me, and as soon as I realized what was happening I cranked them to the max, and it still took a loooooong time--I just barely got them all done in time for the dinner. To be sure, I was cooking some 80 potatoes, and you're just doing 25--but still, be aware that 25 potatoes may take your oven longer to bring up to temperature and bake to doneness than 5 of the spuds.

I don't have a convection oven.  Is there going to be any problem with having them on two levels?  I won't be home to do any switcheroo operations.

If you're just laying the potatoes directly on the oven's shelf racks, I'd say you definitely want to put them on at least two shelves, spacing them as far apart from each other as possible to maximize heat circulation.

If you're doing them in a panful of salt as described above, I think the salt might help a lot in transmitting the heat more efficiently than air would, but I confess I'm on much shakier ground here knowledge-wise.

Edited by mizducky (log)
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Lori,

I often bake them very much the same as Marlene, with two slight differences:

1. Split them in half lengthwise, lay down one or two bay leaves inside, and reassemble using toothpicks to hold them together.

2. Use 400 degrees in a non-convection oven.

Tip #1 adds a really unique flavor (throw away the bay leaves when eating!), and tip #2 makes the skin crispier.

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I'm with snowangel on this one---a short stint in the microwave--2 minutes for one potato, say five for six, etc., gets them to a cooking temp in the oven much faster. Just sitting in the oven waiting to get hot from the outside in is much slower than a quick zap to get them at least fairly hot all through, then the oven does all the work, with a little head start.

This and heating leftovers or bread are the only things we use the microwave for. I find this to be the best method, though I don't like them completely cooked by micro; the texture is different, and that lovely crisp skin just isn't.

Syntax optional.

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Oh, boy -- conflicting opinions -- what's a gal to do?

I'm with Miz Ducky about being concerned that the amount I'm doing is gonna take longer to bake. Unfortunately, I won't be here to zap them in the micro first or anything. I've got to prep them before I leave at 9 am and won't be home until about 12:30. I'd like them to be finished at 12:45. I'm thinking about setting the time bake to start at 10:45 or 11 am. It'll take 15 minutes or so for the oven to arrive at temperature and I don't think 1 1/2 hours at 350 will hurt them -- I hope. I'm assuming that when I get home, if they're done I can drop the temp to warm or if they're not I can crank it higher. I want to be offering thanks for the meal between 12:45 and 1 pm.

I am gonna scrub, prick, rub with oil, salt, and bake directly on the racks -- no foil.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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When you get into cooking for larger groups, it becomes almost inevitable that some people in any given group will be on lowfat, low sodium, etc., diets. For that reason, I'd either not use oil and salt or I'd cook five extra potatoes without oil and salt.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I rub mine with bacon drippings, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper.

I have had this exchange with more than one dinner guest:

"This is the best baked potato I have ever tasted. What the hell did you do to it?"

"You do not want to know."

Edited by pork (log)
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I rub mine with bacon drippings, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper.

I have had this exchange with more than one dinner guest:

"This is the best baked potato I have ever tasted.  What the hell did you do to it?"

"You do not want to know."

That's funny!

I had 29 medium potatoes, oiled and salted, on one rack for 2 hours at 350 degrees, including time to come up to temp using time bake. They were terrific. I'm very glad I decided to add extra time -- when I got home about half-way into the cooking, they weren't nearly done. Thanks for all the tips and helping me think it through, everyone.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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sometimes the reason for the longer cooking time is the oven never reaches 400 degrees once you plop all the cold potatoes in at the same time.

THis is why baking times are not precise for many recipes, it depends on the oven recovery time.

I usually crank the oven on all the way, and once the whole oven body is nicely heated, plop my food in, then readjust the temperature to my desired setting. It's a crapshoot a lot of times, I must admit.

Oh, and my 2 cents on the potato thing. Cook's Illustrated did a trial on all the methods and decided the spuds, left as is, baked on the racks itself, had the best taste and texture. I recall the oven setting to be around 400F or so.

Good luck!

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Toppings:

--homemade venison chili

--cheddar cheese

--mozzarella

--sour cream, light and regular

--butter

--crumbled bacon

--guacamole

Also, we had quiche, chicken enchiladas, and a salad of mixed baby greens with mango, red onion, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and vinaigrette. No exotic toppings, but all good. The guacamole was really good, though I say it myself. :smile:

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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So, why do cookbooks often direct one to wrap baked potatoes in foil?  What is the purpose?

I think it evolved from roasting the spuds on the fire or in rosin pits, to keep the outside from being charred or otherwise tainted. Then, the idea was to wrap them to keep them warm, individually, or to keep the skin soft (bleah!).

I like Marlene's version best. Sigh ...

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Hey, what's with the pricking? I've never pricked a potato in my life. What's that meant to accomplish?

Of course, I bake potatoes at 425 too, so maybe I'm not normal.

Edited by Abra (log)
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Pricking is really used for microwaving potatoes. But it's also done with oven cooking because potatoes have been known to explode when there's no way to let steam escape!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Pricking is really used for microwaving potatoes.  But it's also done with oven cooking because potatoes have been known to explode when there's no way to let steam escape!

Dudes, pricking is no joke...

When I was about 7 and in my jr. madscientistchef phase, baked potatoes were on the menu one night. The was no pricking done that evening. The potatoes were forgotten in the oven (bad babysitter, too).

At around 11:30 BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! sounded like bombs went off...potatoes all over the oven.

Ms. juniormadscientistchef was on oven duty for days.... boo :blink:

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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  • 1 year later...

Some time ago I saw an Alton Brown episode in which he posted a recipe/technique for making a baked russet potato. He suggested coating the skin with oil and salt before baking, AB claimed, IIRC, that it would result in a nice, crispy skin. This morning I saw an episode of Sarah's Secrets, and she said that coating the skin with oil would prevent getting a nice crispy skin, and suggested baking the 'tater dry. Now, truth be told, I've not baked a russet potato in the oven since 1991, and at that I didn't actually bake the potatoes, but a house guest did, so, in essense, I have no experience in this regard. Anyone care to comment on these techniques and which gives the crispiest skin?

Shel

 ... Shel


 

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I agree with Alton and always coat mine with oil and salt, unless I want to use the skins for potato skins later. The oil and salt does give them a nice crisp skin.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Perhaps it would help to know what temperatures the two versions are baked at; coating the skin with oil allows a higher temp. because the oil somewhat prevents too much moisture to evaporate from the potato. I always use the Alton Brown method, even though I got it from somewhere else; I also split them lengthwise and put bay leaves inside and reassemble with toothpicks. It gives an ethereal flavor, and a slightly crispy skin (at 450 degrees).

Ray

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Some time ago I saw an Alton Brown episode in which he posted a recipe/technique for making a baked russet potato. He suggested coating the skin with oil and salt before baking, AB claimed, IIRC, that it would result in a nice, crispy skin. This morning I saw an episode of Sarah's Secrets, and she said that coating the skin with oil would prevent getting a nice crispy skin, and suggested baking the 'tater dry. Now, truth be told, I've not baked a russet potato in the oven since 1991, and at that I didn't actually bake the potatoes, but a house guest did, so, in essense, I have no experience in this regard. Anyone care to comment on these techniques and which gives the crispiest skin?

Shel

I don't bake russet potatoes, but I do bake waxy red or yukon gold potatoes. I've baked them both ways; baked with oil and salt rubbed on them and and dry in the oven. And either way the skins come out crisp but it does take roughly about 1 hour at 400 F or better. As far as I can figure the oil only helps hold the salt on. Both ways the spud skin comes out nicely crisp. But the salted skin is tastier.

Oh...it is fairly important that just after scrubbing that you fork a hole or 2 in each spud before baking for on occasion the spuds will explode in the hot oven, due to steam build up...which only seems to happen just prior to the arrival of guests. This creates a messy oven and the lingering smelly odor of burning potatoes. Trying to clean a oven while it is at a temp of 400F is not a good idea either. Plus the loss of the potato that exploded will set your whole 'when we will dine schedule to naught'. I learned this from experience.

What you want to avoid is wrapping the tatters in foil, as this holds in the moisture and makes for a less than stellar crispy skinned baked spud...might as well nuke the damn spuds.

I remove the potato from the skins using a spoon; semi mash them with stuff like salt, pepper, butter, shredded cheese, diced mushroom and crumbled bacon and return this mess to the skins for a kind of twice baked spud. Roasted garlic is a must in this mixture.

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