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How to Make Perfect Baked Potatoes
The potato is a staple food in most regions of the world, and it is one of the most versatile vegetables. Potatoes can be mashed, boiled, roasted, fried, stewed, or baked, and they can be combined with a number of ingredients.
Some of the most classic and complementary ingredients include butter, cheese, chives, cream, garlic, leeks, celery root, lovage, parsley, basil, sour cream, caviar, and more.
The humble baked potato is one of the easiest side dishes to prepare, and it's one of the most popular ways to enjoy potatoes. Potatoes can be baked in the oven or in the microwave oven; they can even be baked in the slow cooker.
Here's how to make perfect baked potatoes in the oven.
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Choose Your Baking Potatoes
First, choose potatoes for baking.
Some good baking potato varieties are Russet, Idaho, Long White, and White Rose. Scrub the potatoes and remove any imperfections, eyes, cuts, and bruises with the tip of a small knife.
Set them on a rack to dry or pat them dry with paper towels.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
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Prepare the Potatoes
Using a skewer or sharp fork, prick the potatoes in a few places. This will allow steam to escape while the potatoes are baking. If there's no way for the steam to escape, you could end up with an exploding potato and a mess in the oven.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
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Rub With Oil and Optional Salt
Rub the potatoes lightly with olive oil or vegetable oil. Put some coarse salt in a bowl or pie plate. Roll the oiled potatoes in the salt to coat.
If you prefer softer skins, skip the salt and wrap the potatoes in foil.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Bake the Potatoes
Place the potatoes on an oven rack in the center of the oven and bake at 350 F for about 60 to 70 minutes. The potatoes are done when they are tender and can be easily pierced to the center with a fork.
If you are baking them in the microwave, allow about 5 to 7 minutes on high. The time depends on your microwave and the number of potatoes you are cooking. Squeeze the potatoes gently to check for tenderness. Let the potatoes rest for a few minutes.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
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Serve and Enjoy!
Remove the potatoes from the oven and arrange them on a serving dish or individual plates. Make a shallow cut down the center of each potato, peel back some of the skin, then fluff a little of the potato with a fork.
Top the baked potatoes with butter and a little parsley or your favorite baked potato toppings.
Variations and Toppings
Twice Baked Potatoes: Scoop the potatoes out of the skins and mash; return the mashed potatoes to the skins, top with cheese, and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 375 F until browned.
Broccoli and Cheddar Topping: Prepare this easy cheddar cheese sauce; combine the sauce with chopped steamed broccoli. Split the potatoes and top with the broccoli and cheese sauce for serving.
Taco-Style Topping: Split the baked potatoes and top them with some browned seasoned ground beef, shredded cheese, salsa, and cilantro. Or replace the ground beef with black beans or pinto beans. Add a sprinkling of taco seasoning to the beef or beans.