How to Bake a Potato

Traditional method | Quick | Twice Baked Potato | Toppings

Learning how to bake a potato adds a simple, cheap supper to your repertoire.

Just keep in mind that the bigger the potato, the longer it will take to cook, although I will share a few methods of speeding things up. You could, of course, bake two smaller spuds rather than one large one, or use the microwave.

We talked about the different varieties back on the ways to cook potatoes page, and the best type for baking are main crop, floury ones, such as King Edwards. Pick one (or two) with a smooth side without bruises or eyes if possible. Always wash them before baking, especially if you plan to eat the skins.

Using a fork, prick the potato in a few places, to allow the steam to escape without splitting it. Pushing a metal skewer through the centre can help really large spuds to cook more quickly.

The traditional way of cooking baked potatoes

Put your potato in a preheated hot oven, 200 degrees C, 400 degrees F or Gas Mark 6, for one to one and a half hours depending on the size, until they are squeezable. You can put them straight onto the oven shelf or on a metal tray.

You might like to rub the skins with oil and then sprinkle them with salt before baking to give lovely crispy skins. In my opinion, this results in the perfect oven baked potato!

A quicker way to bake a potato

By putting it in a saucepan of water and bringing the pan to the boil before cooking for 5-10 minutes, you can get away with less cooking time in the oven.

In fact you can reduce the baking time to around 30-60 minutes depending on the size.

Handy if you are hungry and don't want to wait quite so long for your meal. The skins will not turn out as crispy using this method, however.

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Learning how to bake a potato is only the start!

Cut in half and topped with a pat of butter, they are delicious, but many people like to add a filling of some description. This can just be piled on top before serving, but wait until you have tried this twice baked potato recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 large potato
  • 1oz butter
  • 2oz grated cheese

Cook as per the traditional method above, until soft.

Cut in half lengthwise. Using a metal spoon, scoop out the inside of the potato into a bowl, leaving the "shell" or jacket undamaged. Using a fork mash up the flesh and add the butter and grated cheese. Mix well.

Pile the mixture back into the two jacket halves and push down firmly. The filling will come above the original level of the top of the skins. Use a fork to make ridges along the surface of the filling, which will make the finished dish look more attractive.

Place on a metal dish, and sprinkle with a little extra grated cheese if desired. Place back in the oven to continue baking for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the tops are golden brown.

Enjoy!

Other baked potato toppings

Cheese and ham

  • 1 slice ham (chopped)
  • 2oz cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • butter

Mix all the ingredients with the flesh and put back in shells. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes or pop under a hot grill.

Soft cheese and walnuts

Take the potato out of the oven and cut a cross in the top. Squeeze to open it up a little. Top with cream cheese and sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. The heat will cause the cream cheese to melt, yummy.

Tuna mayonnaise

You can use either plain mayonnaise for this variation, or one of the flavoured varieties (garlic is nice).

Mix the tuna and mayonnaise together and season to taste. Spoon over your hot baked potato and serve.

Sour cream and chives

Chop some fresh chives finely. Mix into soured cream and spoon on top. Serve.

Fromage Frais and crispy onions

Briskly fry chopped onion in olive oil, in a pan for about 5 minutes, until they are crispy and golden brown. Drain off any excess oil.

Cut a cross in the top of the potato and top with fromage frais (or plain yoghurt) and the crispy onions. Season to taste and serve.

Baked beans

Heat up a small can of baked beans and pour over the spud. You could also sprinkle grated cheese on top if desired.



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