Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sep 05: The Perfect Baked Potato

The perfect potato is a bold claim, but let's see what is NOT a baked potato.

NOT Baked Potatoes...

Despite the little button labeled "Potato" on the microwave, the result is not a baked potato. Microwaves work by heating water molecules so we're essentially steaming the potato from the inside out. It's a quick and easy way to cook a potato, but microwaving is not baking.

As many of us have received in restaurants, the infamous foil-wrapped baked potato. Yes, this familiar looking potato is "baked", but usually baked in a pan with some water which is steaming in the oven. Also, the foil protects the potato when it sits on the steam table waiting to be ordered up. In other words, the foil-wrapped potato is just steamed potato in disguise.

I'm leery of recipes that call for poking the potato whether it's baked or microwave. Piercing the potato is supposed to help moisture escape from the potato in order to prevent the potato from exploding in the oven or microwave. I contend that the moisture in the potato actually helps cook the potato to the desired fluffy consistency. Also, I've baked many, many pounds of potatoes in the microwave and the oven. I've never had one blow up yet.

My Quest
Eating potatoes in nothing new to most of us. When I was growing up, we mainly ate boiled potatoes, grated potatoes - hash browns and peeled potatoes tossed in with a roast. Potatoes were peeled.

Also, most of us are familiar with restaurant baked potatoes that come to our tables wrapped in foil. Those potatoes are usually unwrapped and the potato innards are doused in butter and sour cream.

From a nutritional stand point, a majority of the vitamins and minerals are found in the skin.

It wasn't until college when I realized that the skin was edible. The popular dish at the local pub was potato skins. Potato skins? Potato skins are potatoes with most of the inside scooped out, leaving about 1/4" thick shell. The shell is filled with grated cheese, bacon bits and green onions. Cooked under the broiler until all the ingredients meld together and a little browning is achieved. Yum! It was good stuff!

Also during college, I was in a cooking class where we learned how to bake a potato. The light came on!

For me, the perfect baked potato should have a fluffy inside and a slightly crispy skin on the outside. The whole potato should be edible.

When you slit the top of the potato, press the side, the creamy white potato should fluff out. It's as if someone placed mashed potatoes in front of you.

The Perfect Baked Potato
Preheat oven to 450F... Yes, Four hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

The best type of potato to use is a Russet. Russets are known as a starchy potato, a baking potato or a mealy potato. The starch gives the potato it's characteristic fluffiness.

1. Wash the potato of any dirt, especially if you're eating the skin.
I like to soak the potato in water for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, I scrub using a wet paper towel.

2. Dry and lightly coat the potato with oil.
Add salt (about 1/2 t) and pepper (pepper is optional. Some people say that pepper burns in the oven giving an off-taste). Also, optional is other seasonings like garlic powder, chile powder... etc.

Note: The oil helps the salt adhere to the potato and promote browning.

3. Bake at 450F for about 20 minutes, rotate the potatoes and bake another 15 minutes. Total time is about 35 minutes... give or take. It depends upon the size of your tater.

Usually, I bake directly on the rack, but the rack was a little dirty so I used foil.
Optional - poke holes around the potato so the heat can "surround" the potato during the cooking process. I don't know if poking holes in the foil makes a difference or not.

The finished baked potato... slightly brown, the aroma is very appealing... smells a little like french fries and mashed potatoes.

The potato is slit and the sides are pressed. The fluffy inside should push out.

Personally, I like salt, pepper, fresh chives and butter. What I used below is green onion, which is good too. I've had an occasional argument with waitresses about green onions being used as chives. Don't tell me you have chives when you actually have green onions! lol! I guess that's another rant.

The first creamy, fluffy delicious bite... butter, green onion, salt and pepper.
It is amazing how smooth and creamy the baked potato can be by just simply baking.

In summary, the perfect baked potato is very simple - start with cleaned Russet potatoes, coat with a little oil and salt, baked at 450F for 35 to 45 minutes = Delicious!


Anonymous said...

This is very informative. I think I can finally stop poking holes in the potatoes and bake them in the right way from now on. Thanks for the information!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with you on the 'no-poking-holes' thing. Apart from slowing down the cooking of the potato, it makes it harder to peel (I know it's got fiber and all that jazz but I hate potato skins :P)
Great post!

Anonymous said...

I love how your potatos turned out! And what a great post - and very informative and! :)

Eat4Fun said...

Singinghorse: Yes, no more poking holes. :-)

oneofagrind: Potatos skins are delicious, especially when they're nice and crispy. :-)

Anula: I aim to provide some useful info. It may take me awhile, but every once in awhile I do... lol

Thank you, you three for the kind comments!