How to Bake a Potato

How to bake a potato – the secret is baking it in the oven without foil, making a perfectly fluffy center and a crisp skin outside.

Did you read the title and laugh at me today?! How to bake a potato doesn’t seem like rocket science, I know, but baking a potato in the oven with no foil is going to change how you feel about baked potatoes.

No matter how you currently bake a potato, you have got to try this! The outside gets cooked to potato skin perfection, with a slightly crisp and salty exterior, and the inside is extra fluffy (because the steam was able to escape). You won’t find anyone at the table scraping out the soft inside and leaving that skin because it’s all good when you bake them like this.

I serve baked potatoes as a main dish about once a month. They are cheap, easy, and, if topped right, can be healthy and very, very much the star of a whole foods meal. Sure, this takes a bit of planning because the baking time is around 45 minutes, but it is so worth the minimal effort. Throw on your favorite cheese, some fresh steamed broccoli, and some salt and pepper and you are good to go. I like to round out the meal with a fruit or two and a fresh salad (like our favorite spinach and berry salad). If I’m really looking for something hearty, I’ll top them with homemade lentil chili (make a big batch and freeze the rest for potatoes!).

Mmmm. Now I want a baked potato! Put this on your meal plan for next week and enjoy.

How to bake a potato - the secret is baking it in the oven without foil, this makes perfectly fluffy potato centers and the outside of the potato crisp.

How to Bake a Potato: Common Questions

  • What are the goals for the perfect baked potato?The interior needs to be uniformly fluffy and light. The skin needs to be crisp and salty but not burnt.
  • What type of potatoes are best for baking?
    Russets are generally considered the best potato for baking because of their high starch content which lends to that dry and fluffy texture we are looking for.
  • Do I have to prick the skin of the potato?
    I’ve never had a potato explode without pricking it, but I do think it helps some of the moisture to escape.
  • Why shouldn’t I just stick the potato in the microwave?
    Microwaves heat very unevenly and the heat can get too high which actually causes pressure to build and tator cell walls to burst, releasing starch molecules that glue together the broken cell walls. This results in an unevenly cooked potato that is gummy in the middle. Not the goal. Sure it can be done in a pinch, but we are after the best baked potato and not the fastest.
  • Why do you skip the foil?
    It traps in the heat and you essential steam the potato instead of roasting it. The roasted skin is SO good. Plus I’m not so sure about the aluminum in the foil so I like to avoid it when I can. This is also the reason that you are going to set your potatoes on a rack in a pan; it helps the air to circulate fully around the potato while it cooks. You can also place them directly on your oven rack – your choice.
  • Why don’t you brush the oil on the potato before baking it?
    Like the foil, the oil acts as a barrier and the steam isn’t released the same. By adding the oil after the potato is cooked and baking it for 10 more minutes you end up with the most delicious skin that is crisp but not burnt. Don’t use butter here though, the water in the butter makes the skin get soggy instead of crisp and butter burns a lot easier at a high temperature.
  • What if I want to bake my potatoes with another dish? What temperature and how long do I bake a potato in the oven?
    Great question! I often do just this. I’ll make a pan of my favorite chicken leg recipe and bake the potatoes along side it. Bake until the potato is 205-212 degrees on the insides, then add your oil and bake 10 more minutes. You can easily check the potato (and the chicken) with a cheap instant-read thermometer. When working with a medium potato (about 5-8 ounces) here are some general potato baking guidelines
    Bake medium potatoes 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
    Bake medium potatoes 60 minutes at 350 degrees
    Bake medium potatoes 90 minutes at 325 degrees

Are you starting to feel like a baked potato master? Who knew there was so much science to something that seems so simple?

How to bake a potato - the secret is baking it in the oven without foil, this makes perfectly fluffy potato centers and the outside of the potato crisp.

Craving more? Subscribe to Bless this Mess to get new recipes, meal plans, and a newsletter delivered straight to your inbox! If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Leave a comment, pin it, and don’t forget to tag a picture #blessthismesseats on Instagram. I love to see your kitchen skills in action!

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How to bake a potato – ditch the foil


  • Author: Melissa Griffiths
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Description

How to bake a potato – the secret is baking it in the oven without foil, making a perfectly fluffy center and a crisp skin outside.


Ingredients

  • 4 Potatoes (about 5-8 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash and scrub your potatoes clean. Poke each potato with a fork a few times to allow steam to release while cooking.
  2. Place potatoes directly on a baking rack set inside a baking sheet and place them in the oven.
  3. Bake until the center of the potato reaches between 205 and 212 degrees. This will be roughly 35-40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
  4. Remove from the oven and use a pastry brush to coat each potato in a thin coat of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and then flip them over and brush the other side with oil and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake the potatoes for an additional 10 minutes to crisp the skin.
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven, cut a small X on the top of each potato and then using two hands (be careful, they are hot), gently press the potatoes inward so that they “bloom” from the X.
  7. Enjoy right away with your favorite toppings.

Notes

These were medium sized potatoes that came in a 10 pound bag. If you are using the large “baking” potatoes, be sure to add at least a half an hour, if not more, to the cooking time.

Table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt (fine to coarse) all work well here. I like a mix of fine and coarse sea salt on the outside.

How to bake a potato - the secret is baking it in the oven without foil, this makes perfectly fluffy potato centers and the outside of the potato crisp.

I’m hoping you now know not only how to bake a potato but also how to bake the best potato on the block. You, Friend, are now a certified awesome potato baker. This is a life skill and you are well-armed to master it!

Do you ever serve baked potatoes as a main dish? What are your favorite toppings?

Thanks for stopping in – Enjoy this recipe from my kitchen to yours.

This recipe was originally published in July 2013 and has been updated August 2017.

 

56 Responses
  1. charlotte

    My ex used to slow bake them without the foil – maybe in a 300F oven. They were out of this world! Thanks for the reminder, and I’ll have to try the higher temp – could never justify having an oven on for several hours to cook a potato!

  2. jess

    I stuff my spuds with cooked chicken breast chuncks and monterrey cheese and I also do brisket baked potatoes with sliced meat, cheedar cheese, sour cream. chives , bacon bits, and bbq sauce(optional)

  3. C Morrison

    I’ve cooked them this way for years, and it really makes them special to add cracked pepper, dill weed, and garlic salt with the olive oil! This may sound unusual, but a dollop of raspberry salsa is also delicious as a topping…along with the cheese of course!

  4. Cindy

    My favorite is what I call the Terlingua – topping of chili, cheese, chopped onions, butter, sour cream and jalapenos. Makes a nice meal..

  5. Nancy Wittig

    Putting Lawreys Seasoned Salt on the potato will make them outstanding too. I cook mine at 475 because I like really crunchy potato peelings.

  6. Wilma Knipe

    I have been cooking potatoes like this for years. My favourite topping is Garlic butter, Colslaw, grated cheese and topped with sour cream. Yummy

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  9. Laura

    I cook my potatoes like this all the time. I just pour a small amount of oil in my hand and start rubbing it on. I use kosher salt and I don’t bother putting them directly on the rack of the oven. I just put them on my pan and pop them in. The whole reason why this works is that when you wrap them in foil you are actually steaming them. Doing it with oil actually roasts them and it makes sense. You do it that way with every other vegetable when roasting. Why not a potato? 🙂 Growing up my mom would pop them in the oven with no oil or foil. They would come out shriveled up and dry. It was probably why we would scoop out the inside and give dad the potato skin. 🙂

  10. Tracy

    “1 potato per person”?? I don’t think so. LOL! I have these in the oven right now. Instead of salt I sprinkled on Mama Garlic by Frontier (love that stuff!). Thank you for posting this!

  11. Mary Johnson

    My mom use to make baked red potatoes on the oven rack, no foil, with our weekend meals. It has been so long since I’ve done it this way, I had forgotten how long to bake them! She cooked hers at 350°, so I’m assuming about 1 hr and 45 mins. I hope I’m right!

    1. The skin doesn’t quite act the same, it kind of dries up and I don’t love to eat it (I don’t normally eat the sweet potato skin anyways, it just too tough for me), but they are delicious cooked like this and the flesh scoops right out. I love making sweet potatoes like this.

  12. Vivian Pilger

    I poke a two pronged fork through each russet potato. Then I rub real butter all over them (generously). Then I put salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder in a zip bag. I then put the buttered potato in the bag and roll it gently until it’s surface is coated with the mix. I then place them on foil in a cookie pan and bake at about 400° until done. When done and slightly cooled, cut horizontally in half, scoop out the fluffy potato. Then put a pat of butter in the scooped out skin, squish the open end shut and massage a bit for the butter inside to melt evenly. Wait a few minutes while you add your toppings to the fluffy potato that was scooped out. Then open the skin and add salt and pepper to your liking, close again and eat “sandwich style”. You can also add your favorite cheese when adding the pat of butter if you like. It like two meals in one. Very tasty.

  13. Carmen

    Love these baked potatoes! So nice you don’t even have to wrap them in foil. Our family loves these potatoes as a main dish. (I get large potatoes) We are happy with just butter, sour cream, cheese and a little salt & pepper! Thanks for the recipe ?

    1. Melissa

      You set them on a rack IN a baking sheet. So set a cooling wrap in your baking sheet and then set them on the cooling rack so that they are off the pan but have the pan underneath to catch any drips. You could also set them on your oven rack with a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drips. Both work! I just find it easier to get them in and out of the oven on a rack inside a pan.

  14. Grannybee

    My oh my this is not a new way of baking potatoes been doing it 50 years plus. Never used foil & didn’t have a microwave until the 80’s tried it & went back to traditional method.

  15. Ardelle

    I love to make baked potatoes and have traditionally used foil. I like the way these potatoes turned out, it is easy to squeeze the potato open to fill, and I too make “stuffed baked potatoes” sometimes I go crazy with a little bacon and sour cream. I know it ruins a good healthful food but we sure like them! I use broccoli but have wondered if another veggie goes as well?

  16. Gene

    Absolutely perfect. Steakhouse quality baked potatoes. Would probably use instaread or continuous thermometry on really big ones. We used Kosher salt

  17. A well done, superbly delicate potato is the perfect side dish to numerous a feast. However, preparing a potato however evidently basic won’t generally yield the best outcomes if done inaccurately.

  18. Karen Vasquez

    We are having a Chili cook-off in the office and for those not making chili we were asked to bring in toppings. I thought why not make potatoes to top with chili. Growing up, my Mom always made red potatoes and cooked them in the oven right on the rake. I was stressed out about cooking russet potatoes and in foil to make what I thought was the more common way of serving them. Based on your recipe and advice, I’m going with the russets potatoes with no foil. Thank you for the directions. I couldn’t understand the waste of the foil or how it helped the potato cook.

  19. Sharris

    Place potatoes directly on a baking rack set inside a baking sheet and place them in the oven.
    This is step 2. Does that mean you put the potatoes on a rack and put the baking sheet on the rack underneath?

    1. Melissa

      The rack, in the pan, with a tater on top. It just helps the air to flow around the potatoes and to catch any drips!

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

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