Well if you get a CSA box like me you are keenly aware that potatoes are now in season. While there are many ways to cook potatoes there is one time honored way that I like best. That my friends is baking. This instructable will cover a simple way to make great fluffy baked potatoes with nice crispy skins.
Step 1: What You Will Need
What you will need
~not pictured an oven
Tongs and a knife make things easier later on but are not necessary.
*if you eat the skins like me
Step 2: Prep the Oven
Set your oven racks with one at the bottom and one in the middle. On the bottom rack place a square of tin foil to keep drippings from dirtying up your oven. If you don't do this you may end up like my old upstairs neighbors with an oven that smoked horribly whenever they used it.
Next set the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit so it can preheat while we prep the potatoes for baking.
Step 3: Wash and Dry Your Potatoes
I don't know about you but I really like to eat my potato skin as well as the meat of the potato. I have grown out of the eating dirt faze of my life however so the first step in prepping the potatoes is to wash them. If you are just making one potato wash it off under the tap making sure to wash all the dirt off. If making more than one potato I plug up the sink and use caught water to wash the rest of my potatoes. This way I save water.
Once you have washed your potatoes you want to rub them dry with a kitchen towel. This is an important step because if the potatoes are still wet they won't coat as well but I am getting ahead of myself.
Step 4: Releasing Stress / Pretending You Are the Villain in a Slasher
This step is my second favorite part about baked potatoes the first being eating the finished potato.
Grab your potato firmly in one hand and your favorite stabbing fork in the other.
Go to town like it is a woman in a shower and you are Norman Bates from the movie psycho or picture whatever you like. The key here is to stab a lot of small holes in your potato.
An unexpected bonus to this step is it will help you know how hard uncooked potatoes are if you did not know already. This will be useful latter.
The point of this step other than being a whole lot of fun is that as the potato bakes these holes will let steam out making the insides all light an fluffy.
Step 5: Coating the Potatos
Now comes the coating the potatoes. Pour a small amount of olive oil into the bowl. The amount you need will vary depending on how many potatoes you are making. Remember a little will go a long way and you can always add more if needed.
Pour about a tablespoon(for two potatoes) of Kosher salt into one hand. Take the potato in the other hand and roll it in the oil. Once you have the oil evenly and lightly coating the potato apply a light sprinkling of salt to taste.
Repeat the coating process until all your potatoes are coated.
The oil on the skin will help make it crispy as it bakes.
Step 6: Place in Oven and Find Something to Do for a Bit
Place the potatoes on the middle oven rack above your aluminum drip pan. Being careful not to burn yourself (I somehow manage to do this every time I bake potatoes). Close the oven up and look at a clock, set an alarm, set a cow whatever is your preferred method of time keeping for an 45-50 minutes. Baking time varies depending on the size and type of your potatoes. I find an hour to be about right for most potatoes I cook. However times will vary so I usually do a test at about the 45 minute mark to see how things are going and then if need be come back in 15 minutes and check again. If I was cooking a giant potato I would check at the one hour mark because they take forever.
Now go kill 45 minutes.
Step 7: Checking the Potatoes
Well that was the fastest 45 minutes ever thanks to the power of instructables.
It is time to check our potatoes. Take a knife with a pointy tip or your stabbing fork and poke your potatoes. If the potatoes are done you should be able to, once past the crispy skin, easily slide your knife or fork into the center of the potato. Again try to avoid burning your hands. If it feels anything like it did when you were filling it full of holes close the oven and come back in a bit.
Step 8: Removing and Preping Potatoes for Toppings
Well you checked them and they are finally ready to come out of the oven (here is where tongs can be useful). Take the potatoes out of the oven and over to a plate. Once on the plate make an incision down the length of the potato in preparation for the squeeze.
Now that the potatoes have been cut they are ready to be squeezed. Using your tongs or fingers, if you have thick calluses on them, squeeze the potato from both ends the center should pop right open reveling all the fluffy wonderfulness that is a great baked potato.
Step 9: Contemplate the Blank Canvas of Your Potato
Congratulations your baked potatoes are ready to be eaten as is or topped to your hearts delight. I myself am partial to crumbled blue cheese in both sweet and normal potatoes. Hope you enjoy my method of making baked potatoes.