By Kimberly Holland
All the ways you tank your ‘taters’
Baked potatoes sit atop the mountain of comfort foods. With a fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth interior and a crispy, salty skin, a perfect baked potato is a thing of beauty.
But for many people, the dream of the ideal oven-baked potato sits just out of reach. What should seem easy — baking a potato in a hot oven — can, and often does, return mixed results: gummy centers, slightly charred skins, or slippery, soggy skins.
No one will say they’re not edible, but could they be better? Yes. And if the steps to make them better are remarkably easy, there’s no reason to suffer sad, shriveled baked potatoes anymore.
Read on to see if you’re committing the 7 deadly sins against baked potatoes, and learn simple tips you can follow to make your next batch of oven-baked potatoes perfect.
1. You don’t dry the potato well.
You should certainly rinse the potatoes — we prefer russets — to remove any dirt and debris. You can even give them a quick scrub with a vegetable brush. But you need to dry the spuds well after the bath. Excess moisture on the skin can seep into the potato during baking and cause soggy skins.
Do be sure to prick a few holes into the skin, too. While the potato is unlikely to explode in the oven, no one is here to take risks with dinner. Err on the side of caution.
2. You wrap the potato in foil.
Don’t be ashamed if you do this — many cooks believe it to be the key to the perfect baked potato. But turns out you’re ruining the skin if you do this.
The ideal baked potato skin relies on a certain amount of dehydration and rehydration — we’ll get to that. If you bake in foil, all the moisture from the potato just circles back into the potato skin, which can leave you with a sad state of skin.
No, once you’ve washed and dried the potatoes, leave them be. No wrapping.
3. You don’t use a wire rack under the potatoes.
Potatoes need to cook all the way through, and the best way for that to happen is to make sure the hot air can get to the potato from all sides. If a potato bakes with one side touching a sheet pan, you’ll get a hard spot and possibly uneven cooking.
Place a thin wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Line up your spuds, side by side, and place the pan into the oven. Make sure there’s a little room between each potato before closing the oven door.
4. The oven is too hot.
Low and slow—that’s the mantra of the Perfect Baked Potato. If you’ve got the time to spare, cook the potatoes at 300°F for 90 minutes. If you need to speed that up, bump it to 450°F for 45 minutes. (Note: Your baking time will vary depending on the size of your potato and how hot your oven runs.)
But don’t go hotter than that. There’s no victory in cooking potatoes at a temp greater than 450°F. They might be done a bit faster, but the high heat temp will leave you with overly browned skins that might even char in spots. And since the whole point of a perfectly baked potato is to have skins as delicious as the fluffy interior, there’s no charring allowed.
5. You don’t take the potatoes’ temperature.
You know when meat is perfectly cooked by measuring the internal temperature; the same is true for baked potatoes. Use a probe thermometer to measure the temp of your potatoes. You’re aiming for a temp in the sweet spot between 205°F and 212°F. Below that, the texture may still be too dense, and above that, it may become a gummy mess.
6. You baste first, not last.
Skip rubbing your potatoes in oil and salt until the end of the cooking time. That’s when they’ll deliver the most texture and flavor benefit for the spuds. If you oil them up early, the skins may not turn crispy. The salt, too, can run off the potatoes in the heat.
Instead, do a quick oil baste after the potatoes reach 205°F: Remove the pan from the oven. Brush with olive oil (or bacon grease if you have it) and a hefty sprinkle of kosher salt.
Return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes — the temperatures of the potatoes won’t climb more than 2 or 3 degrees in that time. The oil will crisp up the skins that were dehydrated during the long bake, and the salt will add delectable flavor.
7. You let the potatoes cool before cutting.
Unlike meat, potatoes don’t get better by resting. They need to be sliced open immediately. If you don’t, they will retain water from the still-steaming center and turn dense and gummy.
Quickly jab a serrated knife through each potato as soon as the pan has cleared the oven. Give them a gentle squeeze (with a hot-temp glove or towel) to create a vent.
Then you can gather all your fixings and call the family to the table. The potatoes will have cooled just enough by the time everyone gathers around to enjoy dinner — and marvel at your perfectly baked potatoes.
About Kimberly Holland
Kimberly’s favorite hobby is grocery shopping. Her second favorite hobby is realizing she already had two of the foods she just bought. Will bake. Won’t grill. Can caramel. Find her at khollandcooks on Instagram and on Allrecipes.
6 ripe tomatoes OR large can of diced tomatoes
4 large red bell peppers, seeded
2 large green bell pepper, seeded
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
3 celery, strings removed
1 small clove garlic
1 small red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 limes, or to taste
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce, to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish, or to taste
1/2 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1/2 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and shelled
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp
Blanch tomatoes, remove skins, squeeze out seeds and dice. Or use canned tomatoes.
Cut vegetables, garlic, and onion into large chunks, and puree in batches in a blender or food processor, adding some of the olive oil to each batch.
Strain through a sieve into a large bowl to remove skins and seeds.
Bake bacon in oven on parchment paper, crumble for garnish.
Boil shrimp until pink, drain, cool.
Add lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
Place soup in bowl, add crab, shrimp and top with bacon.
I made this last week for the clients and I am now SO addicted! I always have a batch of some kind of Cole Slaw as it is a great salad and prebiotic. Actually I should say I always have Pressed Salad. I prep my veggies and then put them in a salad press for 5 or 6 hours. It removes a good bit of the moisture and allows the dressing to not get watered down.
- 3 cups cabbage, sliced thin
- 2 cups red cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 ripe mango, diced
- 1 medium Spanish onion, diced very small
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 cup carrot, shredded
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 tablespoons fresh mayo
- 1 teaspoons Caribbean hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Using a food processor slice the cabbages very thin. Grate carrot and dice onions. Place in salad press. Or place food in colander and cover with a plate, then add weights. (I use about 4 iron skillets and a Dutch oven because I make it in large amounts!) With either method salt the veggies to help pull liquid out of the veggies.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, lime juice, mayo, spices and hot sauce until combined.
- In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, mango, jalapeño, carrot, garlic and then drizzle mustard dressing on top.
- When ready to serve, add cilantro and toss everything together.
- Serve and enjoy!
I feel kinda bad for cucumbers. Thanks to the world’s obsession with its famous cousin, the versatile zucchini, people are zoodling their lives away without even giving the cuke a fair shake. Well, sorry zucchinis, but cucumbers have some impressive qualities, too. And one of them is their ability to make you want to ditch the kale for a salad that’s crunchy, satisfying, and super-hydrating.
Cucumbers are typically used as a salad topping, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the star of the show. A large cucumber contains 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and a solid amount of vitamin C and vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium, which is known to help with bloating (something kale commonly causes). On top of that, since cucumbers are 96 percent water, eating them makes it easy to stay hydrated.
To take full advantage of the many benefits of cucumbers, create some hearty salads you can devour all season long.
The 5 best healthy cucumber salads
If you like a little spice in your life, this cucumber salad featuring finely-diced jalapeños is a winner. Combined with zesty lime, your taste buds are in for a treat.
Give your cucumbers a Thai twist with this quickie salad that’s loaded with red onion, lemon juice, cayenne powder, and chopped peanuts.
To satisfy both your sweet and spicy cravings, whip up this cucumber salad that contains ingredients like rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and diced red onion.
For the ultimate hydrating cucumber salad, add in some other refreshing veggies too: cherry tomatoes, radishes, and red bell pepper.
This cucumber salad ups the flavor with wakame, a type of seaweed that brings on plenty of health benefits. It’s been shown to help fight off cancer, decrease your risk of heart disease, and provide mental health-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
4 whole boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons minced ginger
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 whole green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Using a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and 2 Tablespoons arrowroot until frothy. Place the chicken in the bowl and coat with the egg mixture. Allow the chicken to sit and soak up the mixture for about 5 minutes.
- Warm a nonstick large skillet on the stove. Place the orange juice, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, crushed pepper, garlic and ginger into the pan. Whisk together and heat until boiling. Turn the temperature down to low; cover, and allow the sauce to simmer for 3 or 4 minutes.
- Combine the water and remaining arrowroot in a mixing bowl, and stir until the arrowroot is dissolved. Stir with the whisk as you slowly add the water to the sauce. You may add more water, such as 2 to 3 tablespoons, if the sauce becomes too thick for your liking.
- In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the chicken to the oil in small batches. Stir the chicken around the pan with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes, so that it cooks evenly. Drain the cooked chicken on clean paper towels.
- Once all of the chicken is cooked, toss it in the sauce until it is well coated. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onion.
Orange chicken is traditionally served over white rice, but you may substitute sides as you like. Some pairing suggestions include sautéed spinach, steamed broccoli, rice noodles and vegetable spring rolls.
This simple, high-temperature cooking method condenses both the sweet and savory qualities of sweet potatoes.
3 pounds sweet potatoes roughly equally sized
3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced or chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon arrowroot
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch thick rounds. Arrange on a half sheet pan, not touching.
In a large bowl toss the potatoes with the butter/coconut oil mix and the salt and pepper.
Roast the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes, or until the undersides of the slices have caramelized to a deep brown. Carefully flip the sweet potato slices and return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Flip the sweet potato slices once again and scatter the chopped or garlic , or garlic granules, over the sweet potato slices and then pour the broth over the potatoes. Return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely tender and the broth has reduced to a thicker consistency. Use a spatula to transfer the Melting Sweet Potatoes to a serving plate and drizzle the sauce from the pan over them.
This wonderful chopped salad is from Che Fico in San Francisco. I have adjusted it to be healthier and dairy free.
1 small acorn squash (2–3 lb.)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 tsp. honey
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
1½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ cup plus ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2½ oz. fennel salami, sliced ⅛” thick, slices cut into quarters (about ½ cup)
1) Place a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Cut squash into quarters and scoop
out seeds. Place skin side down on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Whisk lemon juice,
honey, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl and rub all over cut sides of squash; season with salt
and pepper. Roast until very tender, about 11/4 hours. Watch very carefully, due to the honey it can burn very quickly. Let cool.
2) Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Arrange brussels sprouts cut
side down in skillet and cook, undisturbed, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Toss and
continue to cook, tossing occasionally and reducing heat as needed, until browned all over,
about 5 minutes longer. Reduce heat to medium; add butter, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Tip
skillet toward you so butter pools on one side and cook, spooning butter over brussels
sprouts, until butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes; season with salt. Add vinegar and toss to
coat. Cook just until vinegar and butter form a glaze over sprouts. Let cool; discard herbs.
Combine vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Finely
grate in garlic and whisk to combine. Let sit 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat red pepper flakes, oregano, and ¼ cup oil in a small saucepan over medium
until oil is warm but not yet sizzling. Add remaining ⅔ cup oil to cool down infused oil.
Pour infused oil into vinegar mixture; whisk until smooth. Season vinaigrette with salt.
Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Toss scallions, salami, olives, and dill. Scoop out bite-size pieces of roasted squash until you have 2 cups; save remaining squash for another use. Add to mixture along with Brussels sprouts and glaze. Add radicchio and lettuce and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette to taste; season with salt.
Serve salad topped with pomegranate seeds.