The perfect baked potato – fluffy, soft, and tender on the inside with a slightly toasted and completely edible skin – is a thing of glory. Simple, easy, nutritious, delicious, and endlessly customizable. Add a single pat of butter and a shake of salt, or pile on the sour cream, bacon, and green onions – the possibilities are endless. But I'm not here to sell you on baking a potato, I'm here to give you a few tips on how to make sure that baked potato comes out perfectly.
First and foremost, start with the potatoes. Starchier "baking" potatoes will bake up fluffier and more tender, so choose the classic Russett or a Yukon Gold or similar potato. Avoid potatoes with obvious eyes or any green tinge to their skins.
Scrub the potatoes clean and pat them dry. I like to then rub the skins with a pinch of salt – it adds flavor and helps crisp up the skin.
Set potatoes on a baking sheet or just put them directly on the cooking rack in a preheated oven – any temperature between 350°F and 425°F will work. A higher temperature will yield a crustier skin. Bake until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, about an hour.
Serve baked potatoes hot, brushing off any excess salt that didn't fall off during baking, split open the top, and let people add what they like. Popular additions include butter, salt, freshly ground black pepper, your favorite hot sauce, sour cream, crumbled bacon, chopped green onions, and grated cheese.