Who wouldn’t love to have perfectly baked potatoes with crisp, salty skin and fluffy white inside topped with a dollop of butter? It can be a complete meal in itself or it can be used to complement other dishes at the meal. Baked potatoes can be combined with chicken, cheese, fish or vegetables to create exquisite dishes.
Baking potatoes is easy. Select some perfect potatoes and scrub them clean. Pierce them on every side, rub salt over the jacket and toss them in the oven to bake. Although it sounds simple, getting the potatoes to bake perfectly requires you to set your oven to the right temperature. If you go wrong in the temperature, you will end up either with half baked ones where the interiors are not fluffy or charred black ones which can’t be eaten at all. Don’t even think of wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil while baking. The moisture from the potatoes will be trapped within the foil and you will end up with soggy and teamed potatoes instead of crisp, baked ones.
Baking potatoes requires a temperature range between 300 and 400°F, depending upon the type of oven you use. Medium size potatoes will have to be baked for 45 minutes at 400°F or for 60 minutes at 350°F or 90 minutes at 325°F in a regular oven. If you use convection ovens, you will have to bake the potatoes for 45 minutes at 375°F or 60 minutes at 325°F or 90 minutes at 300°F. Convection ovens cook faster than regular ovens so the rule of thumb is to set the temperature in convection ovens at least 25°F lower than you would set in a regular oven.
The higher the baking temperature, the lesser the time required for baking. Baking time also depends on the size of the potatoes. The larger the potatoes, the longer the time required for baking. Potatoes baked at higher temperatures will have crustier skin than their counterparts, which have been baked at relatively lesser temperatures.
How can you find out whether your potatoes have been baked to perfection? There are several methods. You can use a meat thermometer to test whether the potatoes have been done. An internal temperature of 210°F indicates that the potatoes are done. Alternatively, you can simply pierce the potatoes with a fork or skewer. If it slides in perfectly, it indicates that the baking has been done. Another method to test for doneness is to gently press the potatoes using your thumb and forefinger. Remember to use a pot holder or glove and don’t exert too much pressure while pressing.
Here are a few simple steps to get great baked potatoes.
Step 1: Choose a good variety of potato for baking. The kinds which are good for baking are the ones which have white rather than yellow flesh. These are the ones which give fluffy, crumbly interiors after baking. King Edward, Maris Piper and Golden Wonder are great varieties for baking.
Step 2: Prepare the potatoes for baking by washing them under running water. Scrub them well, because you will be eating the skin and you don’t want any mud on them.
Step 3: Preheat your oven to the desired temperature.
Step 4: Pierce the potatoes with a fork or knife at every side. You can rub salt, oil or butter over the potatoes before setting them to bake. Remember to turn them over when the baking is half way through, so that one side does not burn while the other remains half done.
Step 5: Test whether the potatoes are done and slit them gently with a knife. Voila! You have fluffy white flesh in a crisp, salty jacket. Top with shavings of butter or cheese and serve piping hot.
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