Our Top Tips for Baking Potatoes to Perfection

Learn how to bake a potato with these simple steps and you'll always have an inexpensive, filling, and nutritious solution for dinner, lunch, or a side dish.

It's the perfect side dish for a steak dinner and hearty enough to become the main course—we're talking about the humble baked potato, of course. Learning how to bake a potato just once is all it takes to know you'll have an easy, inexpensive side dish ready to stuff with butter, sour cream, and the rest of your favorite baked potato toppers. Read on for our Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen's step-by-step guide to baking potatoes the right way, including how long to bake a potato so you can avoid any guesswork or burnt fingers in the process.

scrubbing potatoes clean
Blaine Moats

Step 1: Prep the Potatoes for Baking

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. With a stiff produce brush, scrub potatoes thoroughly under cool running water to remove any dirt. Remove any sprouts (also called eyes) and any green areas with the tip of a potato peeler or a small knife. Prick the potatoes on all sides with a fork. This will allow the steam to release as the potatoes bake.

If you prefer softer skins, rub the potatoes all over with a thin coating of shortening, butter, or cooking oil, and wrap each potato separately in foil before baking.

Test Kitchen Tip: Store potatoes in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place for up to several weeks. Do not store them in the refrigerator.

pricking potato with fork
Blaine Moats

Step 2: Bake the Potatoes

You are now ready to bake the potatoes in the oven by placing them on a sheet pan or directly on the oven rack. Bake the potatoes until tender. You'll know the baked potato is done when easily pierced with a fork or knife.

How Long to Bake a Potato

For 6- to 8-ounce potatoes, expect a bake time of approximately 40 to 60 minutes at 425ºF. You can also adjust the oven temperature to 350ºF to accommodate other items in the oven by increasing the baking time to 70 to 80 minutes.

cutting baked potato
Scott Little

Step 3: Cool and Fluff Baked Potatoes

Cool potatoes about 15 minutes. If baked in foil, remove the foil. To loosen and slightly mash the flesh, roll each potato gently under a clean tea towel. Using a sharp knife, cut an X into the top of each potato. With your fingers, press in and up at the same time on the ends of each baked potato. Now you have a perfectly fluffed potato ready to top as desired.

baked potatoes with toppings
Greg Luna

Step 4: Top Baked Potato and Enjoy

Butter, sour cream, and chives are the classic baked potato toppings when served as a side dish. To make the baked potatoes stand out more, consider some of these topping combinations:

  • Warmed chili, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced green onions
  • Crumbled blue cheese, sour cream, snipped fresh chives, and crumbled cooked bacon
  • Chopped cooked ham, steamed broccoli, and shredded Gouda cheese or Swiss cheese
  • Sautéed sliced onion, bell pepper strips, halved mushrooms, and sliced zucchini
  • Sour cream, salsa, and snipped fresh cilantro

How to Bake Potatoes in a Slow Cooker

Rub scrubbed potatoes lightly with olive oil. Place potatoes in a 4- or 6-quart slow cooker (4 potatoes in a 4-quart or 8 potatoes in a 6-quart). Cover; cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours or until potatoes are tender.

The Best Potatoes for Baking

Memorable baked potatoes start with choosing the best potatoes for the job. Russet potatoes, (also referred to as Idaho or baking potatoes) are ideal for baking. This variety gets its name from the rough, thick, reddish-brown skin that makes a sturdy jacket for a baked potato. The white interior is starchy, mealy, and dry, which becomes fluffy and light when baked. Look for potatoes that have smooth, unblemished skins and a firm texture. Russets are oblong in shape and can be quite large. Avoid potatoes with a green color on the skin, which can cause a bitter taste and can be harmful in large amounts.

For an easy get-together idea, consider a baked potato bar. Keep the baked potatoes warm in a slow cooker and provide an assortment of toppings for everyone to make their own delicious creation.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles