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"Nothing beats a basic baked potato."
That's according to TODAY's very own Al Roker. "It's the perfect side dish that can be dressed up or down. It tastes just as great with only a bit of butter as it does fully loaded with all the fixings."
But knowing how to bake a potato that's perfectly fluffy on the inside isn't as intuitive as it may seem.
So where to begin? Start with the right spud.
"For baked potatoes, you should always choose a russet potato or an Idaho potato because they are drier and fluffier varieties," Frank Proto, chef-instructor at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City, told TODAY Food. "Do not use a waxy potato like a Yukon Gold."
Proto shared his expert tips for how to bake a potato perfectly every time whether it's in an oven, microwave, open fire or even on a grill.
How to bake a potato
- 1. How to bake potatoes in the oven
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the potatoes with a little olive or vegetable oil and season with salt. Wrap each potato in foil. Place the foil-wrapped potatoes on a cookie sheet and cook until the skin is slightly soft, about 45 to 60 minutes. Using a kitchen towel or potholder, give one potato a little squeeze. The potato is done when it has an indentation.
- 2. How to make a baked potato in the microwave
Poke holes in the potato with a fork. Microwave in 5 minute intervals, just until it is soft. Depending on how many potatoes you're cooking, this will take about 10 to 15 minutes total.
- 3. How to make a baked potato in a campfire
Rub the potato with a little olive or vegetable oil and season with salt. Wrap it up in foil. Place the foil-wrapped potatoes on the outskirts of the campfire (on the ground) and not in direct heat. Turn them every 20 minutes until soft, which takes about about 1 hour. They will be smoky and utterly delicious.
- 4. How to make a baked potato on the grill
Rub the potato with a little olive or vegetable oil and season with salt, then wrap it in foil. Place the foil-wrapped potato on the grill. Cover it and cook until it's soft, about an hour and 10 minutes.
- 5. How to make twice-baked potatoes
Shelling out the center of potatoes, whipping them up with creamy ingredients and placing them back in the skins is chef Ryan Scott's favorite way to make baked spuds. "This is my perfect baked potato," Scott told TODAY Food.
Start by preheating the oven to 450 degrees. Using a fork, poke holes into six Idaho potatoes. Place them on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half, length-wise. Using a spoon, scoop out the insides and place in a medium bowl, leaving 1/4-inch of the outer layer of flesh and skin behind. Place the empty potato halves on a baking sheet.
In a bowl with the potatoes, add 1/2 cup of cream cheese, 1 cup of cubed unsalted butter, 1 cup of grated white cheddar cheese and a bunch of chives, finely chopped up. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between the potato skins. Bake until warmed through and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Garnish with extra chopped chives.
Now that the basics are covered, it's time to get cooking with these delicious baked potato recipes:
"There is hardly anything cozier than a baked potato," chef John Whaite told TODAY Food. "It's all in the simple perfection of it: crispy, golden skin encasing a fluffy, buttery interior. This version marries my favorite spud preparation — hasselback potatoes from Sweden — with those buttery beauties that I've relied on for decades."
A sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese is the perfect finishing touch for Al's ultimate baked potatoes.
"You really haven't experienced baked potatoes until you've baked them twice," chef Ed Brown told TODAY Food. His version uses a heavenly combo filling of butter, pecorino, mozzarella, sour cream and, let's not forget, bacon.
"I am a total potato head. I grew up in Maine, where we had some form of potatoes at least two meals a day," food blogger Amber St. Peter told TODAY Food. "I love 'em! This recipe is a really easy dinner idea that looks much fancier and more impressive than the amount of work required to make it. Just a few ingredients and you're on your way to a delicious date night dinner or meatless Monday meal!"