Baked potatoes are an oft-forgotten about side dish, but there's no reason for them to be boring! In fact, when cooked properly they can be a tasty and nutritious part of a meal — or the highlight of dinner with the right toppings!
"Potatoes get a bad rep because they have carbs, and so many people are afraid of carbohydrates," Isaac Toups, chef/owner of Toups' Meatery in New Orleans told TODAY Food. "The truth is, they are loaded with nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and B6 and they have a good amount of fiber."
While Toups suggests eating potatoes in moderation, he does advocate getting creative with toppings.
"If you’re serving a nice steak dinner, a dollop of crème fraiche and caviar is great," he said. "Or for a heartier potato, top with chili." For something unique, Toups says to try turning your potato into a pizza by adding mozzarella, pepperoni or whatever pizza toppings you like.
When shopping for potatoes, Toups says it's important to make sure there are no bruises or broken skin on the potato. "You want a smooth and firm texture," he said.
Avoid these common cooking mistakes
"It’s important to avoid wet potatoes unless you like soggy skins," said Toups. "Sure you have to wash and scrub the potato to get the dirt and debris off, but you need to dry it completely before any further preparation."
Toups also called out a common mistake people make when baking potatoes. "I see a lot of people using foil to wrap their potatoes in but this is a big no-no and causes soggy skins!" he said. "Another common mistake is letting the potato rest or cool before cutting. This is not meat and the potato doesn’t get better with resting. You need to cut it immediately to avoid a gummy and sticky consistency."
Make them fancy
A great baked potato doesn't have to be basic. "For a prettier, fancier baked potato, cut the potato into thin slices while it’s raw, but not all the way down (leave the bottom in tact)," said Toups. "Then fan it out a bit, brush with butter or oil and place directly on the oven rack and bake for 50 minutes at 425 degrees. Sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese and some chives and serve."
14 more tips to make the best baked potatoes ever — tonight!
- Avoid buying potatoes that are wrinkled, have begun to sprout or have green patches.
- Choose potatoes with uniform shapes and sizes; they'll cook more evenly.
- Store fresh, whole potatoes loose in a bin or rack (to allow air to circulate around them) in a cool (45° F to 50° F), dark place that is well ventilated. Kept this way, they should last for several weeks.
- Always scrub potato skins well under cold, running water.
- Prick potatoes with a fork before baking to shorten the baking time and to keep them from bursting.
- Bake at 400° F for about one hour, or until tender.
- Do not wrap potatoes in aluminum foil for baking. Foil holds in moisture and steams the potatoes, resulting in a "boiled" taste and texture.
- Turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time to prevent browning of the undersides where they touch the baking tray or oven rack.
- To "bake" potatoes in the microwave, wash but don't dry them. Pierce, then wrap them in microwave-safe paper towels and place one inch apart on a microwave rack.
- Cook according to your oven's guidelines, turning potatoes once during cooking. Don't exceed the recommended cooking time because potatoes will continue to cook after they're removed from the oven.
- A baked potato is ready when a fork easily pierces its skin. If the potato is hard, bake it a little longer. However, be careful not to overbake, or the under-skin will dry up.
- If potatoes baked to doneness are being held for over 10 minutes before serving, wrap them in foil. This will enhance the appearance of the skin by reducing shriveling.
- Great potato toppers include leftover stews, chili, cream-style soups, butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, gravy, chili and lightly cooked vegetables. Even frozen and canned veggies are topping winners.
- By themselves, potatoes are low in fat and calories. You can keep them that way by serving them with low-fat toppings such as plain, nonfat yogurt with chopped scallions, low-fat cottage cheese and chives, stewed tomatoes, steamed broccoli florets or julienned carrots, spicy mustard or salsa.
Baked potatoes don't have to be done in the oven. You can make the perfect baked potato on the grill, on an open campfire and even in the microwave. Ready to serve up some spuds? Try these recipes for baked potatoes and beyond.
Al Roker's Baked Potatoes are as close to perfection as you can get! They're great with just a pat of butter or fully loaded.
Ed Brown's Decadent Twice-Baked Potatoes include butter, pecorino, mozzarella, sour cream and bacon.
Breakfast Baked Potato Boats are filled with cheesy eggs and make Sunday brunch even more fun.
Mexican Hasselback Potatoes are a sliced spin on a baked potato and combine the crispiness of a French fry on the outside with the fluffy insides of a baked Russet — potato perfection!