Basic Baked Potatoes
So few people take the time to bake potatoes any more that many feel they’re getting a treat when baked potatoes are on the menu. Fresh sweet potatoes can be cooked this same way as regular potatoes. They are usually larger, so will require a little longer baking time.
Several Potatoes—1 for each serving, plus extra for leftovers
When baking potatoes you want to choose several that are about the same size. Similar sized potatoes will bake in a similar amount of time. Some will be a little bigger, and some a little smaller, that’s okay. If the only potatoes you have are various sizes they can still be baked together. Smaller ones will need to be removed from the oven when they are tender and the larger potatoes will need to cook longer. If your potatoes are all about the same size they will all be ready at the same time. It’s a matter of convenience for the cook.
Wash the potatoes in your sink. Use a scrub brush if you have one. Potatoes are usually pretty clean, but there are usually a few dirt clods hidden around them here and there.
Some people like to wrap their potatoes in aluminum foil before baking. This steams them while they bake. If your family prefers their potatoes wrapped before baking then feel free to do so. You don’t have to though. You can just bake them in their skins if you prefer.
If you do wrap yours in foil then take note. I have found it more economical to cut each piece of foil in half with scissors. This gives you a piece of foil just about the right size to cover a medium potato and uses less foil, which is quite a bit more expensive than it used to be.
Whether or not your wrap your potatoes in foil, they all need to be pierced with a fork. Simply poke your fork into each potato at least twice. If you have wrapped your potatoes in tin foil then poke them through the foil, into the potato.
Next arrange your potatoes on a rack in your oven. Allow them to bake until they are tender. To do this, I put an oven mitt on my hand and give the biggest one a squeeze to test it. It should give gently to the pressure, and there should be no stiffness in the center. If the biggest one is tender, I can be pretty sure the smaller ones are too. If your potatoes are all different sizes then you may need to remove smaller ones when they are tender and allow the biggest ones to bake longer.
The temperature you bake potatoes at is flexible. I have used temperatures anywhere from 350° up to 450°. If I know the oven will be on for an hour or more I try to slip in a few potatoes to make thrifty use of the oven heat. If you’re serving a main dish that must bake for a while, such as roasting a chicken or baking a meatloaf, you can slide a few potatoes in along with the main dish.
At 350° medium sized potatoes, about 5 or 6-ounces each, will bake in about 1-1/4 hours or 75 minutes. At 450° medium potatoes will bake in about 45 to 50 minutes. Larger potatoes require longer cooking. You just have to squeeze them to see when they’re done.
Baked potatoes are very nice served with salt, pepper and dairy-free margarine. If you haven’t tried a simple baked potato prepared this way lately, you owe it to yourself to renew your acquaintance. You’ll be surprised at just how tasty it is. For those want to be fancier you can add dairy-free sour cream or dairy-free cheese. Bacon bits are popular with my family. When I have leftover chili I sometimes make a meal of baked potatoes topped with reheated chili and dairy-free sour cream. My family loves this meal, and it takes very little effort for the cook.