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Weekend barbecues and parties are not all about grilled meat, smoked bbq chops and roasted steaks. Baked potatoes are fast becoming a popular side dish for many BBQ cuisines - they bring out a creamy, savory taste, and have a crispy texture, which goes well with any main dish, particularly grilled, meaty cuts.
Besides, there’s never a bad time for eating a dish of baked potatoes. You can have them for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, with your favorite delicacies.
What is even more amazing is that potatoes are the easiest vegetables to cook. You can roast, deep-fry, boil, mash or bake them. The possibilities are almost endless.
So what are some of the best ways to bake a potato? well, let's find out
How to Bake a Potato in the Microwave
The fastest and easiest way to bake potatoes is by using a microwave - this method takes roughly 4 minutes and 30 seconds to bake one potato. All you have to do is to press the “baked potato” button on your microwave and wait for the results.
If your microwave does not have this option, simply set the machine on high and bake your potato for five to six minutes. You’ll notice the distinct smell of your baked potato in 5 minutes or so, indicating it’s ready for serving.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Nonetheless, cooking four or five more potatoes will take longer, depending on their size. Large potatoes comparatively need more time to cook evenly than smaller potatoes do. With this in mind, we suggest you look for evenly sized potatoes to make sure they cook at the same rate.
As much as this method is fast and easy, the outcome of baking a potato in the microwave is not always the best. There’s a very high chance the outside layers will remain gummy while the inside will turn out raw and slimy.
To avoid going through this horrific experience with your microwave-baked potatoes, you have to prick them several times using a fork just before baking them. The formed holes allow steam to escape from the potato while it is cooking. Moreover, poking holes will prevent your potato from becoming marshy.
Alternatively, you may transfer the baked potatoes from the microwave to the oven to make them crispy and crunchy.
Here’s a quick peek into baking a potato in a microwave:
1. Scrub the potato
2. Prick the potato several times with a fork
3. Place the pricked potato on a plate and transfer to a microwave
4. Cook on high for 5-6 minutes
5. Turn the potato over and cook for another 5 minutes
6. Remove the potato and cut in half
7. Season with pepper and salt
8. Top the open side with cheese and butter
9. Return the potato to the microwave for one minute to melt the cheese
10. Top with sour cream and the remaining cheese, and then serve
How to Bake a Potato in the Oven
When talking about baking, the first kitchen appliance that comes to mind is the oven. Even though it is not as fast as the microwave, baking potatoes in the oven is more practical.
Once your potatoes are in the oven, and you have set the timer, you don’t have to do anything else until they are ready. Moreover, baking in the oven will leave the skin crispy while the inside will turn out “pillowy” and fluffy for perfectly baked potatoes.
How great is that?
Lest we forget, you still have to poke holes in your potatoes using a fork to enhance their taste and prevent the inside from becoming slimy or marshy. The poked holes will release steam while the potato is cooking, thus ensuring they cook evenly, and the inside turns out fluffy just the way you want it.
Nonetheless, your choice of potatoes will determine how well they turn out once baked in the oven. The best potatoes for baking are arguably Russet potatoes. These particular potatoes are large and have a sweet, starchy interior. Their skins are relatively thick, making them ideal for baking in the oven.
Here are the steps on how to bake a potato in the oven:
1. Set up a rack in the middle of your oven
2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Scrub your potatoes and pat them dry
4. Rub the dried potatoes generously with olive oil using your hands or pastry brush
5. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper
6. Prick the potatoes several times using the tines of a fork
7. Place the potatoes on a baking tray or sheet and transfer to the oven
8. Bake the potatoes for 50 minutes to 1 hour
9. Flip the potatoes over every 20 minutes for even cooking
10. Check for doneness by piercing the potatoes using a fork
11. Remove from oven when ready and serve
How to Bake a Potato in an Air Fryer
You can also bake your potato in an air fryer. In case you’re wondering, an air fryer is simply a countertop convection oven. It works by circulating hot air around your food until it’s ready.
Air fryers are relatively faster than regular ovens, and they do not take up much space in the kitchen. The best part is that it cooks just as well as a traditional oven, albeit faster. Most importantly, they are capable of baking potatoes that are smooth and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
Therefore, if you are struggling to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible, but you want it to have the taste and look of oven-baked potatoes, then using an air fryer for baking your potatoes is the most viable option.
You will also love the fact that making air fryer baked potatoes does not require much effort. Actually, you do not have to poke holes or make cuts on the potato before cooking. The air fryer will puff up your potato and make them crisp without exploding.
Interestingly, you can eat air fryer baked potatoes without any main dishes. You just need to add your favorite toppings and enjoy your baked potato as a main meal.
Here are the steps on how to make air fryer baked potatoes:
1. Scrub your potatoes thoroughly in running water and pat them dry
2. Place the scrubbed potatoes in the air fryer
3. Spray the potatoes with cooking spray on both sides or drizzle with oil
4. Season the potatoes by sprinkling sea salt and garlic powder all round
5. Rub the potatoes using your hands to make sure they are evenly coated
6. Bake in the air fryer at 400° Fahrenheit for 40 minutes
7. Remove the potatoes when the internal temperature reaches 200° Fahrenheit
8. Thereafter, slice the potatoes into half and top with your favorite toppings (butter, sour cream, cheese or herbs)
How to Bake a Potato in an Instant Pot
Many people do not know about baking potatoes in an instant pot. Well, cooking in an instant pot is another fast and excellent way to bake potatoes.
Whether you want to cook a couple of russet potatoes for a dinner date or dozens for a family gathering, you can always rely on this pot to deliver perfect results within 15 minutes or so. Apparently, an instant pot takes just a fraction of the time you’d need to bake potatoes in an oven.
Then again, this method guarantees creamy, fluffy and savory potatoes, so long as you stick to all instructions as required.
More amazingly, you do not have to “babysit” the machine when the potatoes are cooking. Just set the pot to release pressure naturally, and your dish will be ready even before you know it!
To top it off, you can slice your baked potatoes in half and sprinkle cheese sauce or load them up with chives or bacon for a delicious meal.
However, there is a small catch...
The skin will come out moist since instant pot uses steam to cook. However, this is not a major issue - you can still make your potatoes crispy by transferring them to a broiler or oven for a few minutes.
Below are the steps on how to bake a potato in an instant pot:
1. Gather all the ingredients
2. Scrub the potatoes thoroughly in running water
3. Prick the potatoes 4-5 times all over the surface with a fork
4. Add water to a 6-quart instant pot
5. Place a metal trivet or steaming basket into the pot
6. Place your pricked potatoes on top of the trivet
7. Place lid on the instant pot and adjust the valve to sealing position
8. Set pressure to high
9. Press the manual button and adjust the timer to 14 minutes
10. The instant pot will beep when the potatoes are ready. Let the pressure release naturally for 20-30 minutes
11. When cool to handle, remove the potatoes and place them on a dish
12. Cut the potatoes in half and add your toppings
How to Bake Potatoes in a Slow Cooker
Who would have imagined that it’s possible to bake potatoes in a slow cooker? Well, if you have the time, then baking your potatoes in a slow cooker is an option worth trying out.
Apparently, it takes about 4 to 8 hours to bake potatoes in a slow cooker. As much as this method is time-consuming, it delivers some of the most delicious and flavorful baked potatoes.
Moreover, cooking potatoes using a slow cooker is a straightforward process, as it does not require extensive monitoring. Once the timer is set, you can relax by watching your favorite movie or attend to other chores while the potatoes bake.
Heck! You can even go to work and come back home to the inviting aroma of baked potatoes. However, you have to be extra careful not to let the potatoes overcook or become gummy, by setting the temperature to low before heading out to work.
Importantly, using a slow cooker works well when baking different types of potatoes. You can use your cooker for baking sweet King Edward, russet, Yukon gold, red royal and Kipfler potatoes, without worrying about your dish turning out marshy.
Below are the steps on how to bake a potato in a slow cooker:
1. Wash or scrub your potatoes thoroughly
2. Poke the potatoes several times with a fork
3. Using your hands, rub the potatoes with oil all round
4. Season with salt and pepper
5. Wrap the potatoes in a foil (optional)
6. Lay the potatoes snugly into the slow cooker
7. Thereafter, cover the slow cooker and bake the potatoes for 8 to 10 hours on low heat
8. Your potatoes should be ready within 8 hours
9. Remove them from the cooker, unwrap from foil, split and serve with your favorite toppings
10. If you like your potatoes crispy, you may grill them for a couple of minutes before serving.
Baked potatoes are exceptionally delicious, and it’s naturally impossible to get tired of eating them. However, you must first bake the potatoes the right way for you to enjoy their distinct, savory taste, with every meal.
As you can see, the options for baking potatoes are almost endless. You can cook them in the oven or bake them in the slow cooker or instant pot. Moreover, baked potatoes are very nutritious - they are rich in vitamins (B and C), fibres and minerals.
A plainly baked potato also contains 95 calories. This makes it one of the best meals for people on a diet
So what is your best way to bake a potato? Please let us know. Also, you can take a look at a great recipe for baked chili potato here.