Our handy guide has everything you need to know about this staple food including how to choose the right variety of potato and how to tell when a baked potato is cooked to perfection.
Baked potatoes make a cheap and easy meal. Simple to make, you can serve them as a hearty filling lunch or a light dinner.
Baked potatoes are available in supermarkets all year round and can be paired with a variety of savoury foods whether it’s topped with baked beans and cheese in the winter or served with a knob of butter and a freshly prepared salad in the summer.
Also referred to as jacket potatoes, baked potatoes are much easier to cook than you may think and can be cooked in advance too.
Follow our simple step-by-step advice to cook the best-baked potato every time. We’ve also included topping suggestions and ways you can use leftover baked potatoes…
How to choose the best potato
How to prepare baked potatoes
Should baked potatoes be wrapped in foil before cooking?
How to cook baked potatoes
How to cook baked potatoes: microwave
How to cook baked potatoes: BBQ
How do you know when baked potatoes are cooked?
How to serve baked potato
How to use leftover baked potatoes
How to store baked potatoes
The ultimate baked potato is fluffy on the inside, with a crisp skin. Choosing the correct variety of potatoes is essential.
While there are hundreds of potato varieties, they can roughly be split into two main categories, waxy and floury.
The best potatoes for baking tend to be floury as they fluff up when cooking compared to waxy potatoes which hold their shape. Starchy potatoes such as King Edwards are a delicious choice as they have thin skins and will turn crispy, not chewy. In the supermarket, the large potatoes simply labeled as baking potatoes are often the best option.
Elfe potatoes are another great option for baking. They have smooth yellow skin with flesh that is described as sweet and buttery.
To prepare a potato for baking first wash and scrub it to remove any stubborn dirt and grit. If it’s particularly grubby, consider using a potato brush. Dry off the potato. If there are any sprouts, then trim these off too.
Poke a few holes in the skin with a sharp knife. Although we have never experienced an exploding potato in the oven, rumor has it that it’s possible. It takes very little time to prick and saves you from a big potential cleaning job.
You can rub the potato skin with oil and salt or just with salt while the potato is still a little damp from cleaning. The benefit of the oil, especially if using olive or rapeseed, is that it adds more flavour. However, it doesn’t necessarily result in crispier skin.
There’s no need to wrap the potato in foil before baking, in fact, we’d recommend against it. Wrapping the potato in foil will cause it to steam inside the parcel and will prevent crispy skin from forming.
If you prefer softer, chewier skin then wrapping in foil is a good idea. It can also be useful for keeping potatoes warm after cooking if you’re not eating them straight away or need some more time to prep the toppings.
Foil is also essential if you’re cooking over a fire as without it the skins will burn. Be sure to use the correct foil as they are not all heat resistant.
Baked potatoes often need longer in the oven than you might anticipate. It’s a humble dish that tastes a lot better when made with a little patience. Cooking time can vary depending on the size of the potatoes too but as a general rule, the following method is ideal.
- Preheat your oven to 220C/Gas 7.
- Prepare the potatoes as described above and place them directly on the metal shelf in your oven.
- Cook for 20mins then reduce the temperature to 180C/Gas 4 and cook for 1hr 15mins – 1hr 30mins or until a fork can be pushed into the potato with little resistance.
If like our Deputy Food Editor Rose Fooks, you seldom have the patience to cook a baked potato entirely in the oven, you can speed up the process by microwaving it a little first.
Rose explains: ‘I prepare my potato by piercing the skin a few times before microwaving for 10 mins. This provides the oven with time to pre-heat. When the oven comes up to the temperature of 200C/Gas 6, I remove the potato from the microwave. Put it on a baking tray, brush over oil and sprinkle with salt before transferring the hot potato to the oven until cooked. Timing will depend on the size, but I usually stick a fork in to check the doneness. It takes about 30+ mins.’
It is also possible to cook a jacket potato entirely in the microwave. For the best results, we recommend investing in a gadget designed to cook potatoes in the microwave. The Morphy Richards MICO Jacket Potato Maker is designed to cook a potato quickly in the microwave, as well as giving it that sought-after crispy skin.
There are two main methods of cooking a baked potato on a barbecue. Firstly, you can thread the potatoes onto metal skewers. Scrub and prep the potatoes as you would for the oven, then carefully thread onto the skewers.
Cook on the edge of your hot barbecue and not on the direct flame. Cover with the lid and cook for around 40mins until the skin is crisp and the centers soft.
The second method uses foil. If you are cooking over direct fire and not on a barbecue with a grill, you should always double wrap in foil. Cooking times will vary, but the potatoes should be soft after around 30-40mins. Using tongs, turn the baked potatoes after 20mins for even cooking and to prevent the skin on one side of the potato from over-cooking.
If you are using a barbecue with a grill, you can place the foil-wrapped potatoes on top and cook for around the same time. We also recommend turning halfway.
The best way to assess if your baked potato is ready to eat is to prod it with a fork or knife. If when inserted there is some resistance, it’s not ready to be removed from the oven.
When the potatoes are ready, let them rest on the side for a couple of mins until cool enough to handle. If you cook the potato for too long, the inside will go from light and fluffy to dry and crumbly.
Cooking a baked potato for too long will also result in burnt, bitter skin instead of the desirably crispy texture we know and love. Be patient and keep an eye on the potatoes.
There are so many possibilities when it comes to serving a baked potato. While we adore the simple combination of good quality salted butter and the soft baked potato flesh but we’ve got lots of jacket potato fillings to choose from too.
Baked potatoes can transform leftover chilli into a hearty supper and makes sure leftovers are not wasted. For added indulgence top with sour cream or grated cheddar.
Simple and affordable, you can’t beat the classic baked beans and cheese combination or the nostalgic tuna mayo.
We generally serve baked potatoes for dinner because they take a while to cook. However, they can easily be prepped ahead for a quick lunch.
Baked potatoes are quite substantial in their own right but you can serve with salad or extra veggies if you want to make the meal go further. If you’re having a baked potato for lunch, we like to have just half a potato with all the toppings and green leaf salad on the side.
Gnocchi is a little Italian dumpling made with mashed potato and flour. It’s usually served with a sauce much like pasta is. To make gnocchi from scratch you can use either boiled or oven-cooked potatoes. When making gnocchi we prefer using potatoes that have been cooked in the oven. They work better as they contain less moisture and have a better flavour. You will just need the inside, not the potato skins. But save the skins to make a tasty snack.
Get the recipe: Potato and parsley gnocchi recipe
Potato skins with dips
This recipe only uses the skins from your leftover baked potato but the flesh can be made into the gnocchi above or bubble and squeak. This is a delicious alternative to crisps and dip and is perfect for sharing.
Get the recipe: Potato skins with dips
Loaded potato skins
Cut the cooked baked potato in half and scoop of the filling. Mix the potato with your choice of ingredients. Cheese and chives are a tasty classic option. Fill the skins with the potato mixture and top with a little more cheese. Cook in the oven for 20-30mins until hot and the cheese has melted. Ham, cheese, and mustard are other delicious options.
Baked potato wedges
Slice the baked potato into generous-sized wedges and season as you wish. Drizzle with a little oil and then bake in the oven for around 30mins until crisp on the outside and piping hot. These are delicious serves with chili or loaded up as nachos.
This is a fab way to transform your leftover into an entirely new meal. Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for fish cakes with anchovy dressing is a great place to start.
Mash the leftover potato and use it as a pie topping on a Shepherd’s pie or fish pie. We love to mix it with grated cheese for added indulgence or you could try adding some mustard for a little kick flavour.
Scoop out and mash the insides with cheese. Roll into balls. Dip in egg wash, then roll in breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden for a very yummy side.
Fried breakfast potatoes
Slice the baked potatoes into thin rounds or cut into cubes, keeping the skin on, then fry in oil or butter until golden on both sides. Serve with your classic English fry-up or simply with scrambled eggs and beans for something lighter.
Re-heat a whole, un-cut cooked potato in the oven and then top with your chosen fillings as if cooking it from scratch.
A cooked baked potato should be cooled completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge. You could also wrap the potato in clingfilm or we have recently discovered Stasher, which takes up less space in the fridge compared to plastic containers and is better for the environment than cling film.
You should only reheat the potato once more after the original cooking and it should be used within four days.
Use the same method as above if freezing your baked potatoes but use it within 3 months. Pop them straight in a hot oven from frozen and cook for around 30-40 mins or until soft when prodded with a knife.