How to Bake a Potato (3 Ways!)

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Learn how to bake a potato using three different methods; oven, microwave, and slow cooker. I also share how to select, store, and key preparation steps to yield light and fluffy centers.

How to bake a potato

Perfect baked potatoes are all about knowing how to properly cook the natural starches inside. For this guide, I ran an extensive experiment that tested various sizes, temperatures, and cooking times. Now you have the option to choose the best method to suit your needs.

What type of potato to use

I recommend using a type of potato that’s high in starch, either Russet or Idaho work well. These bumpy, oval-shaped spuds have a mealy texture when cooked. This means that the low in moisture flesh becomes fluffy and absorbent, excellent for soaking up butter.

All-purpose potatoes like Yukon Golds also work, however, they are more dense and buttery in texture, perhaps better saved for mashed potatoes or cauliflower mashed potatoes.

Select similar shape and size

Because the harvest varies, at the market there’s usually no consistent size or weight. I prefer loose versus pre-selected bags for more control. Use the scale in the produce aisle to check that the potatoes you pick are within about 1 ounce in weight. This will ensure even cooking later on.

Avoid potatoes with little sprouts growing from them, or if they have a greenish appearance. That means it had too much exposure to light (increase in photosynthesis).

Storing potatoes

It’s best to store potatoes in a cool, dark, and dry place. I have mine in the pantry inside a paper bag or it’s own small basket. Do not store potatoes next to onions, as they have ripening gases that encourage sprouting. Properly stored spuds can last up to a month or even longer.

Preparation regardless of cooking method

  • Wash – Make sure to wash and scrub the skin with cool running water. There is a lot of residual dirt since they are plucked from underneath the soil.
  • Holes – I recommend poking holes in the potato with a fork about 8 times, ⅛-inch deep pricks evenly around. The holes help to release some of the steam generated inside as it cooks, and prevent unwanted messes and potential explosions.
  • Seasoning – Lightly brush or rub the potatoes with olive oil or vegetable oil on the surface, and sprinkle with kosher salt for seasoning.

Oven-baked potatoes

baked potatoes on a wire rack

I extensively tested different temperatures looking for the most evenly cooked and fluffy baked potato. I believe 400ºF (204ºC) is optimal at about 70 to 80 minutes, depending on size. At this temperature, the skins have some crispiness and the flesh has just the right balance of fork-tender fluffiness.

If you like to eat potato skin then an elevated temperature does the trick. At 450ºF (232ºC) the skin is crispier, but I feel the inside flesh begins to dry out a little bit.

baked potato in aluminum foil

Should baked potatoes be wrapped in foil?

No. Baking a potato wrapped in foil is very popular, especially at those campouts over a fire, or on the grill. The main reason to do this is to keep them warmer for longer after it’s removed from the oven, which is true for about 45 to 60 minutes.

The aluminum is good at conducting and trapping heat. However, when I tested this method at 400ºF, the cooking time was about 80 to 85 minutes, it did not cook faster. The skin was also not as crisp because the foil trapped more of the moisture, steaming the potato.

Microwaved-baked potatoes

potato in a microwave

By far the fastest method. It takes about 8 to 12 minutes to microwave a baked potato, depending on the size. Prick the potato then lightly coat with oil and salt. Cook on high setting for 5 minutes, flip, then heat in 1-minute intervals until tender.

The downside is that microwaving can produce uneven cooking. I’ve seen it where the outer flesh cooks through, but there are some pockets in the center that don’t warm up all the way. Also, the thinner spots like the ends cook faster, but the pressure can rupture the cell walls. When this happens the starches tend to release and glue together, making a dense potato texture.

Slow cooker baked potatoes

foil-wrapped potatoes inside a slow cooker

Using a slow cooker gives an extended time option for those who want a hot potato ready later in the day. The potatoes are pricked, oiled, and seasoned, and then must be wrapped in foil before adding to the Crock-Pot. The foil prevents the skin from burning with direct contact of the slow cooker insert.

It takes about 4 to 5 hours on the high setting and 6 to 7 hours on the low setting. Do not allow the potatoes to sit or cook in the slow cooker longer than this time. Otherwise, the flesh will begin to brown due to the extended heat, become soggy, and bitter in flavor as the staches overcook.

Internal temperature guide

different internal temperatures of baked potatoes

A potato should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches about 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC). According to Americas Test Kitchen, 205ºF (96ºC) is their preferred sweet spot.

  • 170 to 180ºF (77 to 82ºC): Firm flesh, still raw when poked, cannot fluff with a fork. About ¼-inch of the tines of a fork could be pressed into the potato with light pressure, lots of resistance.
  • 180 to 190ºF (82 to 88ºC): Firm flesh with some softness, raw areas, just starting to flake. About 1/2-inch of the tines of a fork could be pressed into the potato with light pressure.
  • 190 to 200ºF (88 to 93ºC): Flesh soft to the touch, but still moist, more flakey around the edges, but not the center. About 1-inch of the tines of a fork could be pressed into the potato with light pressure.
  • 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC): Soft, light and fluffy flesh, evenly flakey around the entire potato. About 1 3/4-inch of the tines of a fork could be pressed into the potato with light pressure, no resistance.

How to check for doneness

Using an instant-read digital thermometer is the best way to test the internal temperature of a baked potato, remember to target 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC). If you don’t have one, poke a fork into the center. If the tines easily pierce the potato all the way down with the little pressure, it’s ready. Pressing the sides only tells if the edges are done, but not the middle.

How to make the potato skin crispy

Microwaving, slow cooking, and even pressure cooking a potato leaves the skin soft and moist compared to the oven. For a crispier skin, start by preheating the oven to 450ºF (232ºC). Brush with oil and season with more salt if desired, then roast on a wire rack set on a baking sheet, about 10 to 15 minutes.

For super-crispy skin, America’s Test Kitchen method dips the potatoes first in 2 tablespoons kosher salt dissolved in ½ cup water, then roast at 450ºF, followed by oiling and roasting for another 10 minutes. This definitely makes for potato chip-like skins, but I find the inside flesh to be slightly drier.

Don’t wait too long before eating

The most fluffy and airy fleshed baked potato happens when it hits between 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC) and is opened within minutes of cooking. If the hot steam inside is not released soon after, it condenses as it cools down and will make the flesh soggy instead of fluffy. Eat as soon as possible, ideally within 5 to 30 minutes for the best taste.

baked potatoes with butter and green onions

How do you cut a baked potato?

Cut the baked potato lengthwise, about halfway through. If very hot, use napkins to hold the ends towards the bottom, and then to use your fingers to squeeze and pop the flesh out of the skin. Use a fork to fluff the flesh more before serving.

How to reheat a baked potato

  • Microwave: Cut in half, cover with a damp paper towel, cook on “high” setting in 1-minute intervals until warmed through.
  • Oven: Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC), place on a foil-lined sheet pan or wire rack. Heat until warmed through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Potatoes can be cut in half to heat quicker but may end up a little drier.

Toppings

  • Butter, salt and pepper
  • Sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • Shredded cheese like cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, or Parmesan
  • Chopped bacon
  • Sliced chives or green onions
  • Sauteed kale, spinach, or broccoli
  • Grilled chicken, beef, or pulled pork

Bake on a wire rack

Use a wire rack for more even cooking. When the potatoes are elevated above the baking pan, more heat is able to circulate around by convection. This also omits the need for flipping. Some recipes call for the potatoes to bake directly on the oven racks, but I like a less messy approach.

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Baked Potato

Learn how to bake a potato using three different methods; oven, microwave, and slow cooker. Easily achieve light and fluffy centers with these directions.
Pin Print Review
4.75 from 8 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 4 russet potatoes, or Idaho
  • olive oil, or vegetable oil for brushing
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • black pepper, for seasoning

Instructions 

Oven-Baked Potatoes

  • Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
  • Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
  • Scrub and rinse the outside of the potatoes with cool water.
  • Pierce each potato with a fork 8 times, about ⅛-inch deep pricks all around.
  • Brush olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with salt.
  • Evenly space the potatoes on top of the wire rack.
  • Bake until the skin is lightly crisp, and the center of the potato pierces easily to the center with a fork, and the largest sized potato registers between 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC), about 70 to 80 minutes.

Microwaved Baked Potatoes

  • Scrub and rinse the outside of the potatoes with cool water.
  • Pierce each potato with a fork 8 times, about ⅛-inch deep pricks all around.
  • Brush olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with salt.
  • Place the potato on a microwave-safe plate, one at a time for even cooking, or two potatoes max.
  • Cook on “High” for 5 minutes.
  • Use tongs to flip over the potato.
  • Cool in 1-minute intervals until the center of the potato pierces easily with a fork, and registers between 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC), about 3 to 7 minutes depending on size.

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

  • Scrub and rinse the outside of the potatoes with cool water.
  • Pierce each potato with a fork 8 times, about ⅛-inch deep pricks all around.
  • Brush olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with salt.
  • Individually wrap each potato with foil.
  • Place the potatoes in a single layer in the slow cooker insert.
  • Cover and cook until the center of the potato pierces easily with a fork, and registers between 200 to 210ºF (93 to 99ºC), 4 to 5 hours on “High” setting, or 6 to 7 hours on “Low” setting, depending on size.

Notes

  • Topping Suggestions: Butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, chives, green onions.
  • For fluffy baked potatoes: Open immediately with a knife to release the steam.
  • The oven-baked potatoes can be baked directly on a baking sheet. Make sure to flip halfway through cooking.
  • Oven-baked potatoes can be wrapped in foil before cooking to keep warm longer, but will not have a crisp skin. Eat within an hour of cooking.
  • Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Immediately cut a slit down the center of each potato. Use paper towels or a dish towel to squeeze the ends and sides together to push some of the flesh out of the skin. Use a fork to fluff the potatoes.

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Nutrition Facts
Baked Potato
Amount Per Serving
Calories 168 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 11mg0%
Potassium 888mg25%
Carbohydrates 38g13%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin C 12mg15%
Calcium 28mg3%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Peter Shaw says

    Thanks for a very thorough article. One thing I must point out is that you give oven temperatures without pointing out whether this is conventional or fan oven. Many recipes now specify options for both removing any ambiguity. What do you think?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re welcome Peter! Great point. I had the oven set as conventional, which is why it helps to elevate the potatoes to help with better circulation of heat around the spuds. However convection could be used, but the cook times may be shorter due to the more even heated environment. It will be interesting to see how the time difference. I think the best indicator of doneness is checking with a thermometer if available.

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