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.

A perfectly cooked baked potato, cut open and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter, served on a white plate with a silver fork.
Table of Contents
  1. Best Type of Potato to Use for Baked Potatoes
  2. Select Similar Size & Shape Potatoes
  3. How to Store Potatoes
  4. How to Prepare a Potato for Cooking
  5. 3 Cooking Methods for the Best Baked Potatoes
  6. 1. Oven-Baked Potatoes
  7. 2. Microwaved-Baked Potatoes
  8. 3. Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes
  9. Baked Potato Internal Temperature Guide
  10. More Tips & Tricks for the Best Baked Potatoes
  11. Baked Potato FAQs
  12. More Delicious Potato Recipes
  13. How to Make a Baked Potato (3 Ways) Recipe

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.

Best Type of Potato to Use for Baked Potatoes

I recommend using a type of potato that’s high in starch; either Russet or Idaho works 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 Size & Shape Potatoes

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).

How to Store 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 in their 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.

How to Prepare a Potato for Cooking

  • 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.

3 Cooking Methods for the Best Baked Potatoes

1. Oven-Baked Potatoes

Four raw, prepped potatoes lined up on a wire cooking rack, ready to be oven-baked for the perfect baked potato.

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.

A tender, fluffy baked potato cut open and wrapped in a boat of aluminum foil.

Should oven-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, and the potato did not cook faster. The skin was also not as crisp because the foil trapped more of the moisture, steaming the potato.

2. Microwaved-Baked Potatoes

A whole potato seasoned with flaky salt sits on a plate in a microwave, as metal tongs grip the sides of the potato.

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 it 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.

3. Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

Four foil-wrapped potatoes in 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 from direct contact with 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.

Baked Potato Internal Temperature Guide

Image shows 4 baked potato halves lined up on a marble surface, each at varying degrees of doneness. Image text reads "cooking baked potatoes - internal temperature comparison" and has temperature ranges next to each potato half.

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.

More Tips & Tricks for the Best Baked Potatoes

How to Check a Baked Potato 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 a little pressure, it’s ready. Pressing the sides only tells if the edges are done, but not the middle.

How to Make Baked Potato Skin Crispy

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

Best Toppings for Baked Potatoes

  • 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
Four baked potatoes sliced open and topped with salt, pepper, butter, and green onions, sit on a wire cooling rack.

Baked Potato FAQs

Can you freeze baked potatoes?

Yes, you can freeze baked potatoes, but the optimal baked potato is enjoyed immediately after cooking. You can freeze twice-baked potatoes and other forms of cooked potatoes for up to three months when stored appropriately (in an air-tight container or wrapped in foil and a freezer-safe bag).

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 use your fingers to squeeze and pop the flesh out of the skin. Use a fork to fluff the flesh more before serving.

How do you reheat baked potatoes?

To reheat a baked potato in the microwave: cut the potato in half, cover with a damp paper towel, and cook on a “high” setting in 1-minute intervals until warmed through.

To reheat a baked potato in the oven: preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC) and place the potato 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.

More Delicious Potato Recipes

Bake the Potatoes 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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How to Make a Baked Potato (3 Ways)

Learn the three most popular ways to cook a baked potato: oven-baked, microwave, and slow cooker. Follow these cooking directions for the perfect, fluffy baked potatoes every time!
4.91 from 22 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

Instructions 

Oven-Baked Potatoes

  • Preheat Oven – Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
  • Prep Wire Rack – Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
  • Wash Potaotes – Scrub and rinse the outside of the potatoes with cool water.
  • Pierce Potatoes – Pierce each potato with a fork 8 times, about ⅛-inch deep pricks all around.
  • Season Potatoes – Brush olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake Potatoes in Oven – 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

  • Wash Potatoes – Scrub and rinse the outside of the potatoes with cool water.
  • Pierce Potatoes – Pierce each potato with a fork 8 times, about ⅛-inch deep pricks all around.
  • Season Potatoes – Brush olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with salt.
  • Cook Potatoes – 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.
    Continue to cook 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 1 to 7 minutes, depending on size and quantity.

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

  • Wash Potatoes – Scrub and rinse the outside of the potatoes with cool water.
  • Pierce Potatoes – Pierce each potato with a fork 8 times, about ⅛-inch deep pricks all around.
  • Season Potatoes – Brush olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with salt.
  • Wrap with Foil – Individually wrap each potato with foil.
  • Cook Potatoes – 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.

Equipment

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.
Nutrition Facts
How to Make a Baked Potato (3 Ways)
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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8 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.

  2. Carl Fredrickson says

    Just one more method to speed things up. I cook the potatoes halfway in the microwave. Then roll (in a pie tin) in a few drops of olive oil and 1/4 tsp kosher salt per potato and finish in the oven 425F. The skin is crispy and inside fluffy in about half the time or so. Works great! Takes 20-35 minutes or until 200-210 degrees F. Inside. The pie pan works well to catch any salt or oil too.
    Carl Fredrickson
    Star, Idaho (famous potato state)

  3. Jill Zinner says

    Thank you for this information! You did not talk about Air Fryer method of baking a potato. I have instructions from my air fryer manual but did not turn out well. Other writers have put out their information BUT we still like an OVEN BAKED potato as you have efficiently described. Again! Thank you! We do foil wrap the potato mainly because my husband likes the softer skin. When I make stuffed baked potatoes I do NOT bake with foil. I make a batch of stuffed baked potatoes and wrap and freeze individually for future. Have you ever done that?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for sharing your experience with using the oven to bake the potatoes, Jill! I haven’t frozen the potatoes, but that sounds like a brilliant idea for meal prep!

  4. chris Ogden says

    Hi Jessica,
    I eat alot of potatoes. We grow russet and redskin in Wisconsin. Both favor boiling. It is quick and easy. I enjoy reading your recipes. Very thoughtful. Have never thought to use an insert thermometer for potatoes,of course for all meat. Thanks for the tip.Keep up the Goodwork !

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