There are a lot of ways to bake a potato, but this method results in the perfect mix of fluffy middle and crispy skin.

Behold the magical baked potato. At its best, it is a treasure of crispy, earthy skin that contains a tender and fluffy interior. At its worst, it is a sad, unevenly cooked combination of limp skin and lumpy parts. Potatoes are one of the ground’s great gifts – cheap, delicious, nutritious (see below), widely local, versatile, and storage-friendly. They may be humble, but they can be glorious when treated well.

Which brings us to baking them. There are many ways to bake a potato – microwave, slow-cooker, oven, Instant Pot, grill, air fryer, toaster oven, and I am sorry to say, even the dishwasher.

Besides the air fryer and dishwasher, I have tried them all. And while I bet an air fryer does a bang-up job, in my opinion there is no topping using a standard oven.

© Melissa Breyer

The perfect baked potato

  • Salt
  • 4 (7- to 9-ounce) russet potatoes, unpeeled, each lightly pricked with a fork in 6 places
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 450F degrees with rack in the middle. Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 1/2 cup water in a large bowl, then toss potatoes in the brine to moisten. Place potatoes on a wire rack atop a rimmed baking sheet and bake until center of largest potato registers 205F degrees, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Remove potatoes from oven and brush tops and sides with oil. Return potatoes to oven and continue to bake for 10 minutes.

3. Remove potatoes from oven and use a paring knife to make and “X” in each potato. Using clean dish towel, hold ends and squeeze slightly to push flesh up and out. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Baked potato nutrition

The beloved starchy staple may have once gotten a bum rap from nutrition naysayers, but when not loaded with butter, cheese, and sour cream, a baked potato is more hero than villian.

A medium russet of around 7 ounces provides 35 percent of your daily value (DV) of Vitamin B-6, 25 percent DV of potassium, 20 percent DV of Vitamin C, and 9 percent DV of iron – not to mention almost 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, all for just 170 calories.

My vegan-vegetarian-blended family likes baked potatoes with olive oil or butter, lots of Maldon sea salt, sometimes some Parmigiano, and usually whatever fresh herbs we have on hand. Sometimes we turn them into dinner by stuffing them with sauteed vegetables, curried chickpeas, etc.