Sooooo simple, but yet so yummy. Potatoes are cheap, easy to prepare, very nutritious and can be stuffed and adorned with some awesomely delicious toppings – crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, sour cream, butter, chives, chili, beans, or whatever else your imagination can cook up – making it the perfect budget side dish that can taste expensive.
Potatoes can be cooked so many different ways, whether baked in a conventional gas or electric oven, a convection oven, a microwave oven, or on a barbecue grill, making them very versatile and easily adaptable to whatever cooking method you have available.
Today, I am going to walk you step by step through 2 cooking methods and my favorite baked potato recipes (three in all – Broccoli Cheddar, Southwest Style, and Bacon, Sour Cream, and Cheddar with Green Onion). But first let’s take a little deeper dive into the wonderful world of potatoes and answer a few common questions folks seem to have about our tasty potato friends.
Is a potato a vegetable?
Here at Mamma Rocks the Kitchen we are big fans of potatoes… in fact, one of our first recipes that we posted to our blog was how to make Homemade French Fries (mmmmm, Homemade French Fries). If you are as big a fan of these cheap and yummy vegetables as we are then keep on reading… Oh, I am sorry, did you know that a potato is a vegetable? You bet they are! However many people do not realize this because as American’s we typically replace rice or pasta or another starchy side dish like bread with a potato making things a little confusing. But fact is, potatoes are a root vegetable in the nightshade family of veggies.
Are potatoes healthy?
Yes, potatoes are in fact healthy for you, and provide a number of quality nutrients and fiber… although they also are loaded with carbs so there is a little bit of a yin and yang thing going on here.
A medium potato (with skin) provides about 738 milligrams of potassium (approximately depending on size) and only 128 calories and offer nearly 4 grams of fiber. That’s equivalent to the amount of fiber in half a cup of broccoli! Potatoes also contain vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, thiamin, riboflavin, zinc, boron, copper and folate, which make it a great veggie that almost everyone in the family can agree upon.
Of course the toppings you add to your potato are going to make it less or more, healthy… if you are a broccoli and cheese lover then you are getting extra veg but if you are like my husband and love topping your potato with bacon, sour cream, butter and cheese then you are going to pack on some extra calories and higher fat content. But isn’t that what makes the potato such a perfect side? The fact that you can add so many different toppings to match any entrée makes them so perfect… like a blank canvas if you will.
What is the perfect baked potato?
Before we talk about how to cook our perfect baked potato let’s talk about what our desired end result is AND what type of potato we should choose to cook. Now, although this sounds a little silly it REALLY does make a big difference in “how” we choose to cook our potato.
For me the perfect baked potato is slightly crispy on the outside with a buttery, seasoned skin and a fluffy interior that is slightly moist and flaky.
Sweet potatoes, Yukon gold’s, red potatoes — are great for all kinds of recipes, just not this one. When you’re in the mood for a good, classic baked potato, it’s Russets all the way. The skins are nice and thick, which are great for crisping up in the oven or on the grill. The insides are super starchy, which make for an extra fluffy and sweet filling. Russet potatoes are also the cheapest of our root veggie friends at the grocery store, which is perfect for entertaining on a budget leaving you more pocket change for the protein. Of course a generously stuff spud could be a dinner in and of itself!
The other characteristic of a perfect baked potato is that it does not take 2 years and a day to cook! After all we want a great tasting side dish (or spud for dinner) but not one that takes 2 to 3 hours to prepare. Which leads us to how to cook our spud-erific Russett.
The ups and downs of potato cooking methods.
As I mentioned earlier, there are soooooo many ways you can cook a potato. But each method has its upside and yes, downside.
For instance, if you were to bake your medium sized potato in an oven set to 250 or 300 degrees it could take two hours for it to cook (depending on the size of the potato), at 350 to 400 degrees it could take an hour to an hour and a half to cook. During that long oven cooking time your potato will become hard, and less than appetizing and will not give us that nice fluffy moist interior.
If you microwave your potato, it will take about 12 to 15 minutes…. which is a lot faster than cooking it in the oven. But the skin will not be crispy and the moistness of the interior of the potato will be lost by the microwaving process.
So where does that leave us? Keep reading my friend we are almost there.
What is the best method to cook a potato?
I have found that the best method of cooking a potato is to use not 1 method but 2! That’s right, if we first microwave our potato and then either bake it in the oven or place it on the grill you get the perfect potato. It is virtually foolproof and reduces the cooking time while still giving us that nice crispy skin and a moist fluffy, flakey interior.
Ready to get cooking?
Here are step by step instructions and a recipe for how to cook the perfect baked potatoes.
First step – wash your potato well under cold water and make sure you get all the grit and grim removed (along with any eyes). Some folks like to use a veg brush for this step which I think is a great idea. Then dry your potatoes.
Second step – you want to take a fork and poke holes, a bunch of them, along the top and bottom of the potato. This allows steam to escape during the cooking process. Potatoes cooked in a microwave oven without pricking the skin with a fork or knife might split open due to built up internal pressure from unvented steam (and who wants to clean up that mess?).
Third step – place the potato(es) on a nonmetallic, microwave safe plate and place them in your microwave. Most modern microwaves will have a potato setting or button on them. If yours does then you can use that feature, however I have found (on my microwave anyway) that it may take two rounds of heating at this setting (on occasion depending on the size of the potato it may take up to 3 times) for them to be cooked to the point we are looking for. Otherwise set you microwave to medium power and cook the potatoes for 5 to 12 minutes (depending on the size of the potato and how many potatoes you are cooking)… the desired doneness you are looking for here, is that the potatoes are not firm anymore but not shriveled up either… to test doneness use your thumb and pointer finger and give the potatoes a little squeeze, you should be able to feel a little give to the potato and they shouldn’t feel firm or mushy… just a little in-between.
Fourth step – remove the potato from the microwave (be careful the plate AND the potato are going to be very hot) and place the plate on a cutting board or other heat resistant surface. Grab your foil and tear off enough sheets for the number of potatoes you are making. You want enough foil to be able to roll the potatoes in the foil twice. Lay the foil out on your counter and place a potato in each piece of foil. Grab your butter, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder and 1 tablespoon garlic powder, mix ingredients together with your finger or a spoon. Cut the butter into 1/2 tablespoon pieces (yield is 8 pieces), slather a 1/2 tablespoon of butter on each potato and make sure you coat the entire potato and get all the nooks and crannies – this will help the seasoning stick and helps the skin crisp up. Then sprinkle on your salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder mixture you just made. Finally, roll up your potatoes in the foil and fold over the sides so that you have a nice neat potato package.
You are now ready to move onto the final cooking method for your potatoes! Here you need to make a choice, either to finish them off in the oven or place them on the grill. Most likely your decision is going to be made by how your cooking the rest of your meal. If your grilling off some steaks, then throw these bad boys on the grill. If you are cooking up some tasty viddles indoors, then go for the oven. Either way the end result is deliciousness.
If you are using a grill, then go ahead and light it up (for charcoal bank your coals to one side of the grill so you have a hot side and cool side – check out my How to Light a Charcoal Grill post to learn more. If using a gas grill then light it per manufacturer instructions and pre-heat to about 450 degrees), if you are using your oven, then pre-heat to 450 degrees.
When you are ready to cook place your potatoes in the middle of your grill (for charcoal grills on the cool side closest to the hot – for gas anywhere on the grill grate) and cover. If you are using an oven place the potatoes on a baking sheet so that the butter doesn’t smoke up your kitchen (no matter how well you wrap in foil some butter always seems to escape and can make a smoky mess). Cook for 30 to 35 minutes rotating the potatoes half way through.
Remove the potatoes from the grill or oven and place on a heat safe surface… remember that the potatoes will be hot! Or if you prefer you can play a rousing game of hot potato with your closest friends and family (LOL). Next we are going to partially unwrap our potatoes and make a little foil pouch revealing the top of the potato a leaving the bottom wrapped in foil (We are going to be putting them back in the oven or back on the grill for a few minutes so the foil is important to help protect the bottoms from burning – especially with that lovely butter dripping off). Using a knife cut a slit across the top of the potatoes lengthwise giving them a little push on the sides to reveal the wonderful interior. Using a fork pull the potato “meat” from the walls of the skin and fluff it up a little. Place a 1/2 tablespoon pat of butter on the fluffy insides of each potato and sprinkle on the remaining salt and pepper. Finally, if you are opting for cheese place your shredded cheddar (or favorite type of cheese) on top.
Place the potatoes (on a cookie sheet) back into a 450 degree oven or back on the grill and then cover for 5 minutes to let the skin crisp up a little more and for the cheese to melt. Remove potatoes from oven or off the grill and top with your favorite toppings…
Here are some topping ideas:
Bacon, Cheddar, Sour Cream and Green Onion Baked Potato
Broccoli Cheddar Baked Potato:
Southwest Style Baked Potato with Chili Beans, Cilantro, Cheddar Cheese and Jalapeño Peppers
Tex Mex Flank Steak with Cheddar Stuffed Baked Potato
- 4 Russet potatoes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1½ tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 4 to 6 pieces crisp cooked bacon (make sure it is not maple flavored – hickory works best)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Any other topping(s) of your choice! Check out my blog post for ideas.
- Wash your potato well under cold water and make sure you get all the grit and grim removed (along with any eyes).
- Take a fork and poke holes, a bunch of them, along the top and bottom of the potato.
- Place the potato(es) on a nonmetallic, microwave safe plate and place them in your microwave. Set you microwave to medium power and cook the potatoes for 5 to 12 minutes (approximately).
- Remove the potato from the microwave (be careful the plate AND the potato are going to be very hot) and place the plate on a cutting board or other heat resistant surface. Grab your foil and tear off enough sheets for the number of potatoes you are making. You want enough foil to be able to roll the potatoes in the foil twice. Lay the foil out on your counter and place a potato in each piece of foil.
- Slather ½ tablespoon of butter on each of the potatoes and make sure you coat the entire top of the potato and get all the nooks and crannies – this will help the seasoning stick and helps the skin crisp up. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder and 1 tablespoon garlic powder, mix ingredients together with your finger or a spoon, then sprinkle on buttered potatoes. Finally, roll up your potatoes in the foil and fold over the sides so that you have a nice neat potato package.
- Place potatoes on a baking sheet and place in 450 degree oven or place directly on 450 degree grill (no baking sheet) and cook for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove potatoes from oven or off of grill, partially unwrap potatoes and make a little foil pouch revealing the top of the potato a leaving the bottom wrapped in foil. Using a knife cut a slit across the top of the potatoes lengthwise giving them a little push on the sides to reveal the wonderful interior. Using a fork pull the potato “meat” from the walls of the skin and fluff it up a little. Place a ½ tablespoon pat of butter on the fluffy insides of each potato and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Finally, if you are opting for cheese place your shredded cheddar (or favorite type of cheese) on top.
- Place the potatoes (on a cookie sheet) back into a 450 degree oven or back on the grill (without a baking sheet) and then cover for 5 minutes to let the skin crisp up a little more and for the cheese to melt. Remove potatoes from oven or off the grill and top with your favorite toppings… for my potatoes I used sour cream, crumbled bacon and some green onion. Enjoy!