Baked potatoes are easy to prepare. They make an incredibly varied dish as the limit for fillings and toppings is your imagination.
Poke potato with a fork or slit with small knife 4-6 times. This will let steam off and prevent potato from bursting in the oven.
- Place in microwave oven on rack, dish, or paper towel. Never directly on the microwave tray. There is no need for oil or salt at this stage.
- Microwave on high power 4-6 minutes turning once halfway through cooking time.
- Remove from oven wrap in clean dish towel and let stand for 2 minutes. Don't skip this step, time standing is especially important when cooking in the microwave.
Baking in a conventional oven
- Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
- Brush with olive oil and stand potato on a baking pan.
- Bake in center of oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until potato feels tender when gently pressed.
- Remove potato from oven.
- Finish and serve or...
- Cut a large cross on top and, holding potato with mitts or clean kitchen towel, give it a firm squeeze to enlarge cut.
- Put your chosen topping on the potato and serve straight away.
- Stuff, reheat and serve
- Cut potato in half, lengthwise.
- Scoop insides into a bowl and mash. Mix with your chosen filling, if any, and season to taste.
- Return mixture to the skins. Place both halves on the baking pan -or microwave dish.
- Reheat on the top shelf of oven at 425° F (220° C) for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, reheat 1-2 minutes at high in the microwave.
Some of them really flavorful and nourishing enough to make a light meal out of a baked potato. Potatoes baked in a conventional oven taste much better and you can almost set and forget until the cooking time is finished. But microwaved potatoes will do nicely when you are pressed for time or you are just preparing one or two and don't want to bother with the oven.
Cooking time in the microwave oven will vary depending on size, shape, kind of potato and power of microwave oven. Some microwave ovens already have a special setting to bake potatoes programmed.
To microwave more than one potato increase cooking time by 2-3 minutes for each potato, turning once halfway through cooking time.
Baking extra potatoes will not change time. Add as many as you want, keep them apart on the pan.
You can bake the potatoes at a lower temperature for longer -i.e. 1 1/2-2 hours at 350 F (160 C)- this also applies to baking them in one of the lower shelves, when you cook them together with other dishes.
Some toppings are bulky. There is nothing to prevent you from cutting the potato in half, lengthwise, heap the topping on both halves, and serve, instead of making the cross incision at the top.
Apply the same rule for fillings, some come out nice if you cut only the top of the potato and reserve it. Scoop, mash and refill, put the "hats" back and reheat.
Russets are supposed to make the best baked potatoes.
Ideas for Toppings
Butter - If nothing else, put a large piece of butter on top of the baked potato.
Cream and chives - Top potatoes with 1-2 Tbs fresh thick cream or sour cream, and sprinkle generously with snipped chives.
Cream and garlic - Mix 1-2 Tbs whipped cream with 1 small garlic clove crushed or a pinch of powdered garlic; top potato with that mix.
Cottage cheese and chives - Mix 1/2 cup cottage or farmers cheese with Tbs chopped chives, season to taste.
Tuna and sweet corn - Mix 1-2 oz tuna with 1/2 cup canned sweet corn and 1 Tbs mayonnaise.
Chili con carne or sloppy joe - Top your potato with 1/2-3/4 cup chili con carne.
Baked beans - Heap warm baked beans on top.
Egg mayonnaise - Chop 1 hard boiled egg and mix with 1-2 Tbs mayonnaise.
Crab, lobster or tuna salad - All of them make great toppings.
Smoked salmon and cream - Mix 1/2 cup smoked salmon trimmings with 1-2 Tbs cream, sour cream, cream cheese or yogurt. Add 1 tsp finely chopped capers if desired.
Caviar and cream - Use caviar substitute, mix with thick cream or sour cream.
Leftover pasta sauce or ratatouille - Serve as side to a meat dish.