If want to try something new, something different from the recipe passed down to you, one of the places you should be looking at are the great episodes from America’s Test Kitchen shows. This is one of those shows that reveal the real magic and helps unravel all those flaws and challenges you’ve been experiencing while trying to hack a recipe you’ve always wanted to try.
Now, I’m one of those people who have unmatched love for baked potatoes, but the problem has always been how to make them at home. The thing is, once you’ve tried a few pieces from your local joint, you’ll always have the urge to hack it like they do over there in order to have the same fulfilment. This is a challenge that most people can relate to, but I can boldly say that all of that came to an end when I watched how America’s Test Kitchen did their baked potato in their season tagged ‘Back To Basics’.
So if you want to have a taste of the best baked potatoes without necessarily getting them ready-made, let’s try this recipe together and find out the reason why you won’t need to see your regular fixer anytime soon.
America’s Test Kitchen Baked Potato Recipes
Ingredients for baked potatoes
- 4 unpeeled potatoes
- 1 tbsp. Vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper ( optional)
Note: I used russet potatoes for optimal results
- Clean properly. You don’t want to throw dirt in your oven or tummy and that’s why you have to wash the potatoes, even if you bought them pre-cleaned from the store. You only have to clean four pieces, so this shouldn’t take much time.
- Prick your potatoes. Considering that you’re going to bake them unpeeled, the easier way to help the spices infuse evenly through on the insides is by lightly pricking them in different places. It also helps bring out a perfectly-done result, with absolutely no flaws. This is something you can do with a fork or a knife’s tip.
- Season. It’s equally important to season the potato skins and here you can use water and salt. For every cup of water, you’ll need about 4 tablespoons of salt or lesser depending on your recommended salt intake. This is something you can do some minutes before you start baking, but you can also give them a quick toss right before oven time.
- The perfect oven position is the middle rack so after adjusting, let the oven heat to 450 degrees. Traditionally this is when the oven is hot enough, thereby preventing formation of a leathery layer on the peels as desired. If you’re in for the quick seasoning option, you can give the potatoes a toss in salty water at this point. Transfer your seasoned potatoes to the wire rack and bake for 45 Minutes to 1 hour. The timing here varies depending on the potato sizes, so if you picked those that vary in sizes, your baseline should be when the biggest one clicks 205 degrees of doneness at the center.
- To make the exteriors crispier, a little bit of oil seasoning will get the job done. Therefore the moment the potatoes are properly cooked, cover them with vegetable oil before putting them back in the oven. Being that they will be already fairly cooked at the moment, this should be done for only 10 minutes.
- Once done, remove them from the oven and get them ready for seasoning immediately. Use a sharp knife to make 2 accurate slits on each potato to form an X. They’ll still be hot at this point, so with a clean towel, hold the potato on each end then squeeze gently to push the flesh up, just slightly. This also releases steam trapped in the spud, ensuring that cooking doesn’t continue. You can then season with pepper and any other spice as desired.
Now if you prefer to have them plainly like that, or if you’ll have the toppings separately passed at the table, you can serve immediately. Otherwise, you can proceed to the next step, which you can also do while the potatoes are still being baked in order to save some time. Here’s how to go about your toppings or fillings.
Ingredients for Bacon and Chives Fillings
- Slices of bacon
- Sour cream
This isn’t as complex as the baking process or as other add-on alternatives could be. First, you have to ensure that the bacon slices are properly cooked. As mentioned, you can have them ready on the stovetop as you wait for the potatoes to get ready. In seasoning the potato peels, I highlighted that you’ll need vegetable oil. However, the better part is that you can also save up the bacon fat left after this process for the same, which will still save you some dime. Once ready, dice them thinly for ease of topping and presentation.
After that, cut the chives into smaller pieces, preferably ¼ inches because with this you can easily mix them up with the diced bacons. Alternatively, you can just layer them separately on the potato flesh, beginning with the sour cream. If your sour cream has been in the refrigerator for a while, remember to remove it early enough so that it doesn’t make everything cold when serving time comes.
This meaty, creamy and sour topping will give you a healthy and filling baked potato experience. However, here there are no rules, so it doesn’t have to be boring because the inspiration lies in your hands. Mix up whatever it is that you want to because basically anything and everything will turn out ok, when done properly.
Tips on How to Make the Best Baked Potato
In the spirit of getting the right outcome, here’s a list of the things to keep in mind before you start baking your potatoes:
Dry properly: In the preparation process, it’s equally key to dry the potatoes properly after rinsing, using dry kitchen cloth or paper towels. This minimizes the volumes of moisture that seeps into the potato which at times makes them soggy after baking.
Space Them Up: This goes out to those who need extra servings, which means more potatoes will be used. Even in that case, your potatoes will still be evenly baked without necessarily doing them in bits, and only if you space them and not side on side. How thoroughly-cooked the potatoes turn out is also affected by how hot air freely gets to the potato on all sides. This means that you shouldn’t let one side rest on a sheet pan. The right way to go is placing a wire rack in the rimmed baking sheet and thereafter lining up the spuds properly before getting the oven started.
Test the Temperatures: Now if you don’t have an oven-friendly thermometer, it’s important that you get one because here’s one of those moments that it will come in handy. To avoid guess work, you can know when the potatoes are done by measuring their internal temperatures as a way of ascertaining doneness. You don’t have to do this for all the potatoes and that’s why it’s also right to try the bigger sizes which should be approximately 205 degrees. Anything above that will get the texture messy or too dense when on the lower side.
Don’t Let It Cool
The thing is, your potatoes will not get better when you let them rest, especially before slicing them into the X-shape. The moment you’ll leave them to cool down, the steam retained inside will ruin the texture in the end. So ensure that you slice them immediately after removing them from the oven, provided that you keep your hands safe.
Something to note is that just like any other meal, you can prepare your baked potatoes based on whether you want to have them as a whole meal or just as a quick fix. This is why America’s Test Kitchen tried to make the best baked potato recipe as open as possible, so that you can custom yours to what feels right by your taste buds. A plus is that it’s evidently one of those meals that require fewer ingredients, having included basic things you can easily find. The only thing you should pay attention to is how you handle the potatoes and of course the toppings because failure to do so will have you thinking that the trial was a pure waste of time.