What I didn’t mention above, of course, was that if I only had the one spud, I’d hope that it was (a) large and (b) floury-fleshed and good for baking.
As far as varieties go, perhaps try a Golden Wonder or (in the UK) a King Edward, while Russets are probably your first port of call in the States. Those of you in the UK might also be curious to try Vivaldi , a newer, creamy-fleshed variety, which has been dubbed the “butterless baker”, implying that it does not necessarily require the addition of butter to be enjoyed. That’s as maybe, though you won’t find me skipping the butter anytime soon.
You could also do worse than to read what Nigel Slater has to say on the subject of the perfect baked potato . He puts it all so much more eloquently than I.
- large potatoes (300-400g each), preferably floury
- olive oil or other vegetable oil (optional)
- coarse salt
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Scrub the potatoes and dry them. Prick the skin all over using a fork or small knife, which will allow steam to escape while cooking.
- You can brush the potato skin with olive oil or other vegetable oil if you like and sprinkle with salt – it’s really a matter of preference, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If you want to skip the oil, you can sprinkle on salt after you’re scrubbed the potatoes and while the skin is still a bit wet, so that the salt adheres.
- Place the potatoes on a baking tray (or, better still, directly on an oven rack) and bake until tender, which should take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a quarter, depending on size, variety and your oven. The skin should be crisp, the flesh tender. Skewer a potato to test if you need to.
- When the potatoes are done, remove from the oven. You may now do one of two things (1) eat straightaway with some salt and butter or perhaps some cheese – in this case you might want to apply Nigel Slater’s karate chop method , which involves applying (with care and a protected hand) a short sharp thwack to the baked potato once it comes out of the oven in order to rapidly release the steam contained therein or (2) for fancier fillings cut each one in half, scoop out the cooked flesh, mash together with your choice of fillings and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, sprinkled with cheese or drizzled with a little oil, then eat away to your heart’s content.
- Be bold, add whatever takes your spudly fancy.
- Baked potatoes for whoever wants ’em.