The perfect baked potato

A baked potato
A baked potato

Over the years I have got better at cooking not gradually, but in a series of leaps that look like this:

1976-1994: No cooking at all.

1994-99: University years. Specialities: pitta-bread pizzas, cheese toasties, tuna pasta bake.

1999-2005: Spent living with a chef. Learned a few bits of proper cooking, but mostly left it to him. Specialities: stuffed peppers, chilli con carne.

2005-2008: What I like to think of as The Wilderness Years. Very little cooking. Specialities: pasta with grated cheese, buttered crumpets, crisps.

2008-date: Sudden keen interest in cooking, wedding vouchers spent on kitchen equipment. Specialities: roast chicken, roast beef with yorkshire pudding, chicken pie, lasagne, apple crumble, sausage rolls, bread, cheese scones.

From which we can conclude that if you want to come over for dinner, you should do it now and not five years ago. Unless, that is, you want baked potatoes. I love baked potatoes. They are one of the simplest, cheapest, most honest and unfucked-about-with things you can eat, and a big one is a meal all by itself. But here’s the thing: I can’t bastard cook them. I have tried every method, and whatever I do they end up unevenly crunchy where they should be soft and soft where they should be crunchy or else so dried out as to be more or less inedible. There is no in-between. Occasionally, like one time in twelve, they have turned out OK, which makes it even worse because it’s just encouraging enough for me to keep trying, with almost-inevitable disappointment each time.

If you have a miracle method to share with me, please do. I will probably make a cock of it, but I’ll give it a go. The perfect baked potato is:

  • Fluffy
  • Not too dry
  • Not reheated
  • Liberally annointed with butter and cheese
  • Elegant in its proportions, not the size of a half-brick

Damn, I’m hungry now.

6 thoughts on “The perfect baked potato

  1. ruth morgan

    I would give you my method, which I have never actually thought about, but I’m worried that it won’t work and then I’ll never be able to do them properly again either.

  2. elsiem

    That’s a risk I’m not prepared to take. Yours are the only ones which I can rely on to be good (café ones are generally too variable to be worth expending money on).

  3. Check out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s veggie book just out. It’s got a recipe that basically involves baking them for 45 minutes or so till they’re going soft, taking them out, scooping out the potato, putting the skins back in, mashing the potato with creme fraiche, butter, cheese, chopped spring onions, salt and pepper, putting the potato back into the (now crispier) skins and then cooking them again. It’s AWESOME.

  4. Indy Datta

    1. Choose a floury variety. You need one with an unblemished skin because you don’t want to cut into it all.

    2. Oil it up. Olive oil or groundnut oil both fine.

    3. I like a good sprinkling of sea salt as well

    4. Don’t prick it! Don’t wrap it in foil!

    5. Bake it in the oven for as long as you dare.

    6. To open it , don’t cut it. Wrap it in a tea towel and karate chop it.

  5. Are you using the Right Potatoes? what they are will vary according to the time of year. I *think* it’s King Edwards at the moment but I’ve at other times made strong jacket spuds with Desirees (the red ones) and Maris Pipers (the other ones). Have you got a decent greengrocer within striking distance?

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