Jacket potato topped with feta cream and herbs served on a plate with a fork

How to make the ultimate baked potato

Baked potatoes are the ultimate comfort food on chilly evenings. Read our guide to cooking jacket potatoes and find inspiration for the perfect toppings.

The humble jacket potato breaks the mould when it comes to comfort food. Cheap, substantial and versatile, it’s a lunchtime dish that’ll keep you full for hours, as well as a commanding suppertime side. Despite its simple nature, however, there’s more to jacket potato making than plonking a spud in the oven. We asked our cookery team to share their tips on making the perfect jacket…

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Choosing your potato

During a session in the BBC Good Food Test Kitchen, our cookery team collaborated with BBC Gardeners’ World to discover the best potato for baking. Using a range of potato types, they blind-tasted trays of jackets, all cooked in exactly the same way. They found that Vivaldi, Sante and Melody are the best bakers – so keep an eye out for these in the vegetable aisle.

Raw potatoes in a sack

How to prepare baked potatoes for cooking

The golden rule of baked potatoes? Always prick your spud! The old adage of them exploding under the pressure of oven heat is actually true. As the potato cooks, the skin acts as a seal, trapping water that expands the spud and steams during cooking. If it can’t escape… boom! Save yourself the toil of scrubbing the oven, and fork your potato all over.

When it comes to tin foil, we say: ditch it. The only outer layer your potato needs is olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, so save yourself the expense of foil – unless you’re putting your spud directly into the flames of a barbecue or bonfire. If you’re cooking indoors, just place it directly onto the shelf of your oven.

How long to bake potatoes for

There are several schools of thought when it comes to timings.

The standard method is 200C for 1hr-1hr 20mins.

For a super-crispy skin and a slow-cooked inside, go for 180C for 2hrs 20 mins.

If you’re time-pressed, ping your potato in the microwave for 5 mins to soften it up, then finish in the oven for 35-40 mins.

Baked potato fillings

Load up your baked potato with a range of classic or more experimental fillings…

Beans

Delicious on their own (especially when you make your own) or teamed with cheese, but therein lies a murky realm of controversy – do you go beans first or cheese first? Let us know in the comments below…

Tuna mayonnaise
The two components are a dreamy duo in their own right, but a dot of salad cream, some chopped spring onions, grated cheddar, lemon zest and capers are all equally delicious additions. Try our recipe for spuds stuffed with tuna & chives.

Cheese

If you’re all about the fromage, you’ll know melty cheeses like cheddar, red leicester and double gloucester grate well and render to an irresistible, glistening mound. If you like your cheese super-melty, add it to your potato, then finish it off under the grill. Or why not try something different by whipping up a creamy feta and sumac filling.

Chilli con carne
If you plump for this Mexican-inspired topping, make sure you cook the best version – our chilli con carne recipe is a particular favourite.

Dhal

Spice up your potatoes with an aromatic veggie topping that also counts towards two of your five-a-day. Combine red lentils and chickpeas with cumin, mustard seeds, chilli and turmeric for a flavour-packed dhal sauce.

Coleslaw
We’d never turn up our noses at shop-bought coleslaw, but we do have dozens of homemade versions for you to choose from, including a tahini twist, Thai-style and cheese & chive.

Stews
Saucy casseroles and stews were made to be mopped up with fluffy, absorbent potato. If you’re looking for one-pot inspiration, you’ve come to the right place.

Other baked potato ideas

There’s more to baked potatoes than a simple split and fill. For one, the best mash is made from baked potatoes. Once cooked, scoop out the flesh (use a delicate touch to leave the skin intact – it can be used in various clever ways).

Potato skin tacos
Scoop out the cooked potato flesh and combine with cheese, fajita spice mix, spring onions and coriander. Grill the potato skins for extra crispness, then refill them with the mash mixture and serve with avocado salad for a Mexican-style makeover.

Salad bowls
Tom Kerridge uses empty potato skins as little edible salad bowls.

Loaded potato skins
Scoop out the potato flesh and mash it with cooked bacon, your favourite cheese and caramelised onions or leeks, then spoon it all back into the skin. Bake until the cheese melts and the edges are crisp.

Edible spoons
Put cheese directly into the skins and grill them until crisp – you should get a scoop-shaped effect that can be used for dipping into soup.

Nachos
Ditch the tortillas and use crisp potato skins in their place. Top with salsa, guacamole, soured cream, cheese and a garnish, if you like – we love coriander and jalapeño chillies.

Leftover baked potato ideas

If you’ve made a batch of spuds and have a few to spare, try one of our ideas for leftovers.

Roasted
Cut baked potatoes into wedges and roast with brie and thyme for a deliciously melty cheese topping. Add a drizzle of truffle oil for extra luxury.

Deep-fried
Slice and deep-fry leftover cold potatoes, then sprinkle them with crispy bacon and grill until crispy.

Tater tots
Chop your leftover spud into small pieces, pan fry them in olive oil and serve in a crisp salad with feta, avocado and lemon juice, sprinkled with za’tar.

Try some of our favourite baked potato recipes

Perfect your foundation…

Classic crispy baked potatoes
Perfect baked potatoes
Classic jacket potatoes
Salt-baked potatoes

Then try a new variation…

Pizza baked potato
Bonfire Night baked potatoes
Loaded baked potatoes with slaw
Turkey chilli jacket potatoes
Chicken & mushroom spud pies
Horseradish & soured cream baked potatoes
Baked potatoes with spicy dhal
Crispy baked potatoes with spring onions

Find more perfect potato inspiration…

All our baked potato recipes
How to cook jacket potatoes in the microwave
A guide to British potatoes
7 ways with potatoes

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What are your secret tips for cooking baked potatoes? Leave a comment below…