How to make the ultimate baked potato

The ultimate comfort blanket on chilly evenings, there are few foods more wholesome and satisfying than a perfect baked potato. We asked our cookery team how to achieve the perfect finish, from crispy skin to fluffy middle, plus we grilled them on what makes the perfect topping…

How to make the ultimate baked potato

The humble jacket potato breaks the mould when it comes to comfort food. Cheap, substantial and versatile, it’s a lunchtime dish to keep you full for hours and a commanding suppertime side. But despite it’s simple nature, 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…

First, choose your potato…

PotatoesDuring a session in the 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 them in the vegetable aisle.

... Then prepare it 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. There’s even a science behind it. Potatoes now hold more water than they used to, due to the increase in rainfall in recent years. 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! So, 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 it 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 should I bake it 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 five minutes to soften it up, then finish in the oven for 35-40 mins.

The filling station

Tuna baked potatoMembers of our cookery team are traditionalists when it comes to their filling choices:

Tuna mayonnaise:
The two components are a dreamy duo in their own right, but a dot of salad cream, chopped spring onions, grated cheddar, lemon zest and capers are all perfectly delicious additions.

Chilli con carne:
If you do plump for this Mexican-inspired topping, make sure you cook the best version – our chilli con carne recipe is visited by thousands of people every day. It was even popular on Christmas Day!

If you’re all about the fromage, you’ll know melty cheeses like cheddar, red Leicester and double Gloucester both 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. 

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

Baked potato with beansBeans:
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? It’s such a contentious topic had our kitchen team locked in debate – and they weren’t exactly unanimous in their verdict:

  • Barney Desmazery (senior food editor) and Chelsie Collins (cookery assistant):  Butter>cheese>beans
  • Miriam Nice (home economist): Butter>beans>cheese
  • Cassie Best (food editor): Cheese>beans>cheese (“although preferably just double cheese as I don’t like beans!”)

The jury is out - what do you prefer? Tell us in the comments below.

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

Beyond the bake…

Stuffed spudsThere’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 using a delicate touch to leave the skin intact – it can be used in various clever ways…

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

Loaded potato skins:
Reserve the flesh of the potato and mash it with cooked bacon, your favourite cheese, caramelised onions or leeks, then spoon it back into the shell and bake until the cheese melts and the edges are crisp.

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

Ditch the tortillas and use crispy potato skins in their place. Top with salsa, guacamole, soured cream, cheese and optional garnish – we like coriander and jalepeno.

Love your leftovers…

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

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

‘Tato 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, spinkled with za’tar spice.

Try one of our favourite baked potato recipes... 

Perfect spudsPerfect 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
Turkey chilli jacket potatoes
Chicken & mushroom spud pies
Horseradish & soured cream baked potatoes
Baked potatoes with spicy dhal
Crispy baked potatoes with spring onions

All our baked potato recipes

Do you love baked potatoes? What are your secret tips for cooking them – and what’s your favourite filling? We’d love to hear where you stand on the cheese/beans dilemma, too…

Comments, questions and tips

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14th Oct, 2016
@Scousehelen, as @barky says, just rub the potatoes in oil. In addition, place a sheet pan on the shelf beneath the potatoes, so that any drippings end up in the pan and not on the bottom of the oven, which is most likely the source of your smoke condition.
28th Jan, 2016
Scousehelen - I wouldn't suggest putting the potatoes in oil (like when cooking home made yorkshire puddings, you wait for the oil to 'smoke' before adding your batter mix) try rubbing a little oil onto the potato and cracked Seasalt on top (i roll mine in a little salt) this works every time for me and jacket potatoes are a weekly thing in my household. Also - butter, cheese, beans This allows the cheese to melt with the heat from the potato below and hot beans above it. Heres a twist - add the cheese to the beans in the pan when warming, then you have cheesy beans!
27th Jan, 2016
Well, I've just tried that method of baked potato sans foil in a little oil directly on the oven shelf...cue smoke billowing from my oven and smoke alarm emitting it's piercing shriek (at least we know it's working ;-) ) And yes, oven was at 180 (I have an oven thermometer) and used regular olive oil not virgin. Won't be trying this again...
Alim Baig's picture
Alim Baig
29th Oct, 2015
You have given the best tutorial for the baked potato's keloid removal.
2nd Nov, 2014
Def in the butter>beans>cheese camp. The bonfire night potatoes look like they may be the new fave!
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22nd Sep, 2018
I've always used two metal skewers pushed through the potato to help conduct the heat right to the centre! Can be a handy way to knock a bit of time off without sacrificing the fluffy middle!
12th Aug, 2015
Secret to crispy-skinned baked potatoes! After baking for 1.5 hrs at 220°C or 200° fan, remove from oven and IMMEDIATELY cut open with sharp knife. This allows the steam to escape and keeps the skin crisp.