So I took it upon myself to figure it out because, well, I wanted to have a baked potato bar night on the menu rotation. So after much reading, deep consideration and a few trials, I am proud to say, I know how to make the perfect baked potato for my toppings! And it does take a little more then "just pop it in the oven." Not much more mind you, but there are a few trick and tips to it.
First you need to wash your tators well. Don't soak them, but scrub them under cold running water. After you have patted them dry it is time to poke your tators. Just use a fork and stab the tator a few times on all four sides. Make sure you push the fork in deep as this helps it cook more evenly.
Once your tator is holy, it is time to bust out the oil. I used olive oil, but you could use veggie if you have to. I pour a little oil in my hands and lightly rub all the tators down and then roll them on a plate with salt to lightly coat them. You could also just sprinkle the salt over them. Why do I oil and salt my tators? To give them a nice crisper skin.
Now some folks claim you should wrap your tators in tin foil. DON'T!!! Because then your just steaming them, not baking them. Just plop your tators on your middle oven rake and place a cookie sheet beneath just in case you get any dripping. But how long do you cook a baked tator? Well it all depends on the size of said spud and the temp at which your oven is set. I like to do mine at 400 degrees and an average tator takes about 50+ minutes. You will know when they are done because you can squeeze the sides of the tator and you will feel a soft fluffy give through the skin.
Now keep in mind, the tators are hot coming out so be careful when you cut them open. The nice thing is while your tators are baking you have more then enough time to get your toppings ready for your baked potato bar. I shredded cheese, boiled up some broccoli, sauteed some mushrooms.... the possibilities are endless to what you can top your perfect baked tator with! Okay maybe some things are better left off the potato but you know what I mean.
And you can always throw a few extra tators in the oven so you can have left overs later. There is nothing like longing for a baked potato and having to wait..... now you don't have to, just put them in the fridge for later use. Need a snack? Turn the extras into potato skin appetizers. Ahhh the baked potato, oh how I love thee!!