Best Baked Potatoes

Published September 6, 2018. Updated April 17, 2020

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I never thought anyone needed a recipe for Baked Potatoes until I tried this method. Now I’m hooked and it’s the only way I’ll ever want to make baked potatoes again! I just don’t think they get any better than this.

best baked potato topped with sour cream cheese bacon and chives on white plate

Perfect Baked Potatoes

So what makes these baked potatoes so special? This cooking method produces an incredibly fluffy, melt-in-your mouth interior and a crispy, nicely seasoned, slightly browned exterior.

They are the best baked potatoes I’ve ever had! Thanks to Cook’s Illustrated for creating such a simple yet genius recipe.

A few simple steps are what turn a good baked potato into the best baked potato.

  • A quick salt brine. It adds great flavor to the skin and even seeps into the potato a bit in the areas where pierced.
  • Using high heat. That 450 degree F temperature prevents leathery skin.
  • Taking the temperature with an instant read thermometor. Taking the temperature of a potato? Yes, 205 degrees is the ideal temperature for a fluffy interior (then you’ll baste and add just 10 more minutes to that).
  • A light basting of vegetable oil crispens up the skin. But only add at the last 10 minutes or you’ll end with soggy skin. (The brine and basting is why you need to use that baking sheet and and wire rack).
  • Cutting the potatoes open immediately after baking. Otherwise they’ll sit and steam inside and become heavy. The fluffy interior is everything, I’m telling you.

three baked potatoes topped with butter on white plate

Baked Potatoes Ingredients

If you’re serious about cooking baked potatoes perfectly every time, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 (7 – 9 oz) potatoes
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil or it will smoke at this high heat)
  • Desired toppings, such as butter, pepper, cheddar, chives, bacon, sour cream

What’s the Best Potato for Baked Potatoes?

When making baked potatoes in the oven, I recommend using russet potatoes.

Baked Potatoes ingredients shown here potatoes water salt vegetable oil

How to Bake a Potato

Ready to learn the best way to bake potatoes? Here are the basic steps to mastering perfect baked potatoes:

First you’ll start out by preheating oven to 450 degrees F.

Then scrub and rinse each potato to remove any dirt. Then using a fork, pierce the potato 3 times on two sides (6 times total).

piercing a potato with a fork before baking

Next, in a large mixing bowl whisk together water and salt until salt has dissolved. Then roll potatoes in water to evenly cover with water mixture.

Baked Potatoes shown here rolling in salt water brine before baking

Transfer potatoes to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until potatoes register 205 degrees on an instant read thermometer (they should be nearly soft).

Baked Potatoes shown here set on a wire rack over a baking sheet before baking

Remove from oven and brush with oil then return to oven and bake 10 minutes longer. Cut potatoes open just after removing then using a clean kitchen towel squeeze potato open while being careful of steam.

Serve immediately with desired toppings.

How Long to Bake Potatoes

You’ll want to bake your russet potatoes for roughly 45 – 60 minutes. Then, brush them with oil and bake them for another 10 minutes.

Baked Potatoes shown here brushing with vegetable oil

This Oven Method Makes the Best Baked Potato. Period.

Do you believe me yet? That you need to try this method? I’ve made hundreds, probably even thousands of baked potatoes in my life but never any this good. They’re perfectly seasoned, perfectly soft and tender, and have a delicious crisp skin.

Baked potatoes are one of my go-to side dishes and now I can say I’ve found the best. So good in fact you honestly don’t even need all the toppings, but hey who can resist bacon?

What to Serve with Baked Potatoes

how to cook baked potatoes oven

Our Favorite Baked Potato Toppings

Baked russet potatoes can be topped with anything your heart desires. A few of our favorite baked potato toppings include:

  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Bacon crumbles
  • Chives or green onions
  • Butter
  • Chopped onions
  • Chili
  • Salsa

four perfect Baked Potatoes on white plates

Tips for Making the Best Baked Potatoes

  • You want to use potatoes that are very similar in size so they’ll finish up at the same time.
  • I recommend eating these baked potatoes right away. If you prep them in advance and them wrap them in foil to keep warm, the steam builds up inside of them and they can become dense.
  • Leftover baked potatoes can be reheated gently in the microwave or oven (note that the texture won’t be the same after they’ve been in the fridge). Or, cut them up and use them in a breakfast hash.

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best baked potato method
5 from 27 votes

Baked Potatoes

This simple method yields the best baked potatoes on the planet! Fluffy, moist interior and salty, crispy exterior. Load them up with all your favorite toppings or just serve with butter and a little salt and pepper.
Servings: 4
Prep5 minutes
Cook1 hour 5 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 10 minutes



  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a wire rack over a rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheet.
  • Pierce each potato 6 times (3 times on two sides) with a fork.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together water and salt until salt has dissolved. 
  • Roll each potato in salt water to coat entirely, transfer to a wire rack while spacing evenly apart.
  • Bake in preheated oven until center registers 205 degrees F on an instant read thermometer (potatoes should almost be soft inside when pressed).
  • Brush potatoes with vegetable oil, return to oven and bake 10 minutes longer.
  • Remove from oven and immediately cut a slit or "X" across to release steam. Using a kitchen towel squeeze ends to open then top as desired.


  • You want to use potatoes that are very similar in size so they'll finish up at the same time.
  • I recommend eating these baked potatoes right away. If you prep them in advance and them wrap them in foil to keep warm, the steam builds up inside of them and they can become dense.
  • Recipe source: from Cook's Illustrated
Nutrition Facts
Baked Potatoes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 208 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Sodium 594mg26%
Potassium 945mg27%
Carbohydrates 40g13%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin C 13mg16%
Calcium 29mg3%
Iron 1.9mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.