Potato Trials

At the Harvest Fest a few weeks ago, I met the baked potato of my dreams: crisp, dark skin and buttery and fluffy on the inside. All they needed was a bit of butter or sour cream. I’ve never had a potato so delicious, and thus set out on a quest to replicate them at home. I tested three varieties of potatoes (Russet, Yukon Gold and red) and baked them each in three different ways.

Russet-Potatoes.jpg

My Baked Potato Protocol:

Knowing that potatoes need steam vents, I poked each potato 7 or 8 times with a fork.
Knowing that a bit of oil is needed to promote the Maillard browning reaction (which makes the skin brown and tasty) and a crispy skin, I brushed each subject with canola oil.
I baked all potatoes in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the outside felt crispy and potato was tender when squeezed.

The Potato Trials:

I wrapped one of each variety in foil.
I sprinkled one of each variety with sea salt.
I left one of each variety au naturel, pricked and oiled, and directly in the oven.

The Results:

FOIL-WRAPPED: In every instance, the foil-wrapped potatoes had almost soggy skins. Their insides were dense rather than fluffy. Obviously, as the potatoes cooked, their moisture turned to steam and softened the skin. Not the ideal baked potato.

UNWRAPPED:
Russet: The skin was browned and crispy, but the flesh inside was airy and fluffy.
Red Potato: The thin skin was slightly tough and browned, but not crispy. The insides were more dense than fluffy.
Yukon Gold: The thin skin was slightly tough and browned, but not crispy. The insides were more dense than fluffy.

SALTED v UNSALTED:
Russet: The skin was slightly chewier than the unsalted, but the difference was hardly noticeable.
Red Potato: The salt did not affect the inside of any of the potatoes tested. Its sole benefit was a slightly tastier crust.
Yukon Gold: The salt did not affect the inside of any of the potatoes tested. Its sole benefit was a slightly tastier crust.

BEST OVERALL

Russet potatoes definitely made for the best baked potatoes. The skins were crispy and browned, while the inside was light and fluffy. Of the three varieties, after all, the Russet contains the most dry starch. These starches separate and pull away from each other during cooking, creating tiny air pockets, aka fluffliness.

In contrast, the starch cells of red and Yukon Gold potatoes stick together during cooking, giving the potatoes a more solid texture.

(BONUS EXPERIMENT):

I suspected that I could get an even better baked potato, so I tried baking a Russet potato for 70 minutes at both 400F and 425F. For ultimate skin crispiness, 425F is the way to go!

Russet-Potatoes-2.jpg

Potato Trials

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 1 potato

Potato Trials

The perfect baked potato should have a dark and crispy skin with a fluffy interior. You can add any number of toppings, but a little fresh butter is all you really need.

Ingredients

  • 1 Russet potato
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Instructions

  1. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of an oven and preheat the oven to 425F. Stab the potato all over with a fork. Seven pokes should be plenty.
  2. Brush the potato with canola oil to lightly coat it. You may not need all of the oil. Sprinkle the potato on all sides with the salt.
  3. Place the potato directly on the top rack and bake for 60-75 minutes. The potato is done when the skin is crispy but the insides feel tender when you gently squeeze the potato.

Make Ahead and Storage

If you bake more than 4 potatoes at a time, you may need to increase the cooking time by 10-15 minutes per extra 2 potatoes.

http://www.savvyeat.com/how-to-make-the-perfect-baked-potato/

 

Comments

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      agreed. On the other hand, cooking them directly on the grill (or on top of a piece of foil, not wrapped) could give you that really crispy skin…. mmmm

  1. Tom Whelan says

    Julie, Perhaps a naive questions: why do you put the baking sheet on the bottom rack, potato on top rack?

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      This was a 2 week experiment so that we could space out the baked potato-eating. Though I did eat two Russets yesterday to double-check the temperature trials…

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