In our books, learning to make a perfect baked potato is a key life skill—and an easy one to master. Start by picking firm, unbruised starchy potatoes labelled russet or Idaho and give them a nice scrub down so you don’t end up with a mouthful of dirt later on. Pricking them all over with a fork allows steam to escape from the spud (no potato explosions, please!), and a little olive oil, salt, and pepper is all the accompaniment they need before heading into the oven.
This result is as blank-slate as it gets—and that’s on purpose. Our ideal baked potato is crisp on the outside, has a pillowy interior, and is up for dancing with almost any savory flavor in your fridge or pantry. To serve, slice lengthwise down each potato, and finish with whatever toppings you crave, such as labneh, olive oil, and za’atar, or top it with Brooklyn Delhi’s Tomato Achaar. For a finish worthy of a steakhouse, add a pat of the best butter you can find and a sprinkling of chives while it’s still piping hot.
Editor’s note: This recipe was originally published January 14, 2014.
russet potatoes (about 2½ pounds), scrubbed
Olive oil (for rubbing)
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter, finely grated Parmesan (or your favorite cheese), and/or chopped fresh chives (for serving)