Baked potatoes are a versatile and nutritious food and are simple to cook. The temperature you use and potato preparation make all the difference. If you use too cool a temperature, you will be waiting hours for your meal, and if you bake them too hot, they can burn on the outside before getting cooked through. Wash the potatoes first, and prick the skin with a fork or the tip of a knife to allow steam to escape while baking. Otherwise, they will explode in your oven, which is both messy and potentially dangerous.
To bake potatoes in a conventional oven, Nicolette M. Dumke, author of “Cooking 101: The Beginner's Guide to Healthy Cooking,” recommends a temperature of between 350 to 400 degrees for one to one-and-a-half hours. If you are baking larger potatoes or want an extra-crispy finish, use the higher temperature. For smaller potatoes or if you want to slow the cooking down to coordinate with the rest of your meal, use the lower temperature.
A convection oven uses a fan to circulate the hot air that naturally gathers at the top of the oven, redistributing it so food cooks faster. According to the “Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book,” you should reduce the temperature by 25 degrees compared to a conventional oven, meaning you would bake potatoes at 325 degrees or 375 degrees, depending on how fast you want them cooked.
If you want the crispy finish of oven-baked potatoes but do not have time to bake them for an hour or more, you can part-cook potatoes in the microwave, then finish in the oven. Author Frances Price advises in her book “Healthy Cooking For Two (or Just You)” that you microwave two potatoes on high for six minutes, then transfer them to a preheated, 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Check to see if they are tender to ensure they are fully cooked.
Baking time and temperature can vary, depending on the number of potatoes you need to prepare. The website What’s Cooking America offers a chart outlining recommended modifications. For medium-sized potatoes, it recommends baking at 350 degrees for an hour and increasing the time by 15 minutes for more than four potatoes. Alternatively, increase the cooking temperature to 400 degrees, and keep the cooking time the same.
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Zoe Glass has been writing journalism, essays and fiction since 2001. Her articles have been featured in publications including literary journals "Beatdom" and "Denali," the music magazine "Mixmag" and the London newspaper "Snipe." Glass holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania and is studying for a Master of Letters in writing at the University of Glasgow.