How to Bake a Potato
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Every cook needs to know how to bake a basic potato so here is a ready reference to use when you need it.  The classic potato for baking is the Russet, but any potato can be baked.  Try using sweet potatoes with this recipe for a special treat. Ingredients: As many potatoes as you like Optional: A little cooking oil and salt to prepare the skin First, prepare the potatoes by rinsing them and scrubbing them well with a vegetable brush or other stiff brush.  Take care to inspect for any greenish colored potatoes and cut off any bruised or discolored spots or any potato eyes that have sprouted.  Poke each potato with a fork several times, all around, to let steam escape during cooking.  Too much steam will make mushy potatoes, and if the steam builds up they could actually burst and make a mess.  Also try to cook batches of potatoes which are nearly all the same size so that they will all get done in the oven at the same time. Optional:  Rub each potato with a little cooking oil and salt them for a more flavorful skin. This is a no foil zone – foil traps moisture and steams the potato so that its skin will be limp not crispy and its inside flaky goodness will turn more mushy.  Place your inspected, poked, rubbed and cleaned potatoes on a baking pan and cook for about 1 hour at 350 degrees in a preheated oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking them with a fork to see if they are tender.  When they are done, be careful as potatoes hold their heat for a really long time.  Let them stand 10 minutes before you serve them.  Use an oven mitt or utensils to remove potatoes from the oven – they are really hot! Microwave method:  Purists frown on this method because they say that valuable nutrients are lost in the microwave. Prepare the potatoes just like for baking, especially paying attention to the hole-poking with the fork.  Potatoes may not so much burst, but explode in a microwave.  Lay down a paper towel on a plate and put your potato on that.  Use a ceramic plate – a plastic one will hold heat and get finger burning hot!  Try microwaving on high for 3-4 minutes and testing for doneness with a fork every minute after that until you learn the particulars of your microwave unit.  The potato will be burning hot so let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.