Baked potatoes are pretty much loved by everyone. A cheap, nutritious side dish which can easily be dressed up to be the star of the show come dinnertime, they are one of my essentials. If they are not in your dinner repertoire, I urge you to start cooking them. If you don't know how, here's a guide.
When cooking baked potatoes, it's important to buy the right variety of potato. Choose potatoes that are suitable for baking. Russet varieties are a good choice generally but ask when buying if you are unsure. Also use the largest potatoes you can find if you are planning to stuff them or make twice baked potatoes.
Preheat the oven to a moderately hot heat - 400F/200C. Scrub your potatoes, dry them well and prick them a few times with a fork.
Place the potatoes directly onto the oven shelf and bake them for about an hour until they can be easily pierced with a sharp knife. If your potatoes are very large, this may take up to an hour and a half.
When the potatoes are tender, remove them from the oven, cut a small cross on the top of each and squeeze the bottom to gently push out the flesh a little. Be carefully - the potatoes will be extremely hot so use a clean cloth to hold them. They are now ready for a simple topping like butter or sour cream.
Squeezing the potato allows steam to escape and "fluffs" up the flesh so it's ready for a wet topping like sour cream. This is a good tip if you sometimes find that the sour cream makes your potato wet and dense in texture.
Alternatively, if you want to go for twice baked potatoes, just slit them down the middle lengthways when they have cooled a little before preparing your filling.
Do not wrap the potatoes in foil either during or after cooking! This makes the skins soggy.