When it comes to baked potatoes, as with meats, we are faced with a food whose center and skin need separate treatment. We want a soft, moist, fluffy inside, and a dry, crisp skin that nobody will leave aside. Once again, a 2-zone setup and reverse sear are the solution. And once again we learn that a good digital thermometer can answer the question “is it done?”
Russet Burbank potatoes are the big brown variety used by steakhouses because they have a stout skin that gets crunchy when baked properly, and although I love the flavor of Yukon Golds, their skin is thinner and they don’t get that satisfying chew. It will not surprise you that I have tested the optimum doneness for baking potatoes and I find 205°F is the low end, al dente, a bit crunchy. At 212°F, they are moist, crumbly, fluffy. Amazingly, I have never seen a website or cookbook with a recipe that tells you what temp is optimal for a baked potato. They just give cooking times and temps, and, as regular readers know, this is inaccurate because oven temps are rarely accurate, not to mention grills, and the thickness of the potato is what dictates cooking time.
You can get there by just baking them, but that leaves the skin tender and papery. I like it with a bit of crunch. And you can’t get there in the microwave. I know you are in a hurry, but the microwave heats unevenly and you end up with al dente and dry spots in the same spud. You also end up with blah soft skin.
If you wrap them in foil so everything steams, including the skin. I’m guessing this less than satisfactory shortcut was invented by a restaurateur who didn’t want to wait an hour. A better shortcut is about five minutes in the microwave on high, and then a short trip through a hot 450°F oven or grill for about 15 minutes. This is better than cooking it in the microwave alone, but again the skin is just too tender for me.
To get the skin perfect you need radiant heat, not hot air. Throwing them right on hot coals is popular, but you’re probably going to burn them, and if you want a mouthful of carbon, just butter up a Kingsford briquet. Putting the spud above the direct heat of a grill is the ultimate solution to a crisp skin. See the recipe below for that method. Another shortcut, in theory, is the potato nail. But it doesn’t work. Here’s the mythbusting explanation. And if you prefer creamier twice baked potatoes, Test.Free Barbecue News magazine every month to members of our Pitmaster Club. Click here for a free 30 day trial. No credit card needed. No spam. Click here to Be Amazing!
Published On: 12/12/2013 Last Modified: 4/26/2021
These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.
A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs
This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.
If you’re using oven mitts at the grill, it’s time to trade up. Say hello to these suede welder’s gloves. They’re heat resistant enough to handle hot grill grates, and flexible enough to handle tongs. The extra long sleeves even let you reach deep into the firebox to move hot logs without getting burned. Our Fave.
The Good-One Open Range is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset.
Napoleon’s NK22CK-C Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the NK22CK-C a viable alternative.
The amazing Karubecue is the most innovative smoker in the world. The quality of meat from this machine is astonishing. At its crux is a patented firebox that burns logs above the cooking chamber and sucks heat and extremely clean blue smoke into the thermostat controlled oven. It is our favorite smoker, period.
Click here for our review of this superb smoker
We always liked Grilla. The small 31.5″ x 29.5″ footprint makes it ideal for use where BBQ space is limited, as on a condo patio.
Click here for our review on this unique smoker
The Broil King Signet 320 is a modestly priced, 3-burner gas grill that packs a lot of value and power under the hood. Broil King’s proprietary, dual-tube burners get hot fast and are able to achieve high, searing temps that rival most comparatively priced gas grills. The quality cast aluminum housing carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.