The perfect potato has two essential parts—the skin and the inside flesh of the potato.
Skin…As far as the skin, you expect your potato skin to be crunchy, tasty, crispy, and salty.
Interior…As far as the actual flesh of the potato, you expect your potato flesh to be soft, fluffy, .creamy, tender, and tasty.
And yes, I know that baked potatoes are as easy as sticking them in the oven, slow cooker, or microwave…but there are a few tips on how we all could be making the best potatoes possible.
So how DO you make the perfect baked potato?
Preheat the oven
At first I was confused because I saw recipes that said to bake your potatoes at anywhere from 350° to 450°F. I wondered what was the right temperature.
But actually all of these temps are right because the exact baking time depends on the size of the potato and if you have other things in the oven that you need to cook at the same time.
Suggestions as far as cooking times are…
350°F… 60 to 75 minutes
375°F…. 50 to 60 minutes
400°F… 40 to 50 minutes
Some people claim that you want your oven nice and hot so that the skins get nice and crispy….other people claim that if your oven is too hot, the skin will cook too quickly while the middle stays hard.
I say not sure how long to bake your baked potato…about an hour…just make sure it’s done before you eat it…more on that later…
Pick Your Potatoes
As far as which variety of potato to use for making baked potatoes, your best bet is the russet potato for several reasons, including having…
the fluffy starchy texture we all love
the sweet flavor that we all love
typically a fairly large size
Wash Your Potatoes
Scrub your potatooes thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. They are probably still covered in a considerable amount of dirt
Dry your potatoes off with a paper towel or a clean dish towel once you have washed them. Drying off your skin will supposedly make the skin crispier, but you’re fixing to drench the potato in olive oil…so not sure. Common sense says to dry it regardless though, right?
Prep Your Potato
Now poke each potato all over with the tines of a fork so that steam can escape from the baking potato…and the potato will not explode in your oven.
Many people use potato spikes or metal skewers. These transmit heat to the center of the potato, help reduce cooking time, and supposedly help make the center fluffier… personally haven’t tried it yet.
Rub the skins with olive oil. Do this with either your hands or a pastry brush. This will help the potato skins to turn out crispier up and to make it taste better.
For the best possible potatoes possible, don’t forget to oil them with olive oil and season them with salt, pepper, and paprika.
As far as wrapping potatoes in foil, that decision depends on whether you want your skins to be soft or crispy. Wrapping the potatoes in foil will give you a softer skin because the potato will actually steam instead of baking…whereas not wrapping them in foil will make them crispy.
Bake the Potato
Now either place the potatoes directly on the oven rack…or a few inches apart on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake the potatoes depending on which temperature you are cooking them at…see above…depending on the size of the potatoes and the temperature of the oven.
Flip them over every twenty minutes.
To make sure that your potatoes are completely cooked and ready to eat, see if they can easily be pierced with a fork.or aqueezed with your hand.
If not, keep cooking in five-minute increments until the potato is done.
Top the Potato
Top baked potatoes with your favorite toppings. Possibilities include…
bacon or bacon bits
onions or green onions or chives
ranch or blue cheese salad dressing
Other options include…
crumbled tortilla chips
broccoli cheese sauce
taco meat and toppings
Sloppy Joe meat
the lowest price of all the potato varieties in the grocery store
Okay, now that I have totally tempted any of my health-conscious or diabetic readers by reminding them that there are such delicious foods as fried chicken left in this world…or even grossed out my vegan readers by suggesting that they eat chicken in the first place…remember that my goal right now is to walk you through the different cooking methods one at a time.
We have already finished looking at two methods—sauteeing and stir-frying.
Now we are talking about pan-frying.
And the best two examples of pan-fried food are fried chiciken and…
Chicken Fried Steak
So these are the two “homework assignments”that will help you learn to cortrectly pan-fry your food…regardless what it is—anything from chicken to tofu, from pork chops to tempeh.
So what is chicken fried steak…other than a fried piece of meat that most of us shouldn’t be eating in the first place?
Chiciken fried steak actually contains no chicken…but chicken fried steak is xalled “chicken fried steak” because the cooking method is so similar to the way you make fried chicken.
Instead of chicken, chicken fried steak is typically some sort of cutlet—typically tenderized cube steak, chuck, round steak, and occasionally flank steak—that has been coated with seasoned flour and pan-fried, just like we did fried chicken in the last post.
Here in Texas, chicken fried steak can be found on almost any menu—including the breakfast menu, the lunch menu, and the dinner menu.
It has been a state favorite ever since being brought to the Lone Star State by German and Austrian immigrants during the 19th century.
Chicken fried steakis very similar to what is known as “”country fried steak,” but typically “country fried steak” is covered with a brown gravy, and “chicken fried steak” is covered with a white, peppery gravy.
So what are the steps in making the perfect Chicken Fried Steak?
1.Preheat the oven to its lowest setting.This is important because once the first piece of chicken fried steak is cooked, there will be more steaks to cookm and you want to make sure that the steaks you’ver already cooked stay warm while you finish.
2. Prep the pan…Choose a good heavy pan, such as a cast iron 9” skillet, to fry your steaks in. Pour enough oil in the pan so that the oil is at least ¼” deep, not much more than that. Heat the oil over medium heat on the stovetop until the oil starta to glisten and shimmer on the surface.
3. Prep the meat before you bread it…Whenever I make chicken fried steak, I typically cook about 2# at one time…Regardless of how many steaks you will be cooking, it is always important to dry the meat before you bread it. Otherwise, the breading will simply fall off the meat because the meat will begin to /steam, not fry. Remove the meat from the package. Use several layers of paper towels to pay the meat as dry as possible.. Sprinkle the steaks well with kosher salt and set aside.
4. Set Up the Breading Station…Find three dishes that are large enough for turning your meat pieces around as you bread them. Fill the first dish with plain flour – nothing else. Fill the second dish with two large eggs combined with ½C milk. Fill the third dish with flour, corn meal and seasonings—such as garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, and dried parsley.
Seasoning your food well is important because the meat has to go through so much before the flavor ever gets on your tastebuds….Just add the ingredients and mix it up and then make that the final dip for your steak.
5. Apply the Breading…’Do NOT bread your meat until you’e ready to put it in the hot oil.
Once the oil is hot and ready, pat the steaks one last time with paper towels.
Dip the first steak into the three different dishes, in the order that they should be arranged in—plain flour, egg and milk mixture, seasoned flour. Pat the flour onto the steak well.
Do not bread up more steaks than you can cook right now.
6. Add the Meat to the Heated Skillet…Gently place the floured steak into the oil. You should hear a sizzling sound if your oil has been properly heated.
Do NOT overcrowd the pan. Never cook more than two steaks in the same pan at the same time. The steak should cover no more than a fourth of the pan. The other fourth should be simply oil.
Make sure that the oil stays at the right temperature once you add each steak…and throughout the cooking proicess.
7. Cook the Meat…Cook the steaks to cook about three minutes per side,. Once cooked, transfer to a cookie sheet in the preheated oven. Do not stack steaks on top of each other. This will mess up your breading.
8. Make the Gravy…After you finish cooking all of your steaks, turn off the oven so that they will not burn while you are making your gravy.
Pour off the grease from the pan that you cooked your steaks in, leaving any little bits of steak and perhaps a few tablespoons of grease in the pan.
Add 2Tbsp flour to the pan. Cook on the stovetop over medium-high heat two minutes. Cooking the flour by itself for a minute or so will take that dry flour taste out.
Add 3C milk to the pan. Constantly stir the milk using a wooden spoon, scraping any flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan as you do so.
Once the gravy starts boiling, turn the heat down to medium or medium low. Keep cooking and stirring until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.