How to Bake Potatoes

For centuries, potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) have been highly valued as a root vegetable. After all, potatoes are the world’s fourth largest crop, with the state of Idaho being one of the largest producers. With over 100 types of potatoes available, you can utilize many different varieties for your meals.

Plus, potatoes are low in calories but contain good amounts of B vitamins, minerals and important nutrients, too. In particular, potato skins are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber that may eventually assist in inhibiting constipation, reducing LDL cholesterol levels and supporting digestion and absorption of simple sugars.

While there are many ways you can prepare potatoes, baking them is one of the most popular methods. Before you bake potatoes, keep in mind that exposing them to an extremely hot temperature for a long period of time may lead to adverse health effects. This guide is essential if you want to learn more about baking potatoes without exposing yourself to harmful substances that can damage your health.

How to Bake Potatoes Properly

If you want  a perfectly prepared potato with crispy skin, you should learn how to bake a potato in your oven. Here’s a recipe adapted from The Kitchn:1

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rub the potatoes with coconut oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and prick them with the tines of a fork. You can lay them directly on the oven rack or place them on a baking sheet.
  3. Cook the potatoes for 45 to 60 minutes, until their skin is crispy, and sticking one with a fork meets no resistance.

Most baked potato recipes call for using refined vegetable oils made of corn or canola. Some use olive oil, but since olive oil has a strong taste that you may not prefer, it’d be more beneficial to use coconut oil or grass fed butter instead. These alternate oils also are good substitutes for the unhealthy trans fats you get from margarine, shortening and refined vegetable oils.

Once they’re in the oven, avoid overcooking your potatoes to an almost-burnt crisp, as that produces acrylamide, a byproduct between sugars and the amino acid asparagine that develops when food is cooked or processed at high temperatures above 250 degrees F or 120 degrees C. Acrylamide is found in 40 percent of calories consumed by the average American but, unfortunately, the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers acrylamide as a probable carcinogen, and carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes are the most vulnerable to acrylamide formation.2

To know if foods have acrylamide in them, check the surface. A “browned” or charred surface3,4 is a major indicator of this substance. The darker the color of charring, the more acrylamide it contains.

Watch Out for Potatoes’ Lectin Content Too

Potatoes, along with vegetables from the nightshade family like peppers and eggplants, have some of the highest amounts of health-damaging lectins, so it’s important not to overindulge in your consumption of these plants.5 If you’re not familiar with what lectins are, they are sugar-binding plant proteins that attach to your cell membranes. When you eat high amounts of foods with lectins, you predispose yourself to negative health impacts, as discussed in my interview with Dr. Steven Gundry, author of "The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain.”

While lectins in potatoes may be reduced during cooking by around 50 to 60 percent, they can be more resistant to heat compared to lectins in beans. To help counteract the lectins in these vegetables, you can chill the potatoes after cooking or baking. By doing so, you can significantly raise their nutritional content by promoting the increase of digestive-resistant starch.

What makes this type of fiber special is that it’s able to repel digestion in the small intestine and slowly ferment in the large intestine, where it serves as a prebiotic that can feed healthy bacteria.6 Plus, resistant starches in potatoes won’t trigger spikes in blood sugar levels; in fact, there is some research showing that it may lead to improvements in insulin regulation and a lowered risk for insulin resistance.7,8,9,10

How Long Does It Take to Bake Potatoes?

According to BBC Good Food, a potato takes roughly 60 to 80 minutes to bake at a temperature of 200 degrees C or 392 degrees F. However, for crispier potato skins and a slow-cooked interior, it’s recommended that the potato is baked for two hours and 20 minutes at 180 degrees C or 356 degrees F.11

For large potatoes, a 2015 The Kitchn recipe noted that it will take a large russet potato 50 to 60 minutes to bake at 425 degrees F. Occasional flipping should be done every 20 minutes or so.12 If you want to bake your potatoes fast, try cutting them in smaller pieces. Cubed, cut or sliced potatoes bake faster than whole potatoes.13

How to Purchase, Store and Prepare Potatoes

Only purchase organic potatoes from your local farmers market or from a trusted farmer. The skins must be smooth, unbroken, tight and even. If you squeeze the potato, it must be firm and not yield to pressure. Avoid buying potatoes with cracks or blemishes or any that show evidence of having been mauled by a spade, because these might mean that the potatoes may spoil more quickly. Do not pick potatoes that are spongy, soft or wrinkled, either, since this indicates that they are old and may rot.

If you spot potatoes with a slight green hue, do not buy them. This is a sign that solanine, a mildly toxic alkaloid that can make you sick or even poison you,14 may be present. Sprouting on potatoes is another sign that they are either older or have been improperly stored, since this means that their starches are already beginning to convert into sugars. The said sprouts may be toxic, too, because they contain solanine.

As much as possible, keep potatoes in dark and low places, either in a deep drawer or in a basket inside the cabinet.15 Do not store potatoes in cool places like your garage, back porch or refrigerator.  The chilling may affect the potatoes’ taste and raise acrylamide levels during cooking.16

Also, an enzyme called invertase breaks down sucrose or sugar in the potatoes, and turns it into fructose and glucose. The latter is the main sugar manufactured by the body and your main source of energy.17 Eventually, these sugars may combine with the amino acid asparagine in potatoes and form acrylamide once the vegetables are baked, fried or heated.18

To clean your potatoes, gently scrub them with a vegetable brush under cool and running water. Take note that most nutrients are preserved when the vegetables are cooked and eaten with the skin. If you’re peeling potatoes, use a vegetable peeler or sharp ceramic knife. Keep the peeling very thin, because you wouldn’t want to peel off many of the nutrients found close to the skin.

Sometimes, cut and uncooked potatoes may have a pink or brown discoloration. This develops because the carbohydrates in the food react with oxygen in the air. However, these are safe to eat and don’t need to be thrown out, especially since the color may disappear when cooking.19 Lastly, before baking or roasting potatoes, soak them in water for 15 to 30 minutes to help reduce acrylamide formation during cooking.

Try These Baked Potato Recipes

If you have leftover baked potatoes at home and are unsure of what to do with them, you can turn them into a hearty potato soup, just like in this recipe adapted from the Happy Mothering blog:20

Loaded Leftover Baked Potato Soup Recipe

Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 organic russet potatoes, baked, peeled and cubed
  • 8 slices uncured bacon, cooked and chopped, with rinds removed
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted grass fed butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 5 cups organic raw grass fed milk
  • 1/4 cup organic onion, minced
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups grated organic cheese of your choice
  • 1 cup organic sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Procedure

  1. In a large stockpot, melt butter over medium heat, then add minced onion and garlic and cook until soft.
  2. Then add the flour and whisk constantly for about one minute.
  3. Next, whisk in milk slowly and continue to whisk over heat until it starts to thicken.
  4. Add potatoes and mash them so that about half of the potatoes are crushed, but there are still some chunks left.
  5. Stir in half of the green onions and half of the bacon, then bring the soup to a boil.
  6. Once it boils, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  7. Add the sour cream, half of the cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder and stir until combined. Add more milk if the consistency is too thick.

You can also learn how to make these baked potato wedges without using oil. These can work as a side dish for your meals or as a snack. Here’s a recipe adapted from Very Veganish:21

Oil-Free Baked Potato Wedges

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • Yukon Gold potatoes, however many you want, cut into wedges
  • Himalayan salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Wash the potatoes thoroughly and cut into wedges. For smaller potatoes, cut them once lengthwise, then cut each half twice, so you can end up with six pieces per potato.
  3. Line the potatoes up on a nonstick baking tray, skins down. If your potatoes are falling over and a cut side will be on the tray, then line the tray with parchment paper or a silpat mat to prevent sticking.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper (and any other seasonings you wish) on the potatoes liberally.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked all the way through.

How Many Calories and Carbohydrates Are in a Baked Potato?

How many calories are there in a baked potato? The amount may vary depending on the potato’s size, but for a large baked potato roughly measuring 3 to 4 1/4 inches, there are 281 calories. Most of these calories tend to come from the potato’s high carbohydrate content. There are around 64.2 grams of carbohydrates in a large baked potato. Other B vitamins, vitamins and minerals present in a baked potato include:22

Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, baked

Serving Size: 299 grams
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 281 14%
Calories from Fat 4.0  
Total Fat 0.4g 1%
Saturated Fat 0.1g 0%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0.0mg 0%
Sodium 20.9mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 64.2g 21%
Dietary Fiber 6.3g 25%
Sugar 4.2g  
Protein 6.3g 13%
Vitamin A 29.9IU 1%
Calcium 29.9mg 3%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Final Reminders on Consuming Baked Potatoes

Although baked potatoes are delicious when seasoned and properly prepared, consume them in moderation because they contain high amounts of starch that may significantly increase your daily carbohydrate requirements. These starches can serve as a precursor to a spike in blood glucose levels and will facilitate insulin release, putting you at risk for overeating, weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.

Potatoes are also one of the top lectin-containing foods, so make sure you follow the recommendations mentioned above to reduce your exposure and minimize your risk of side effects.

Don’t forget about the health risks linked to baking food, either. As much as possible, opt for healthier fats like coconut oil and grass fed butter when baking or roasting foods, and avoid overcooking to prevent acrylamide formation. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll get to enjoy baked potatoes without  negative effects on your health.

Sources and References