Why Baked Potatoes Taste Better In Restaurants Than At Home

At restaurants, baked potato production is an entity unto itself — a well-oiled machine based on customer metrics of how many potatoes are expected to be ordered each hour in a cycle that starts right after opening and ends just before closing. Chances are, at home, your baked potato production is a lot more understated. But, that doesn't mean that the ultimate, restaurant-worthy baked potato is out of reach.

When you sit down to dinner at your favorite steakhouse, the baked potato that arrives on your table is steaming hot, wrapped in a salt crisp with a tender inside. That means, for starters, they're baked in the oven, not the microwave (even though that totally also works, BTW). As professionals know, it's a sin to neglect the skin. That potato's exterior is more than just a casing for a plush interior, and it should be both crispy and flavorful.

To achieve a killer potato skin, season the potato pre-bake with a generous layer of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. The olive oil helps the seasonings adhere to the surface of the potato. To save time, restaurants often apply the oil with a spray bottle. Thanks to their naturally high starch content, which creates a plush texture under heat, Russet potatoes make a good fit for baking. Conveniently, Russets also tend to be one of the cheapest potatoes at the grocery store, as well as physically large enough that one potato will keep dinner guests satisfied.

It's what's inside (and outside) that counts

For an even, all-around cook, bake your potato directly on the oven's wire rack. You can place a baking sheet below the potato to catch any drippings and keep your oven clean. Bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to a full hour, depending on the size of the potato. It's done when it feels soft and plush after a light squeeze on both sides. Professional institutions might use a thermometer for a more precise measurement. An internal temperature of around 210 degrees Fahrenheit is the baked potato's sweet spot. If that seems a little over-the-top for your style, you can leave the thermometer to the restaurants. A quick pierce with a toothpick can be a similarly helpful way to feel for doneness.

Be sure to let the steam out right away by slicing open the potato right after taking it out of the oven. This allows the potato to be light and fluffy rather than dense — and it looks just like the streaming, crispy baked potato that would arrive on your table at a steakhouse. To serve, garnish your favorite baked potato toppings like butter, chives sour cream, cheese, bacon, pulled pork, goat cheese, lemon zest, shallots, fresh parsley, or dill. Instead of olive oil, you could also brush them with rendered bacon fat or duck fat for a flavorful finish, if you have it (a very restaurant-level move).