Why You Should Dry Your Potatoes Before Baking Them

Crunchy on the outside and hot and steaming on the inside, a baked potato is one of those dishes that's so simple and so classic that we sometimes don't even think to make them. But that would be a grave mistake: This side dish is iconic for a reason, its fluffy starchiness the perfect landing pad for a mountain of rich butter or a cap of tangy sour cream. Or, if you really want to go wild, more elaborate toppings such as shredded cheese, bacon bits, or sweet caramelized onions (via Delish).

Although baked potatoes seem like they would be quite easy to make, their preparation actually has a few common pitfalls. One of these mistakes would be a too-short baking time, which can create an off texture and can even affect the potatoes' flavor, too (via Bon Appétit). Another error would be wrapping the potato in aluminum foil before putting it in the oven, a common potato-baking technique that actually traps in too much moisture and leads to a soggy, leaden spud. Another thing to avoid when baking potatoes? Failing to dry them after scrubbing them clean in the sink.

Still-wet potatoes can go soggy in the oven

Anyone that has ever baked a potato knows that the very first step is giving the potatoes a good scrub under running water to remove any flecks of dirt that remain on the skin. As noted by All Recipes, this is a great idea — as long as you make sure to dry the potato well before transferring it to the oven.

Many of us love eating the crispy skin of a baked potato: We even make loaded potato skins on purpose, discarding most of the potato flesh and focusing on that tasty exterior. Plus, as noted by the Idaho Potato Commission, potato skins are a great source of nutrition, providing about half the fiber content of the whole potato. But pretty much no one likes soggy potato skin, and that's exactly what you might get if you fail to dry a potato off before baking it. All Recipes writes that a wet potato just might not dry out in the oven enough to produce a crisp skin, so definitely towel your spuds off before baking.

As to whether or not you need to prick the potato before it heads to the oven? All Recipes says to go for it: While the chances of a potato exploding in the oven might be slim, who wants to find out (and be faced with that clean-up task)?