Potatoes grow through vegetative production. That is, potatoes grow from other potatoes. You plant a whole, small potato or a piece from a larger potato to get a new plant. The whole potato or the cut piece, has slightly recessed dormant buds called "eyes." When the conditions are right, these buds will sprout tubers to produce new potatoes. The western states of the United States, such as Idaho and Washington, account for most of the potato production in the United States. The three main types of potatoes grown in the United States are white, red and russet. White potatoes are considered all purpose, which means you can use them for cooking, mashing and frying. Red potatoes which have a reddish skin are best for steaming, boiling and roasting. Russets have a brown skin, are oblong in shape and are best for baking and for frying [source: Garden-Robinson, Thompson, Preston, USDA].
Now we are ready to learn how to cook a baked russet potato in the oven.
- Choose your potatoes. When baking more than one potato, choose potatoes that are the same size, so they finish baking at the same time.
- Preheat the oven (see table below). You can bake your potatoes at different temperatures, ranging from 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204.4 degrees Celsius) to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162.7 degrees Celsius). The higher the temperature, the quicker your potatoes will bake.
- Scrub the potatoes under cold water. Since you will be eating the skin, make sure the potatoes are clean.
- Pierce each potato several times with a fork or pointy knife. This will allow the steam to escape during baking. If you don't pierce the potatoes, they may explode while baking in the oven and make a real mess.
- Roll the potatoes in olive oil and sprinkle it with coarse salt or herbs, for flavor.
- Put the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake. Don't wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil if you want crispy potatoes. Wrapping it will make the skin soft and soggy. Your potatoes will be done when you can pierce it easily with a fork [source: Bhide].