America is a meat and potatoes country, and by this we mean we like our steak thick and bleeding and we like our potatoes large and whole. Yes, we have portions issues but that doesn't change the fact that a steak is not a steak without a baked potato next to it. The description "baked potato" once described the method of creation well, but with advancements in technology and cooking instruments this has changed over the years. No longer do potatoes have to be inserted into an oven to produce that delicious "baked" taste. Now the baked potato addresses the meal and not the method. It is a potato served whole and sliced length wise halfway through, the skin doubling as a bowl.

Idaho or bust: baking your russet in the oven
All of that introductory stuff out of the way let's get down to business. First of all yes, you can bake a potato in the oven. In my household we have this metal pronged device that looks a bit like a grappling hook. I often wondered what it was growing up as it collapses flat and I never was one to hang around the kitchen while a meal was being prepared. Come to find out this is for baking potatoes and removing them from the oven with ease.

First you take your potatoes and wash them down. I'd scrub gently, I have a tendency to scrub too hard I've been told and there's almost no brown left to the skin. I always figured that was just me removing I apparently had been "destroying the vitaminy goodness" of the potato as according to my father the vitamins all reside in the skin. So eat your skins, kids!

Potato all clean? Then you can rub olive oil or vegetable oil on the skin, wrap the individual potatoes in aluminum foil and spear them on the metal prongs of the grappling hook. Don't have a potato grappling hook? Poke the potato with a fork a few times and place them on a cooking sheet. The beauty of the grappling hook is that you don't have potatoes rolling around on a sheet, it's a more secure removal method, and the heat travels up the metal prong and into the potato causing it to cook through faster. Yeah, your oven should be set at around 375 F - 400 F and it will take about an hour to cook your potato.

Grill or be grilled: cooking your russet on a grill
I first observed this method when I was twelve at a friend's house. I have never seen my own father make a baked potato on a grill, and yes, he is the grill master in our household. I watched a friend's father wash the potatoes, wipe them down with vegetable oil, make a thin slice in the side and then shove onion slivers deep into the potato. This baffled me, onions in my potatoes!? (Note: up to this point I was devoted to butter and sour cream only) He then wrapped the potatoes in aluminum foil, poked through the foil with a fork and set them on the grill. The timing for this method depends on how hot your coals are. You should keep the lid down and turn the potatoes occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly.

Sweet like radiation: microwaving a sweet potato
Things have been said about the method of microwaving potatoes. Words like "gummy" have entered into these statements. I'm here to tell you that it is possible to microwave a russet or a yam without having gumminess. Simply don't overcook it. I prefer to microwave my sweet potatoes because the method causes the skin to dry out and the insides become almost peelable. And let's face it, with sweet potatoes it's all about the orange.

Select your sweet potato and give it a scrub. A clean potato is an edible potato. Next you will take a papertowel and wet it down. Wring out any excess water, you aren't trying to make potato soup you're just making sure the potato doesn't dry out in the microwave. Take the wet papertowel and wrap it around the potato. Then put the potato in a plastic bag. I'm not talking about a ziplock here, I'm refering to one of those plastic bags you get from walmart or the grocery store. Those clear ones they provide in the produce department at your grocery store work well. You're going to tie off the open end of the bag, but make sure there is a slight opening so the heat can escape. It only takes about two minutes on high, depending on the size of your potato, to make your baked potato this way. I would start there then test a potato. As microwave times always vary, as do potato sizes, it's hard to nail down a definite here. But a little experimenting will show you the correct timing for your potato.

I give you fair warning, though. Both the bag and its contents will be very hot when you remove it from the microwave. Be careful of the steam that will escape. It's better to let it sit in the microwave a minute or two before attempting to open the bag.

The key to a delicious experience with sweet potatoes (which is lower in carbs than other types of potatoes by the way) is the toppings. You should try drizzling a little honey over your sweet potato then sprinkling with brown sugar. Or if you don't want the sugar shock, butter and brown sugar work well too.

Ouroboros says re Baked potato: Engine block cooking... consider it.