Family Entertaining: Baked Potato Bar

family party

I have such fond memories of circling the Potato Bar at the Fashion Island food court. With my bad perm and jelly shoes in tow, I would pile that potato high and revel in each bite of steamy goodness. Thankfully, I’ve ditched the perm and the jellies, but the charm of the potato bar has held steady. It’s a winner for entertaining families, especially when a big football game is going on.

We’ve done this set-up with a few family gatherings and it’s an absolute crowd-pleaser. It’s a good choice because it covers so much territory in one swoop: it’s easy to prepare, everyone can serve themselves and there is something for everyone — picky kids, vegetarians, gluten-free peeps and those super eaters I love to feed.


I’ll make-up a pot of Chicken Chili early in the day and keep it simmering on the stove till mealtime. Along with the chili there’s Sautéed Mushrooms, steamed broccoli, jack cheese, avocado, sour cream (or if you want to be fancy, crème fraîche), salt and pepper, sriracha, and of course, butter (make sure it’s room temperature over a cold brick). It’s nice to round it out with a green salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette.

best baked potato

For cooking the potatoes, I take a page from Alton Brown’s method — the result is crispy deliciousness on the outside, soft and steaming on the inside.  If you have any baked potatoes left over, cook them up as twice-baked potatoes or potato skins the next day.

baked potato bar

Best Baked Potato

8 russet potatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350.

Wash and dry your potatoes. Prick the potatoes with a fork about eight times and place them in a bowl.  Mix together the the oil and salt to make a rub and coast potatoes so they are evenly covered.  I like to rub the mixture in with my hands. The residual salt/oil combo gives a nice little treatment of scrub and moisture to my abused hands.

Place the potatoes directly on the middle rack (not on a cookie sheet). However, do place a sheet pan on the rack below the potatoes to catch any drippings. Bake for one hour. Turn the oven off and leave the potatoes in the oven until you are ready to serve.