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Baked potato bars are a great way to feed a crowd of people. They are an easy, fun, and affordable option for a party, gathering, or even a weeknight dinner for the family. Everyone will enjoy customizing their own with all the topping options. To get you started we have a list of topping ideas, our favorite topping combinations, and several different options for “baking” your potatoes.
Setting Up a Baked Potato Bar
These are a few helpful tips when setting up your baked potato bar:
1. Plan on everyone eating at least one. We prefer to use russet potatoes and one is generally a reasonable serving for an adult. A medium russet weighs around eight ounces so if you use a different variety you may need to increase or decrease the quantity.
2. Have a variety of toppings. What makes a potato bar fun is everyone gets to mix and match all their favorite toppings. You should include a couple of different proteins, cheese, and garnishes like chives, onions, and sour cream.
3. Prepare the toppings in advance. A lot of the prep work for a potato bar can be done ahead of time. Toppings like chili and proteins can be made a day or two in advance and then reheated the day of. Shred cheese and chop veggies in advance and refrigerate them in containers with lids until ready everyone is ready to eat.
4. Assemble the topping bar. Congestion is the enemy of any good potluck or party. Place the potatoes and plates along with the butter at the start of the serving line followed by the proteins, garnishes, and then utensils and napkins. Make sure that you have knives available for cutting open the baked potatoes along with forks and/or spoons for all the toppings and garnishes.
5. Place the cold toppings on ice. For food safety, keep your cold toppings like sour cream over ice. Just place the serving bowl(s) inside a larger bowl with ice.
6. Use disposable plates and utensils. Make clean-up a breeze by using disposable plates and utensils. Make sure your plates are heavy duty to hold up to the weight of a baked potato and all the toppings.
There are lots of options for baked potato toppings so consider offering a variety. This will make sure that there is a little something for everyone.
- Proteins: chili (with beans or Texas-style), ground turkey or beef with taco seasoning, shredded chicken or chicken fajita, pulled pork or carnitas, steak fajita (we love using marinated flank steak, too), chopped ham, and bacon
- Cheese and other Dairy: shredded cheese, queso, green chile queso, crumbled feta or goat cheese, blue cheese, sour cream or crema, and butter
- Veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, pico de gallo, jalapenos or pepperoncini, green onions, red onions, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, grilled peppers and onions, and black olives
- Sauces: salsa, ranch dressing, hot sauce, and bbq sauce
- Spices and Herbs: chives, parsley, and cilantro
Favorite Topping Combos
There are tried and true classic baked potato combos like bacon and cheese, sour cream and chive, or cheesy broccoli but there is a world of options. These are a couple of topping combos that your guest might enjoy when making their loaded baked potatoes.
- Philly Cheesesteak: grilled onions and peppers, sauteed mushrooms, steak strips, and cheese (queso, shredded provolone, or cheddar)
- Chili Cheese: chili, cheese (shredded or queso), sour cream, and jalapenos
- French Onion: caramelized onions and shredded cheese (Gruyere or Swiss)
- Taco Tuesday: ground turkey or beef, shredded cheese or queso, jalapeno, sour cream, and pico de gallo
- Buffalo Chicken: chicken, sour cream, blue cheese (or ranch), and hot sauce
- Greek: feta crumbles, black olives, red onions, and pepperoncini
Best Ways to Make a Baked Potato
There are a couple of different cooking options. While we prefer the crispy skin that you get from baking them in the oven we included directions for grilling, microwaving, or using a slow cooker. Regardless of the method, you will need to wash/scrub the potatoes and using a fork pierce a couple of holes into each one to allow steam to escape as they cook. Use an instant read thermometer to tell if they have cooked all the way through.
Oven: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450°F. In a large bowl dissolve two tablespoons of salt in a 1/2 cup of warm water. Place the potatoes in the bowl and toss so the exteriors get evenly coated in the salt water then set them on a wire rack that has been placed on a baking or cookie sheet. Bake the potatoes until they reach 205°F about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Microwave: Cook potatoes on a microwave-safe dish on high for about 15 minutes or the internal temperature reaches 205°F. Flip them at least once during cooking.
Slow Cooker: Rub the outside of each potato with the oil and then season generously with salt. Wrap each one tightly in a piece of aluminum foil. Layer the potatoes in a slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for about 4 hours (or on low for 8 hours). They should be fork-tender with an internal temperature of 205°F.
Grill: Rub the outside of each potato with oil and then season generously with salt. Wrap them tightly in a piece of aluminum foil and place them over indirect heat directly on the grill grate. Grill the potatoes for 30 to 40 minutes with the lid closed or until fork-tender and the internal temperature has reached 205°F.
How to Keep Potatoes Warm
There are a couple of different options for keeping baked potatoes warm:
- Keep them warm in a slow cooker. You can cook them from start to finish in a slow cooker or load your oven-baked or grilled potatoes into a slow cooker. They will stay warm for up to an hour.
- Cook them in shifts. Halfway through cooking or grilling your potatoes start a second batch. This will keep a constant supply of warm baked potatoes.
- Avoid leaving potatoes at room temperature for more than 2 hours. To avoid bacteria forming don’t let them sit out at room temperature for too long while wrapped in foil. Keep them at 140°F or hotter or place them in the refrigerator with the foil removed within two hours of being cooked.
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Baked Potato Bar
- russet potatoes, medium to large size
- chili, with or without beans
- taco seasoned ground turkey or beef
- shredded chicken or chicken fajita
- pulled pork or carnitas
- steak fajita
- chopped ham
Cheese and Other Dairy
- shredded cheese
- crumbled feta or goat cheese
- blue cheese
- sour cream or crema
- pico de gallo
- jalapenos or pepperoncini
- green onions
- red onions
- sauteed mushrooms
- caramelized onions
- grilled peppers and onions
- black olives
- ranch dressing
- hot sauce
- bbq sauce
Spices and Herbs
- Wash/scrub the potatoes and using a fork pierce a couple of holes into each potato to allow steam to escape as they cook.
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450°F.
- In a large bowl dissolve two tablespoons of salt in a 1/2 cup of warm water. Place the potatoes in the bowl and toss so the exteriors of the potatoes get evenly coated in the salt water.
- Set potatoes on a wire rack that has been placed on a baking or cookie sheet. Bake potatoes until they reach 205°F about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Cook potatoes on a microwave-safe dish on high for about 15 minutes or the internal temperature reaches 205°F.
- Flip potatoes at least once during cooking.
- Rub the outside of each potato with the oil and then season generously with salt. Wrap each potato tightly in a piece of aluminum foil.
- Layer the potatoes in a slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for about 4 hours (or on low for 8 hours). They should be fork-tender with an internal temperature of 205°F.
- Rub the outside of each potato with oil and then season generously with salt. Wrap each potato tightly in a piece of aluminum foil.
- Place the foil-wrapped potatoes over indirect heat directly on the grill grate. Grill the potatoes for 30 to 40 minutes with the lid closed or until fork-tender and the internal temperature has reached 205°F.