When we picture a baked potato, we picture it wrapped in shiny aluminum foil. Why is that? Because restaurants serve them that way? Because our parents did it? We think we must have done it out of habit, without knowing the reason. Not anymore...
Some say wrapping baked potatoes in aluminum foil helps them cook faster (aluminum conducts heat, then traps it), and it does keep them hot for longer once they come out of the oven, which is why we think restaurants use this method.
Wrapping potatoes will also give you a softer, steamed skin, if that's what you like. But we prefer our potato skin crispy and seasoned, so we rub our potatoes with olive oil and cover them with kosher salt before roasting them on a baking sheet (turning once or twice). They don't seem to take a noticeably longer time to cook. The oil keeps the skin from getting too dry and papery, and it adds flavor that makes eating the skin all the more tasty.
And, of course, remember to pierce your potatoes. While we've never had one explode in our oven, the photo above is evidence that it can happen.
How do you cook your baked potatoes?
Related: Look! Potatoes Under the Grill Grate
(Image: Flickr member booleansplit, licensed for use under Creative Commons)