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Baked potatoes, with their steaming, fluffy, soft insides and slightly crispy exterior, are a low-fat and nutritious food. However, if you’re already using a grill to cook other foods, turning on the oven may just seem too laborious, especially during hot summers. You can make baked potatoes on the grill quite easily, using a combination of direct and indirect heat. Because of their long cooking times, you may want to parcook your potatoes first.

Preparing the Potatoes

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Start by scrubbing your potatoes clean, removing all dirt. Stab your potatoes several times with a fork, puncturing the skin. This allows steam to escape during cooking, minimizing the chances that your potato will explode or crack. Because baked potatoes can take a long time to cook on a grill, you may want to parcook your tubers beforehand. After cleaning and puncturing, boil your potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes or microwave them on high in a bowl safe for that usage for 8 minutes. If microwaving, turn your potatoes at the 4-minute mark to ensure even cooking. After parcooking, your potatoes should feel slightly soft to the touch.

Foil: To Use or Not to Use

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You can grill your potatoes without any foil, as the skin keeps the potatoes from sticking. Grilling without foil allows more smokiness from the grill to penetrate the potato. However, by wrapping your potatoes in foil you can use seasonings and oil during cooking, boosting crispiness and flavor. If wrapping your potatoes, brush them with a thin layer of melted butter or cooking oil to help the skin crisp during cooking. Sprinkle on some salt and spices — such as fresh rosemary — before wrapping.

Heat and Grills

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You can grill potatoes on either a gas or charcoal grill. Grilling potatoes uses dry heat, which qualifies them to be called baked potatoes. Because of the high heat of grills, you need to use both direct and indirect heat, cooking them with hotter and cooler cooking temperatures, respectively. To create different heat zones in a charcoal grill, pile your coals over on one side of the grill. The ambient heat from the coals will permeate the other side of the grill, creating two different temperature zones. For a gas grill, set one side to medium or low heat, and the other to high. The high heat crisps the outer skin of the potato, while the low heat gives the spud time to cook through without burning.

Cooking, Timing and Cooking in the Coals

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Start your baked potatoes on direct heat for 5 minutes. Transfer them to indirect heat for the remainder of the cooking time, turning every few minutes to ensure even cooking. If you parcooked your potatoes, they will be ready after 8 to 15 minutes on your grill. Potatoes that have not been parcooked will bake in 45 to 60 minutes. Covering your grill will reduce cooking times. You can also make baked potatoes by putting them directly in the coals of either a grill or a fire pit. For this, rake coals into an even layer, and nestle your foil-wrapped potatoes in the coals, completely covering the potatoes. Because of the uneven heat from coals, parcooking is recommended. Wrapping your potatoes is a must when cooking in a fire to keep them free of the ash from the coals.

About the Author

David Grimes

David Grimes has worked professionally as a chef since 2002, in settings as wide-ranging as a corporate caterer and as a sous chef in a Michelin-starred French restaurant. He has been writing about food since 2009 and published in "Time Out New York" and "Food and Wine" magazine.