How to Cook Sweet Potatoes Without Making Common Mistakes
These tubers are delicious! Just make sure you know how to cook sweet potatoes the right way to get the best flavor.
Buying Sweet Potatoes with Blemishes and Bruises
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about ugly food, but some blemishes go beyond appearance. Sweet potatoes with cuts, gouges and bruises have already started going bad, so look for ones with smooth skin and no cracks. If the potato has one or two small bruised parts, you can cut them out and cube the rest for side dishes that use diced sweet potatoes (like our Glazed Sweet Potatoes).
Do you know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
Storing Sweet Potatoes in the Refrigerator
The worst thing you can do with sweet potatoes is put them in the refrigerator. It’s too cold in there, which changes the potato’s cell structure and makes them hard in the center (even after they’re cooked). That would be disastrous for recipes that bake the potato whole. Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place and they’ll cook up soft and sweet, every time.
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Skipping the Scrub-and-Wash Step
Sweet potatoes grow in the ground, and skipping the cleaning step means dirt or grit can end up in your sweet potato casserole. Before cooking or cutting sweet potatoes, wash the skins and give them a scrub with a clean vegetable brush.
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Not Eating Sweet Potato Skins
Are sweet potato skins edible? Yes—and you should definitely eat them. Removing the skins removes some of the nutrients from the potato, so don’t peel them if you’re making healthy sweet potato recipes. The skin also helps the inside stay moist as the potato cooks.
Storing Raw, Cut Sweet Potatoes Without Water
Cutting sweet potatoes in advance is a great way to meal-prep your way to an easier weeknight dinner, but raw sweet potatoes dry out pretty quickly after they’re cut. When chopping sweet potatoes in advance, make sure to store them in cold water in the refrigerator.
That said, if you’re cooking sweet potatoes in advance, don’t worry about the water. Cooked sweet potatoes do just fine when stored in an airtight container.
Boiling Sweet Potatoes for Sweet Potato Pie
Many sweet potato pie recipes call for boiling the potatoes to cook them for the filling. We recommend steaming or baking the potato in the oven instead. The water removes some of the potato’s flavor and nutrients, and the pie can turn out watery. Baking the potato in the oven will concentrate its sweetness, resulting in a better pie.
Baking Sweet Potatoes Without Poking Holes in the Skin
No one wants to experience a potato explosion in the oven. The pressure inside a sweet (or regular) potato can build up in a hot oven. Pricking small holes in the skin with a fork is an easy way to let that steam escape, avoiding a sweet potato disaster.
Not Checking If the Sweet Potato Is Actually Cooked
There is nothing worse than an undercooked sweet potato. Instead of being tender and moist, it’ll be hard and crunchy. That’s a sure-fire way to ruin Thanksgiving dinner! Since every sweet potato varies in size and thickness, you can’t simply trust that it will cook in 45 minutes. Check for yourself by poking the potato with a fork. If it goes in easily, it’s ready to eat.
Using the Microwave to Cook Sweet Potatoes
This is a tough one, because the microwave is a useful tool for cutting a potato’s cooking time in half. The only problem is the microwave cooks potatoes unevenly, so potatoes remain hard and lumpy in some spots while overly soft in others.
Instead, soften the potatoes in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. Then, transfer them to a 425°F oven and finish cooking for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.
For a real treat, scoop out the pulp and mash it with cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon to make Creamy Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes.
Thinking They’re Only for Thanksgiving Dinner
We love the classic marshmallow-topped sweet potato dish served at holiday dinners, but there are so many fun sweet potato recipes—including breakfast ideas! Don’t be afraid to use sweet potatoes in place of regular potatoes. You can toss ’em on the grill, use them in soups and even turn them into dessert.