Naturally sweet and easy to prepare, sweet potatoes are a delicious, healthy addition to the evening meal. Only a few simple steps are required to bake a sweet potato to perfection.
First, make sure to select sweet potatoes that are free of splits and soft spots. If you are not going to cook them right away, make sure to store them in a cool dry place away from excess heat.
When you are ready to bake your sweet potatoes, decide whether you wish to bake them in the oven or the microwave. Oven baking takes longer but can be worth the time, as it brings out more of the vegetable’s natural sweet flavor.
For either method, start by scrubbing the skin thoroughly with cool water and a gentle scrubbing brush such as a fingernail brush. Make sure to remove any visible dirt and growths such as eyes. Pat dry with a paper towel. Now you are ready to cook your sweet potato.
To oven bake:
1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prick the skin of the sweet potato a few times with a knife or fork to allow steam to escape as it cooks.
2) Either wrap the sweet potato in aluminum foil or place it on a cookie sheet.
3) Place the sweet potato in the oven and bake for 45 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife can slide easily into the flesh without meeting resistance.
To bake in the microwave:
1) Prick the skin with a fork or a knife as for oven baking. Wrap loosely in a paper towel.
2) Cook on high for 8-10 minutes. Or, if your microwave has a baked potato setting, start by cooking the sweet potato for one cycle.
3) Test for doneness as suggested for oven baking above. If more time is needed, start with 1-minute intervals on high, testing at the end of each interval.
With either cooking method, remember to BE CAREFUL when removing the sweet potato from the oven or microwave. Freshly-baked potatoes are very hot and may still be releasing steam at the end of cooking time, so be sure to use an oven mitt or other protective method when handling.
Once your sweet potato is done, you can slice it in half and eat it with any condiment you desire. Or the cooked flesh can be scooped out of the peel and mashed, sliced, or used in recipes.
If you are baking your sweet potato for use in a recipe that calls for mashed, chopped, or sliced baked sweet potato, plunging the potato into ice water after cooking will make it easier to peel.
From a health standpoint, sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A, C, and B6, and possess healthy antioxidant properties. A 3.5oz (100g) sweet potato contains approximately 90 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber, and 1.6 grams of protein. Other benefits include complex carbohydrates, low fat content, and natural sweetness. These properties make sweet potatoes a great choice as a side dish or even part of a main course.