Mom’s secret to bake a sweet potato perfectly
Many mothers pass down a heritage of kitchen secrets to their daughters. This would probably be the case in my household if I hadn’t completely renovated my diet to manage my autoimmune disease. My mom’s ancient cookbook binder contains scraps of Danish pastry recipes passed down from her grandmother, and these treats would wreak havoc on my digestive system in all their glory of white flour and powdered sugar.
However, there is one recipe that my mom passed down to me that I will forever treasure: the perfect baked sweet potato. I’ve come to rely on this foolproof method any time I prepare sweet potatoes and now I’ve tailored it for various sizes of potatoes with perfect results.
How I bake a sweet potato
Follow the recipe below to perfectly bake a sweet potato, without having to test and guess when it is done. Here are the methods to the madness:
- Don’t coat the sweet potatoes in or wrap them in foil. This is often required in baked sweet potato recipes, but it is time-consuming and not necessary. I’ve also found that this helps the skin separate from the sweet potato flesh, making it easier to peel and eat after baking.
- Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork before baking. This improves the texture and helps the sweet potato separate from the skin.
- Don’t place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet – put them directly on the oven rack. I’ve found the baking sheet to be unnecessary.
- Place a sheet of foil over the bottom of the oven. This catches any syrup that may drip from the sweet potatoes. Don’t worry, sweet potato juice isn’t going to gush out and dirty your oven, there are just a few drips that turn into charcoal on the foil.
- Leave the sweet potatoes in the oven after turning off the oven. The residual heat continues to cook the sweet potatoes without burning them, so they get exceptionally tender and moist.
This method takes the guesswork out of determining when the sweet potatoes are done. The sweet potato flesh is perfectly tender and it separates from the skin, making it extremely easy to remove the skin.
- Sweet potatoes or yams
- Put a small sheet of foil in the center and bottom of your oven. This will catch any of the syrup that may escape from the sweet potatoes. For easy cleanup, simply remove the foil and throw it away after baking the sweet potatoes. Update a reader does not recommend covering the bottom of the oven with foil, as it may block the vents. This has never happened to me, but I use only a small square directly under the sweet potatoes and not over the entire oven.
- Don't preheat the oven. Prick your sweet potatoes each 2-3 time with a fork, then place them directly on the oven rack in the middle of the oven, above the foil. Turn the oven on to 425.
- Bake for 45 minutes for sweet potatoes/yams that are 2-3 inches in diameter. For sweet potatoes that are up to 4 inches in diameter, bake for an hour. For super large sweet potatoes, bake for an hour and 15 minutes.
- After the time has elapsed, don't open the oven but turn it off. Let the sweet potatoes sit in the oven for at least 30 minutes but up to an hour. Remove from the oven and eat immediately, or remove the skin and store in a container in the fridge.