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10 Mistakes You Might Be Making with Sweet Potatoes

These tubers are nutritious and delicious! Make sure you're buying, cooking and storing them the right way to get the best flavor.

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Raw sweet potatoes on wooden backgroundAnjelikaGr/Shutterstock

Buying the ones with blemishes and bruises

I’m all about ugly food, don’t get me wrong. But sweet potatoes with cuts, gouges, bruises, and blemishes have already started going bad. You can cut out the bruised parts and cube the rest for roasted side dishes, but they’re not a candidate for any recipe that calls for a whole baked sweet potato.

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Freshly harvested organic sweet potatoes spilling from a burlap bag onto a natural weathered wood table.David Smart/Shutterstock

Storing them in the refrigerator

The worst thing you can do with your 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 you cook them). The best way to store sweet potatoes is to find a cool, dark area and they’ll cook up soft and sweet every time. Learn more food storage guidelines you should know to keep your food at its best.

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Harvesting sweet potatoesQueSeraSera/Shutterstock

Skipping the scrub-and-wash step

You always—always—want to wash the skins before cooking or cutting sweet potatoes. It’s never a bad idea to give them a firm scrubbing with a clean vegetable brush, either. Sweet potatoes do grow in the ground, after all, and you don’t want any of that dirt or grit to end up in your finished dish.

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Sweet potato on Wooden backgroundKarepaStock/Shutterstock

Not eating the skins

A lot of people wonder if sweet potato skins are edible. They are, and you should definitely be eating them! Keeping the skin on concentrates the sweet potato’s nutrients, and it also helps the insides stay moist as the potato cooks.

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Young woman cutting with knife sweet potato into wedges, peels on wood table, sliced carrots, kitchen interior, close upOlinda/Shutterstock

Storing cut sweet potatoes without water

Cutting sweet potatoes in advance is a great way to meal-prep your way to an easier weeknight dinner. You can absolutely cut sweet potatoes a day or two in advance, but make sure to store them in cold water in the refrigerator. Otherwise, they’ll dry out pretty quickly after they’re cut.

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Sweet potato pieTaste of Home

Boiling them for sweet potato pie

Sweet potato pie is a fall staple (one of the benefits of being a superfood you can turn into comfort food)—I’ll even go so far as to say it’s better than pumpkin pie! Many recipes call for boiling or steaming the potatoes to cook them for the filling, but this makes the pie watery. Instead, bake the potato in the oven to concentrate its sweetness.

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Creamy twice baked sweet potatoesTaste of Home

Baking them without poking holes in the skin

I have first-hand witnessed a potato explosion in the oven, and let me tell you: It is not a pretty sight. The pressure inside a sweet (or regular) potato can build up in a hot oven. Pricking small holes in the skins with a fork is an easy way to let that steam escape.

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Oven baked sweet potatoes on vintage wood.Hans Geel/Shutterstock

Using the microwave to cook sweet potatoes

OK, I get it: Baking a sweet potato in the oven can take 45 minutes to an hour, or a mere five minutes in the microwave. The only problem is that the microwave cooks the potato unevenly, remaining hard and lumpy in some spots while overly soft and mushy in others. Luckily, you don’t have to cook sweet potatoes every night; once cooked, they’re good in the refrigerator for up to a week! If you’re in need of fast kitchen tricks, try these brilliant kitchen hacks instead.

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Cranberry walnut sweet potatoesTaste of Home

Not checking if the 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. 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!

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Hasselback sweet potatoTaste of Home

Thinking they’re only for Thanksgiving dinner

Sweet potatoes are so much more than the marshmallow-topped holiday side dish you had growing up. There are so many ways to cook (and eat) sweet potatoes—including for breakfast! Don’t be afraid to use them in place of regular potatoes in your favorite recipes. You can toss ’em on the grill, use them in soups, and even turn them into dessert. Plus, adding this secret ingredient will completely transform sweet potatoes for you.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and a food writer. After graduating from Cascade Culinary school, Lindsay became the Executive Chef at Jackson's Corner in Bend, OR, from 2013 to 2016. Her genuine passion for food and sustainable food practices led her to find the farmer in herself. She lives in Durango, CO, where she enjoys the trials and errors of small plot farming. Lindsay is currently working on a cookbook that teaches home cooks how to craft beautiful meals without a recipe, tentatively titled "The Art of Bricolage: Cultivating Confidence and Creativity in the Kitchen."