How to Roast Sweet Potatoes That Are Charred on the Outside and Pudding-y in the Middle


How to Roast Sweet Potatoes That Are Charred on the Outside and Pudding-y in the Middle


The only thing better than a good recipe? When something's so easy to make that you don't even need one. Welcome to It's That Simple, a column where we talk you through the process of making the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.

I want to shout my love for sweet potatoes from every corner of this here internet. I don't save them for fall, or for "sweater season," or for Thanksgiving. I eat them on the hottest days of summer and the rainiest days of spring. I don't discriminate between the varieties (though Japanese are the best TBH). I like them steamed, fried, braised, sautéed, and—on most nights of the week—roasted.

It couldn't be much simpler to do and—since my friends regularly text me to ask me my "secrets"—I'm going to lay it all out now. (This one's for you, Mackenzie.) But first, a disclaimer. People seem to be clamoring for "crispy" roasted sweet potatoes, to which I respond, "They don't exist!" I've made plenty of charred, deeply browned roasted sweet potatoes in my life, but none have been crispy or crunchy—you'd need to fry or dehydrate for that.

The best you're going to get is a burnished exterior and a custardy middle, and once you've accepted that reality, you're ready to roast.
Start by heating your oven—I aim for somewhere in the 400° to 450° range regardless of whether I'm roasting the sweet potato whole, halved, or sliced. While the oven comes to temperature, scrub your sweet potato with a vegetable brush or designated sponge (or, worst case scenario, a paper towel). Remember, these tubers were ripped from the ground, after which they spent a fair amount of time hanging out in transit and in your grocery store. They're dirty! Washing the sweet potatoes not only eliminates actual particles of dirt, but it also introduces some moisture to the skin, which prevents it from turning tough or leathery in the high heat of the oven.

How to roast whole sweet potatoes:
If you're going to roast the sweet potato whole—say you're planning split it open and dress it liked a baked potato—coat it in a little olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. This is for taste purposes only, so if you're going to peel the skin off and mash the flesh, don't bother. Stick the potato on a baking sheet in the oven—no need to wrap it or prick it—and cook until it's totally tender: A cake tester should pierce the skin and slide through the soft center. Depending on the size of your potato and the heat of your oven, this can take anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes.

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