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Sweet potatoes are a classic side dish full of nutrients and benefits. This versatile root vegetable takes many forms: mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, breakfast potatoes and so on.
Though the final result is delicious, making sweet potatoes can be a time-consuming task — baking a sweet potato can take nearly an hour.
When you’re in a time crunch, there is a way to cook your sweet potatoes faster. The trick is to partially cook them: Boiling sweet potatoes before baking them can cut back on overall cooking time.
According to celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon, here is how to pre-cook sweet potatoes so they cook faster.
Step 1: Prepare the Sweet Potatoes
The USDA recommends choosing sweet potatoes that have a deep orange flesh and good shape and size. For this method, opt for larger sweet potatoes over smaller ones.
When dealing with fresh produce, the Food and Drug Administration advises beginning by washing your hands for 20 seconds and rinsing fruits and vegetables under plain running water. You may need a scrub brush to loosen dirt when washing dirty potatoes.
Step 2: Chop the Potatoes
Using a sharp knife and cutting board, chop the sweet potatoes into cubes. This encourages them to cook faster.
Step 3: Bring Water to a Boil
To pre-cook sweet potatoes before baking them, you’ll need to boil them in a large saucepan. Poon advises using enough water to cover the potatoes but not overflow the pan.
Step 4: Boil the Sweet Potato Cubes
When the water reaches a boil, add the sweet potato cubes to the saucepan. Reduce the heat slightly and boil them for about 10 minutes.
Boiling sweet potatoes for 10 minutes does not fully cook them. Whole sweet potatoes need to be boiled for 35 to 40 minutes until they are tender, per the United States Sweet Potato Council.
Step 5: Strain the Potatoes
After 10 minutes, carefully remove the saucepan from heat. Use a colander to strain the sweet potato cubes.
Step 6: Dry the Sweet Potato Cubes
If the sweet potato cubes are too wet, they will steam in the oven instead of roast.
Line a large sheet pan with paper towels. Place the strained sweet potatoes on the towel-lined baking sheet. The paper towels will absorb the moisture from the sweet potatoes.
Step 7: Preheat the Oven
While the sweet potatoes are drying, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 8: Season the Sweet Potatoes
While the oven is preheating, prepare the sweet potatoes. Remove the paper towels from the baking sheet, leaving just the potato cubes. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil and season them with herbs and spices.
Poon recommends sea salt, garlic and rosemary.
Step 9: Bake the Sweet Potatoes
Considering the sweet potatoes have been pre-cooked, they only need to bake for about 15 minutes in the oven. Toss halfway through to encourage even browning.
You’ll know the sweet potato cubes are done cooking when they are brown around the edges and soft on the inside, Poon says.
Step 10: Remove, Let Cool and Serve
When the sweet potatoes are done cooking, carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven with an oven mitt. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to let it cool.
Let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving them as a side dish to savory meals.