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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

The Best Way to Bake a Sweet Potato in the Microwave



Cooking sweet potatoes in the oven? Ain't nobody got time for that!
Cooking sweet potatoes in the oven? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Many of us turn our nose up at the idea of using a microwave as the primary method of cooking anything. “Microwaves should be used for reheating food and reheating alone,” you might say.

Not so! Sure, some use their microwaves for cooking bacon and sausages. It’s an easy way to scramble an egg badly. Yes, they are machines that many are overly reliant upon.

However, the microwave does have applications other than just reheating leftovers.

There are plenty of other foods that you can cook in quickly and easily in a microwave when you’re in a rush. Isn’t it wonderful to have such a machine to accommodate our busy 21st Century lifestyles?

How does a microwave cook food?

Microwaves direct electromagnetic radiation to the tiny water molecules within a food, exciting them enough to generate heat energy.

Don’t worry, though. Microwave radiation is on the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum, so the waves aren’t nearly high energy enough to give you cancer.

Did you know Teflon cookware could be hazardous? See why you might want to switch to ceramic non-stick cookware.

The microwaves within the machine bounce back and forth off reflective metal walls until they reach the food. During the process, the food rotates within the microwave to ensure even cooking. Many foods can be cooked in the microwave from scratch—it doesn’t need to just be reheating. One such food is the sweet potato.

You can make delicious baked sweet potatoes using your microwave, and you’ll have results akin to those of the traditional oven, but in less than half the time.

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With the oven, you have to preheat, and the cooking process itself is about another 30 minutes. Who has time for that these days? Nobody. So, follow these easy steps to make the perfect baked sweet potato in less than 10 minutes.

Microwaved Baked Sweet Potato

You can't even tell it wasn't cooked in the oven!
You can’t even tell it wasn’t cooked in the oven!

Before microwaving a sweet potato, you should first scrub the potato until it is definitely clean. Root vegetables need extra cleaning, having come from the earth. Clean the sweet potatoes with cool water and use a scrub brush to ensure you remove all the dirt and debris off the surface of the potato. You want to be thorough here especially if you are someone that loves the skin of the potato.

Next, pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork. This is really important. When you microwave a sweet potato, steam gathers between the flesh and the skin. If you don’t pierce it 8 or 10 times, your potato is going to explode in the microwave! You only need to break the skin, so don’t force your fork too deep inside the potato. You can get the same results by cutting a large X shape on the top.

Take a damp paper towel and loosely wrap your sweet potato in it. Make sure you don’t rip the paper towel. The paper towel will create a steaming effect on the baked sweet potato, making for a soft and fluffy inside and preventing it from shrinking.

It also ensures that the sweet potato remains moist and doesn’t dry out during the cooking process. The skin will remain softs, and the potato won’t shrink as much.

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Never, ever use aluminum foil as a substitute for a paper towel. Aluminum will deflect the microwaves away from the potato and send sparks flying around the inside.

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Cook your sweet potato in the microwave for 4 minutes on full power. After 4 minutes, turn it over and cook for another 4 minutes. Afterward, poke it with a fork to test its softness. Depending on the size of the potato and how many you’re making, it should be ready about now. If not, put it back in for 2 or 3 minutes.

To be safe, you can continue to cook the potato for a minute at a time so you can check it and avoid overcooking it.

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Microwaving Sweet Potato Chips

If you would rather have chips, you can also do this in the microwave just as effectively as baking the whole sweet potato. Some feel that they just can’t get the desired crispness they want when they bake the sweet potato chips in the oven, so more and more people are turning to the microwave to get them just how they want them.

Wash and dry the sweet potatoes as you would if you were cooking them whole. Thinly slice them and place them in a bowl with a bit of olive oil to coat them. You can then arrange the slices on a microwave-safe plate and season them with salt.

The chips should be cooked in the microwave until they are dry and crisp. They will also become slightly browned. Once done, let the sweet potato chips cool before you move them to a bowl.

Continue this process until all the slices have been cooked. When placing them on a plate, you want a single layer so it may require a few rounds in the microwave to cook off all the slices from the potatoes you cut.

The chips should be in the microwave on high for approximately 2 and a half minutes to four minutes. You will want to keep an eye on them though to make sure they don’t brown too much. Check on them every two minutes or so. The time may vary depending on how thinly or thickly you cut the sweet potato.

Instead of olive oil, some used coconut oil instead. You can also add a touch of maple syrup and a pinch of cayenne for even more flavor. You could alternatively top the chips with rosemary and sea salt or add a few pinches of chili powder or cumin.

Serve however you like!

When fully cooked, remove the sweet potato from the paper towels. Cut in half and add a spoon of sour cream and some chopped spring onion. There you have it! A healthy, delicious snack for those with a time-is-money life. Try adding some bacon and sweet corn for a little more substance.

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A baked sweet potato is easy to make and easy to fit in between shifts in the office and activities at home. It also makes a great side dish to serve at a party or BBQ (here are some other great BBQ appetizers). And to think, you thought the microwave couldn’t cook up a delicious meal!

Can’t get enough potatoes? Check out this post on how to use a hand mixer for the fluffiest mashed potatoes. Or, perhaps you’d like to know how to make gnocchi!

Got a pocket of potatoes you want to keep fresh? Here’s my how to guide to keep potatoes from rotting. Then make it easier on yourself next time you peel a potato with the best potato peeler for home kitchens.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: iris and Miriam K.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Bryce Heitman

Bryce is not a real professor, but he's real nerdy in the kitchen. He's been barbecuing, chopping, and generally blazing food for many decades. He thinks there's definitely a better spatula or utensil out there that hasn't been invented yet.

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