How to perfectly cook a sweet potato in the microwave

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In the thick of the pandemic, I discovered a burner on my stove had a gas leak. (2020, amiright?) With my oven taking an early retirement and an appliance shortage creating a long waitlist for a replacement, I started relying on my other kitchen appliances to pick up the slack.

Among the things I learned: You can make a darn good sweet potato in the microwave. While it takes about an hour to bake a sweet potato, the microwave can get the job done in under 10 minutes.

Making sweet potatoes on the fly is a good trick to know, because these nutrient-packed potatoes can make a quick weeknight side dish or even main meal. (I love this loaded vegetarian sweet potato recipe.) Then, come Thanksgiving, if you’re short on oven space while the turkey and green bean casserole cook, you can cook the sweet potatoes for your sweet potato pie in the microwave.

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We asked chef Rebekah Ziesmer with Ready Set Eat, a recipe site that works with Conagra Brands, how to perfectly microwave a sweet potato. Here are her chef-approved tips:

  • Don’t use the “potato” pre-set button on your microwave. This setting is intended for a more starchy white potato. Chances are this will lead to an either undercooked or overcooked potato.
  • Wash the sweet potato, and scrub it well if you like to eat the skin, then completely dry the potato with a towel. Use a fork to prick the potato in several places. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 4 minutes. Turn the potato over and microwave another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of your potato. You’ll know it’s done when you can stick a knife through the middle without any resistance.
  • Slice the potato in half and add a pat of butter. If you’re plant-based, you can use one of Earth Balance’s buttery spreads.
  • For a sweet and savory combo, add a little salt, brown sugar and cinnamon, mash with a fork, and microwave another 30 seconds.
  • Like a crispy potato? Ziesmer recommends spraying an olive-oil-based cooking spray like Pam olive oil spray pump on your potato’s skin before microwaving. Five pumps around the sweet potato will do the trick. Or, the Kitchn recommends sliding a cooked potato under the broiler until the skin is dry and crisp.

I’ve also been making mashed sweet potatoes by forking out the sweet potato flesh from the microwaved potato and use a potato masher to mash it with butter and Maldon sea salt flakes.

What other side dishes have you perfected in the microwave?

Food, Life Hacks, Tips & Advice
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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. Visit Scripps News to see more of Brittany's work.

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