I’ve never chewed on leather, but I imagine it’s a similar experience to eating overdone sweet potato skins. It boggles my mind how roasting those delicious root vegetables could result in such a creamy, tender inside yet a tough (arguably inedible) exterior. Still, the idea of scooping out sweet orange flesh and abandoning the nutrient-rich hull, seems like such a waste.
Turns out, there’s a better way! Perfectly done skins begin in a cool oven, says the woman who literally wrote the book on sweet potatoes, Mary-Frances Heck: "Starting the sweet potatoes in a cool oven, whenever possible, warms the flesh slowly and evenly without turning the skin into inedible jerky," she writes. Instead of preheating the oven while you prep, place your root-filled baking sheet directly in the oven, then set it to 350°F.
You want to keep your sweet potatoes in the oven even after they look tender—ideally an hour (and two hours for very large ones!). You’ll know they’re ready when the skins collapse and caramelized juice bubbles from the sweet potatoes’ ends, which makes Heck’s second roasting tip so handy: Always line the baking sheet or dish with foil or parchment, since the caramelized juices can be extremely difficult to clean. Once they've rested and juices stop flowing (about five minutes), they're ready to eat!
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Now that I know how to get the best of sweet potatoes, inside and out, I’m dreaming of all the ways I can enjoy the humble root. Here are some recipes to get you started: