Oven-roasted sweet potatoes with a caramelized crust of flavor. The trick to nailing the perfect taste and texture is easier than you think. Just grab a roll of foil because it will be a game-changer.
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Oven-roasted potatoes are a simple side dish with just a few simple ingredients. The thick rounds of tubers are first tossed in olive oil and savory seasonings. It’s essential that the vegetable is consistent in shape for even cooking.
Covering the slices for the first part of cooking steams the interiors, creating a creamy texture. The final step is to remove the foil to develop the most delicious, naturally sweet, slightly crisp crust. The contrasting textures will have everyone raving about it.
How to roasted sweet potatoes
- Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease with oil.
- Wash and peel sweet potatoes, then cut them into ¾-inch rounds.
- Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and seasonings.
- Place potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Cover potatoes with foil.
- Bake at 425ºF (218ºC) for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake until the bottoms are golden brown.
- Flip the potatoes and bake until golden brown on both sides.
- Cool for 10 minutes, then serve and garnish with thyme.
Perfecting the cut
The easiest way to ensure that the sweet potatoes are cooked consistently, void of undesirable burnt edges, is to cut them into cylindrical pieces. These types of potatoes contain more sugar than typical spuds, so preventing charring is critical.
As long as the thickness is the same from piece to piece, the diameter of the potato can range without much impact on the final taste and texture. A round shape, about ¾-inches thick, provides just the right ratio of creamy interiors to a beautiful golden crust.
Should the sweet potatoes be peeled?
Yes! Sweet potatoes have a relatively thin outer skin which can be eaten when roasted. However, caramelization will not occur around the entire potato with the skin left on. For the best eating experience, pull out the peeler when roasting smaller pieces. I prefer to leave the skin on when making whole-baked sweet potatoes.
Keep the seasonings simple
To accentuate the candied-like flavor inherent in sweet potatoes, all that’s needed is garlic powder, salt, and pepper. A toss in olive oil adds a touch of earthiness while preventing some from sticking to the pan. The oil also helps the crust form more effectively towards the end of cooking.
Don’t preheat the oven!
The key to coaxing out more sweetness from the potatoes is to start cooking them in a cold oven. This may sound strange, but it comes down to converting starch to sugars. The goal is to gradually increase the internal temperature of the flesh to allow more sugars to be created. According to Cook’s Illustrated, this change occurs between 135 to 175ºF (57 to 79ºC) and halts past that limit.
Heating the oven to 425 degrees and progressively elevating the temperature guarantees sweeter spuds. Imagine shoving the baking sheet in an already screaming hot oven. The starches would stick around instead of changing. I noticed that after about 30 minutes of roasting, the potatoes already hit the upper limit, and were soft and honeyed.
Cover and steam
To extend the sugar conversion process, cook the sweet potatoes tightly covered in foil. This steams them by releasing moisture from their cell walls as they cook. This process eliminates the need to parboil the sweet potatoes before roasting. In 30 minutes, they will soften, but the texture is underwhelming. It’s time for the last phase!
Then uncover and roast
Once the starches convert to a mix of sucrose, fructose, glucose, and maltose from the steaming process. Exposing the slices to the dry heat towards the end of cooking elevates the surface temperatures.
Any sucrose present will begin to caramelize between 320 to 350ºF (160 to 177ºC) and form a wonderful crust. Those caramelized sugars will slightly harden as it cools down, making each bite a bit crisp.
I serve this with
Watch for the caramelization
The most simple cue is visual change. The surface will go from bright orange to golden brown and look drier. It will be glossy and feel slightly sticky. It’s important to keep an eye on the potatoes as they are flipped. Beyond 350ºF (117ºC), sugars quickly turn deep amber color to a blackened appearance with a burnt flavor.
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Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Prepare the Pan – Line a large baking sheet with foil. Grease with olive oil, spreading into an even layer to prevent sticking.
- Prepare the Potatoes – Wash and peel the sweet potatoes, trim off the ends, and cut them into ¾" thick rounds.
- Toss with Seasonings – In a large bowl, evenly coat the sweet potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, and black pepper, and stir to combine.
- Roast – Add the slices to the baking sheet in a single layer, then tightly cover with foil. Set the oven rack to the center position. Place the tray inside and heat to 425ºF (218ºC). Roast for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the top layer of foil and discard.Continue to roast until the pieces turn golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and carefully flip the potatoes. Finish roasting until the top and bottoms are golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cool the Potatoes – Cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring them to a serving platter. Garnish with chopped thyme and serve warm.
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