Baking brings out the sweetness in yams and is the traditional method of cooking them. This bright-orange root vegetable is packed with antioxidants, vitamin A, and fiber. Whether you bake whole yams in their skins, or peeled and chopped, they’re a breeze to make.

Whole Yams

The easiest way to bake yams is in their skins. Wash and scrub them thoroughly, and cut a small slit in the skins. When yams are baked, the insides tend to ooze out, which can make a mess at the bottom of the oven and produce smoke. To avoid this, place the yams on a baking pan or wrap them tightly in foil. Some cooks recommend coating the outside of the yam in butter or wrapping a strip of bacon around it before wrapping it in foil.

The length of time it takes to bake a yam depends on its size and the oven temperature. Baking the yam at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour is a good rule of thumb. Smaller yams may only take 45 minutes, but larger-than-average ones may take as long as 1 1/2 hours.

If you’re baking something else simultaneously that requires a higher temperature, reduce the yam’s cooking time by 10 to 15 minutes. To tell if it’s done, stab it with a fork, which should go in very easily.

Serve the yam with butter plus pure maple syrup or a little salt and pepper.

Peeled Yams

Surprisingly, peeled and chopped yams need to bake for almost as long as whole ones. The main advantage to preparing yams this way is that you can add other ingredients like butter, honey, brown sugar, pineapple, apples, raisins, marshmallows, and ground nuts. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice also provide complementary flavors.

Cover the yams so they retain their moisture, and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. If you’re going for more savory and less sweet, coat the yams in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then bake uncovered at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour, or until slightly browned and crispy.