With many vegetables, using a microwave tends to give you inferior results compared to other cooking methods. Yams (or what are colloquially called yams in the U.S., but which are in fact sweet potatoes), are not among them, so you can enjoy the speed and convenience of microwave cooking without compromising texture or flavor. A medium sized sweet potato can be fully cooked to soft, mashable perfection in as little as 5 minutes. It makes a delicious, nutritionally rich side dish on its own, or is a great ingredient in a wide variety of main meals.
Preparing Sweet Potatoes for the Microwave
Getting sweet potatoes ready for the microwave couldn't be easier. Scrub them clean under running water, then pat the potatoes dry with a kitchen towel. Poke them with a sharp knife to pierce the skin in four or five places, and place the sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate. If you're microwaving several sweet potatoes, arrange them on the plate so that there's a little space between them. If they don't all fit on the plate without crowding, microwave them in batches.
Microwaving One Sweet Potato
One medium-size sweet potato should take about 5 minutes to fully cook in the microwave on the highest power setting. Add or subtract a few minutes for larger or smaller than average yams. Also add a minute or two if you're cooking firmer, pale-fleshed sweet potatoes rather than the softer, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, known commonly as yams. For a single, medium sweet potato, microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, turn it over, and microwave it again for another 2 to 3 minutes. Poke a knife or fork into the middle of the sweet potato – if it's soft all the way through, it's done. If there's still some resistance in the middle of the yam, give it another 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave before testing it again, and repeat if necessary.
Microwaving Several Sweet Potatoes
With several medium sweet potatoes, add 2 extra minutes to the average 5-minute cooking time for every additional potato after the first. If the sweet potatoes are different sizes, remove the smaller ones as soon as they're cooked and continue to cook the larger ones in increments of 1 to 2 minutes more.
Microwaving Sliced Sweet Potatoes
You can make healthy, fat-free, crispy sweet potato chips in the microwave. Slice sweet potatoes, peeled or not, as thinly as possible, preferably using a mandoline. Arrange them on a sheet of parchment paper in a single layer, and microwave them on high for 4 minutes. Season the chips with salt or other seasonings of your choice.
Par-cook sweet potato wedges or cubes in the microwave before roasting, baking or sauteing to cut down on the total cooking time. Arrange the cut-up sweet potato pieces on a microwave-safe plate and microwave them on high for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. Test them with a knife – they should be softened but still firm.
Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. As a specialist in all things food and drink, she has penned pieces for Livestrong, Robert Mondavi and Modern Mom, among other names. She found her first jobs in a series of kitchens before moving on to celebrate food via the written word. Thomas resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.