Your Oven Rack Position Matters When Baking Sweet Potato Fries

Making fries at home is typically healthier than ordering them in a sit-down restaurant or fast food joint, although McDonald's shoestring fries are quite tempting. Because they're typically drenched and deep-fried in oil, people are often left searching for less artery-clogging ways to make them in their kitchens. One way to accomplish this is by using sweet potatoes instead of russet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber, an antioxidant called beta carotene, and vitamin A — and according to Healthline, they may help with blood sugar regulation and lower cancer risk.

To reduce fat and calories in sweet potato fries even more, try baking them in the oven with around 2 teaspoons of oil per medium-sized potato. Since sugar caramelizes during baking to slightly sweeten the potatoes (hence the name), you can get a little creative with seasonings like cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar — although savory spices like salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika will taste delicious too. 

To make perfectly crispy fries, all you need is a baking sheet and something to line it with — but you'll want to give particular attention to your oven rack position.

Keep your fries near the top of the oven

To begin making sweet potato fries, you'll want to cut your sweet potatoes into fry-shaped sticks. It sounds pretty obvious, but sweet potatoes are notoriously difficult to cut — try poking a few holes and microwaving them first to soften them up a little. Then, toss them with a little oil and the spices of your choosing, lay them out in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, and throw them in the oven. You'll want the oven pretty hot for maximum crispiness at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and they generally need to bake for up to 40 minutes — but make sure to toss them halfway through. 

It's also important that your oven rack is set in the upper third of the oven — so it's not super close to the heat source – as sweet potatoes tend to caramelize much quicker than russet potatoes. Although you'll have to be more careful with your sweet potatoes, their increased cooking speed isn't a bad thing. In fact, a study from Foods concluded that roasting sweet potatoes results in increased caramelization and "an attractive appearance, color, aroma, and taste." Still, if they bake too close to the heat, they can quickly go from golden brown to burnt.

To make sure your sweet potatoes caramelize nice and slow, keep them in the upper third of the oven and check on them occasionally.