For The Absolute Best Baked Sweet Potato, Freeze Them First

The best baked sweet potatoes are characteristically sweet and distinctly fragrant with some smoky and caramelized notes. When it comes to texture, the spud may either be fluffy or creamy depending on the variety, but what they shouldn't be is waterlogged, unevenly cooked, or leathery. So how do you achieve this culinary feat with a simple bake? The secret is to freeze the sweet potatoes before they hit the oven. Granted, out of the many sweet potato recipes on the internet, freeze-baking might be the most unconventional. And to think you'll need several hours to first freeze and then bring those frigid root veggies back to temperature before they even start cooking — it sounds like too much trouble. But take it from us, it's worth the extra steps and time. 

First, freezing makes the water content in the spuds expand, leading to ruptured cell walls, which results in nice soft-textured potatoes after thawing. Secondly, the lower temperature supports the development of sweet flavors. You see, the enzyme amylase, which converts potato starch into simple sugars called maltose, works effectively in temperatures between 135 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. By freezing the sweet potatoes before baking, we're giving the spuds a chance to busk in this optimal lower temperature long enough for the enzyme to work its magic. Furthermore, the maltose compound goes on to produce volatile elements responsible for the delightful aromas of baked sweet potatoes.

How to freeze-bake sweet potatoes

The process of freezing and then baking sweet potatoes takes time, but the good thing is that most of it is hands off. Begin by washing the spuds and drying them, then place them in the freezer for at least three hours. Once frozen solid, remove the potatoes and arrange them on a baking sheet wrapped individually in aluminum foil. At this point, you can add aromatics or other flavorings and seasonings as you desire.

Bake the sweet potatoes in a preheated oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 2 hours, or until fork tender, then crank up the heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, unwrap the sweet potatoes, and let cook for about 40 more minutes. At this elevated temperature, the simple sugars in the spuds undergo caramelization, and the potatoes char slightly, leading to delightful smoky notes in the spuds. Once ready, let cool, add your preferred sweet potato toppings, and serve. Alternatively, you can bake your sweet potatoes even slower by placing the frozen spuds in a cold oven and letting them heat up slowly to the set temperature. All in all, this freeze-bake cooking method leads to a deliciously sweet, irresistibly soft, and incredibly fragrant sweet potato dish.