While baked marshmallow-coated sweet potatoes might be a traditional holiday favorite, there's other great ways to prepare and incorporate sweet potatoes into dishes that are worth exploring. We'll take a quick look here at frying, grilling, and smoking sweet potatoes, which might give you some new cooking ideas or add some flavor and excitement to one of your favorite holiday ingredients.
Sweet Potatoes or Yams?
Before we get into ways of cooking sweet potatoes, let's talk about some terminology. If you live in the United States and you go to the market to buy sweet potatoes but they only have yams, that's okay. Americans use these terms interchangeably and, in most cases, they refer to the same thing. If you are outside the United States and you buy a yam, it's likely that you did not actually buy a sweet potato. There are varieties of both but, generally speaking, sweet potatoes are yellow or orange with pointy ends. A true yam is dark brown or black and looks more like a potato. In fact, a yam is neither a distant relative of the regular potato nor the sweet potato.
Assuming you've bought sweet potatoes (even if what you bought was called a yam), here's some things to keep in mind before you start cooking. First of all, remember that your sweet potatoes need to be washed very well. If you choose to leave the skins on, which contain some extra flavor and vitamins, you'll need to scrub the skin and remove any bruises.
Next, one of the worst things you can do to a sweet potato is to boil it. Boiling removes most of the abundant nutrients and removes the flavor. Baking sweet potatoes is a much better choice. Of course, if you want to match up your turkey side dish with how you cooked the turkey, you can grill, smoke, or fry sweet potatoes, too.
Frying Sweet Potatoes
Frying Sweet Potatoes is just like frying potatoes. Cut the sweet potato into thin slices or French fries. You want the hot oil to brown and crisp the surface while the center is cooked through. Try to do this quickly so the sweet potato doesn't soak up the oil. When frying, the thickness of your pieces matters quite a bit. Usually, you'll get the best frying results with a 1/4 inch thick piece. It should only take about 5 minutes to fry up a batch of sweet potato fries. If you deep fried your turkey, you can fry your sweet potatoes in the same oil while it is still hot.
Grilling Sweet Potatoes
Grilling Sweet Potatoes is just like grilling regular potatoes. First, cut the sweet potatoes into small pieces, maybe quarters, cut lengthwise. Next, brush the pieces with olive oil and grill over medium to high heat until they brown on the outside and can be easily pierced with a fork. You can marinate the sweet potatoes in an oil and herb mixture to add additional flavors. Alternatively, you could top them with a light dressing after they are cooked. Basting fries with a nice sauce, like a butter, lime, and tequila mixture, allows you to get a nice flavor and keeps them from drying out.
Smoking Sweet Potatoes
Smoking sweet potatoes is similar to baking them, just at a low temperature. If you are smoking your turkey and have room in the smoker, this is a great way to go. For a great smoked sweet potato, you can simply pile the slices in a large skillet with some butter, brown sugar, herbs, and spices. The sweet potatoes will absorb some of the smoke flavor while they cook, which will pair well with your smoked turkey.
Our Favorite Flavors
Sweet potatoes go well with many different types of flavors and aromas, so don't be afraid to experiment. Some of our favorite additions to fried, grilled, or smoked sweet potatoes include lime, rosemary, garlic, butter, honey, brown sugar, oregano, and even tequila. With so many options for flavoring your sweet potatoes, it can be helpful to choose your flavors based on what you think will pair the best with the main dish and other sides.