Should You Be Freezing Your Sweet Potatoes *Before* Cooking Them?
2020 taught us many lessons, including that sometimes life's simple pleasures are the best. From warm, tender homemade sourdough bread to upgraded yet unfussy comfort food à la Ina Garten, what's on our plate can totally transform the day. And it need not be expensive or at a five-star restaurant to do so.
While potatoes and sweet potatoes may not have seen a shortage to the same level of toilet paper, yeast or flour, we certainly have found ourselves cooking with them a lot more in the last 12 months. They last a long time in the pantry, are remarkably versatile (you can latke them, melt them, mash them and more), plus they offer a solid dose of potassium and several vitamins.
During home-cook-a-palooza 2020, we thought we had tried every which way to enjoy a potato. That is, until we stumbled upon this awesome trick from New York City-based chef Lucas Sin. He's currently the lead chef at Junzi, a fast-casual Chinese restaurant, and is on the team at Nice Day, home to American-Chinese takeout fare. He suggests freezing your potatoes prior to baking them for the best results.
"There are few things in life better than whole roasted sweet potatoes. These are Chinese whole roasted sweet potatoes with a couple of tricks. If you're going to do 'em, do 'em properly," Sin explains in an Instagram highlight tutorial of his go-to method inspired by winter food memories as a kid in his native Hong Kong. "It's like the perfect snack. It's also super nutritious."
The key to this spud's appeal is the outside's caramelization and the inside that has a ridiculously fluffy, sweet potato pie-reminiscent texture, Sin explains.
"Freezing crystallizes the water inside the sweet potato without puncturing the skin, in effect macerating the flesh from the inside out," he says. "And high-temp roasting caramelizes the sugars but the skin protects the sugars from burning."
Here's how to make the best sweet potatoes the way "Chinese people have been doing forever," Sin says:
- Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes.
- Freeze for 2 hours.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Place the frozen sweet potatoes on the lined sheet pan and roast for 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
- Check for doneness: Sugar should be bubbling or oozing out and the skin should be pulling away from the flesh. ("They're even tastier if they're spilling all over the paper," Sin says. "You can't really overcook this.")
- Enjoy as is or top with sauce (Sin loves whipped crème fraîche with honey), toasted oats or any of your favorite sweet potato partners.
Related: 26 Vegan Comfort Food Recipes
We aren't the only ones who were inspired by this idea: Since Sin posted this trick a couple of months ago on Instagram, celebrities have direct-messaged him asking for topping inspiration or if they should pierce their sweet potatoes prior to baking. (That's a negative—let those sugars caramelize inside and bubble out on their own.)
"Instagram is a ridiculous place," Sin told Eater, as he laughed about how many new followers he gained for sharing his sweet potato secrets. "I just tell people about Chinese food because I think people should know about it. Now, everyone and their mother are making this sweet potato."
And, with dinner tonight, we can't wait to join the ranks.