How To Pick The Best Bag Of Sweet Potatoes At The Store

After squeezing, prodding, and sniffing your way through stacks of sweet potatoes at the grocery store, it's easy enough to grab any bag and keep rolling. You'll likely end up with good enough produce, but if you take the time, you could ensure always picking the best specimens.

One big tip in finding top-notch tubers is to skip the XL options and choose small or medium potatoes that have a consistent color across their peels. As with any fresh veggie, make sure to give the spud a once-over for signs that it has gone bad — in other words, no squishy or deep brown rotten spots. Also, watch out for cracks on the surface, which can form while the potato is growing and might indicate you've got a dud on your hands.

The colorful root vegetable's season peaks in the fall and winter, but they're easy to find all year. Once you get home, make sure to store them in a cool, dark part of your house. Don't put them in the refrigerator, as this can change their texture and flavor.

Choosing the right sweet potato for your dish

If you bat an eye at sweet potatoes at the store, it might be worth it to take a longer look since there's so much about them to take in and enjoy. Orange-fleshed garnet, white Murasaki, and purple Okinawan are just some of the varieties of sweet potatoes that each boast different flavors and textures, in addition to a rainbow of colors.

Shoppers looking for an orange-hued interior should opt for a Beauregard, jewel, or garnet variety. Beauregards are the most commonly stocked option and are slightly stringier than their counterparts, while garnets — identifiable by their purple peel — retain the most moisture, making them a good choice for pies. Jewels are the least sweet of the three, so they're the best fit for a savory meal.

Tuber fans with less of a sweet tooth may prefer the starchy Murasaki potato. This vegetable also boasts a purple peel, but its interior is a creamy white. The texture is far more crumbly and drier than you might expect in a sweet potato, but it has a mild, nutty sweetness that pairs nicely with other roasted vegetables and grains. Okinawan sweet potatoes, which are different from the purple yam ube, have a honeyed, creamy flavor and are popular in sweet and savory Hawaiian dishes.

Cooking the best possible spuds

Even if you do everything right at the grocery store, you're not home free yet. A top-tier tuber requires thoughtful preparation as well. Boiled, they make a strong base for desserts like cake and mochi, as well as a sweet-savory potato salad.

But to maximize their sugar content, the root veggies thrive in a long roast in the oven. One trick to encourage the caramelization process without sacrificing the flesh's delicate texture is to wrap whole potatoes in foil with a splash of water. This allows you to embrace low and slow cooking, a key to the success when baking these kinds of potatoes.

Though they're lovely topped with a pat of butter and eaten straight from the oven, their fluffy orange interiors are also useful for making gnocchi, mashed potatoes, and even waffles. To draw out its nuttiness, you can also top roasted specimens with tahini. If that's not enough, mix in acid, garlic, ginger, warm spices, scallions, or even miso to punch up the sauce.