Potatoes — whether you prefer russet, red, Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes — are a delicious side to any meal, but they can take a lot of time to cook. Learning how to use the microwave for sweet potato recipes or white potato recipes can make all the difference.
First Off: What’s the Difference?
Before tackling how to properly cook potatoes in the microwave, consider the difference between white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Maybe you've heard sweet potatoes be hailed as the healthier alternative to the white potato.
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Sweet potatoes have slightly fewer calories and carbohydrates than russet potatoes, though they do, as their name would suggest, have a little bit more sugar. Per 100 grams, a russet potato has 94 calories, which derive from 2.6 grams of protein and about 21.4 grams of carbohydrates (with 2.3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar).
According to the USDA, sweet potatoes have 86 calories per 100 grams, and though they have slightly less protein at 1.6 grams, they have 21 grams of carbohydrates with 3 grams of fiber and 4.2 grams of sugar.
You might decide that sweet potatoes are your choice for your next spud-centered recipe. So how do you nuke it in the microwave in a way that's easy but still tasty?
Cooking Potatoes in the Microwave
You might be surprised to learn that, according to the Idaho Potato Commission, cooking a potato in the microwave is a great option because the potato is exposed to heat for a shorter period of time and thus retains more nutrients than it would if it were boiled.
Support for using the microwave as a healthy cooking option for potatoes can be found in numerous studies and reviews. A May 2013 article published in Advances in Nutrition noted that microwaving doesn't reduce a potato's vitamin C content the way boiling does.
Along the same lines, an article published in August 2016 in the Journal of Food Science and Technology pointed out that dehydrating potatoes in the microwave rather than by frying can create a similar structure and texture but with much less fat.
Most recipes that direct you to microwave potatoes — whether white or sweet — will instruct you to prick the potato with a fork to allow moisture to escape in the form of steam, and to wrap the potato in a towel that will absorb that steam.
More information from the Idaho Potato Commission further details that a typical potato from the grocery store (about 11 or 12 ounces) will take five or six minutes to microwave. For every additional potato you put in the microwave, you should add another three or four minutes.
But microwaving a potato whole isn't the only way to go. You can also try to microwave sweet potato cubes or white potato cubes using a microwave-safe dish.
Read more: Disadvantages With Cooking in the Microwave
Microwave Potato Cubes
It's easy to microwave sweet potato cubes or white potato cubes. This tip from the State of Massachusetts on cooking fresh vegetables in the microwave can be used to prepare red, white or sweet potatoes.
Start by washing the potatoes well; then slice them up into cubes and put them in a shallow microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for five minutes, turn the potatoes over, and microwave for another five minutes. You can finish them off with a drizzle of olive oil or a dab of butter and seasonings of your choice.
Being cut into cubes will allow the moisture to escape the potato the same way fork pricks in a whole potato's skin would. This is not an ideal option for making mashed potatoes, per instructions from the United Kingdom's Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. Keeping the potato intact, without scores or piercings, will allow the steam and fluids to build up inside and give you the right texture for mashing.
- Advances in Nutrition: “Innovations in Food Chemistry and Processing to Enhance the Nutrient Profile of the White Potato in All Forms”
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Development of Low Fat Potato Chips Through Microwave Processing”
- UK Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board: “How to Microwave Potatoes”
- Idaho Potato Commission: “Can I Cook Idaho Potatoes in the Microwave”
- USDA: “Russet Potatoes”
- USDA: “Sweet Potatoes”
- Idaho Potato Commission: "How Long Should I Microwave 4 Russet Potatoes That Are Shrink Wrapped?"
- State of Massachusetts: "How to Cook Your Fresh Vegetables in the Microwave"