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Yams, not to be confused with sweet potatoes, are naturally sweet tubers. Many cooks use a variety of fresh spices, herbs and even syrup to season and enhance their flavor. Yams are actually not related to sweet potatoes. They do, however, share a similar sweetness and texture depending on the cooking method. Great as snacks and side dishes, you can learn how to cook yams effortlessly in your kitchen.
How to Buy the Best Yams
Buying yams is not as simple as shopping for other vegetables. Yams and sweet potatoes can look remarkably alike and some even share an orange-colored flesh. They are both tubular and have brown skin. However, yams have darker skin that sweet potatoes do. They also have more moisture and have a slippery texture when sliced. Because you can’t dissect yams in the store to check, it is best to ask your grocer.
There are other ingredients to consider when learning how to cook yams. Because yams can be starchy, you need to be careful about the seasoning you use. Candied yams can be delicious, but are not good for your weight. Adding syrup and sugar should be done in strict moderation. It is healthier to season your yams with cinnamon, nutmeg and unsalted butter.
How to Cook Yams
You can cook yams by either boiling or baking them. However, many cooks find yams more flavorful when they are first boiled and then baked. You will need:
- 5-6 fresh yams
- Olive oil or unsalted butter as needed
- Salt, pepper and other seasonings of your choice
Learning how to cook yams does not take much time or effort. To boil, add unpeeled yams into a large pot. You can use two pots if they overcrowded. Fill the pot with water to cover yams.
Boil the yams until they are tender. Pierce the yam skins with a fork or knife. If they slide in easily, they are done. Drain the water and leave to dry and cool.
Peel the skin off the yams gently. Cut the yams into slices about 1/2 –inch thick.
Line a baking tray with aluminum foil or brush with a little olive oil or butter. Arrange the peeled yams on the tray.
Bake the yams at 200 C for 15-20 minutes or until the flesh is a darker color and soft. Remove from heat, sprinkle seasoning and serve.
Yams Cooking Tips
If you don’t boil the yams first, it will take a bit longer for them to bake. Extend the cooking time to 20-30 minutes, shaking the baking tray around every 10 minutes so they don’t stick to the bottom. Alternatively, you can boil them in water, and peel and season after they are cooked.
If you prefer using the microwave, slice the yams into bite-sized chunks and add a tablespoon or two of cooking oil or unclarified butter into a microwave-friendly dish. Cook at 2-minute intervals, checking if the flesh is tender with a knife. When cooked, season and serve as a side dish.
You may also want to see how purple yam is cooked as a dessert dish. This ube halaya recipe is a good example.