Avoid The Refrigerator To Preserve The Flavor Of Sweet Potatoes

You have to admit, sweet potatoes are impressive. They can do everything regular potatoes can — mash, gratin, fries, chips, baked, scalloped, what have you — and also work as a dessert. And as a relatively cheap yet nutritionally dense commodity, it's not uncommon to end up buying a whole bunch of them at a time. But once you bring them home from the store, think twice before putting them in the refrigerator.

The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and your refrigerator is probably set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When refrigerated, sweet potatoes can start to taste bad and get too firm in the center. 

The good news is that raw sweet potatoes have a pretty long shelf life if stored properly, in a low-heat, low-moisture area with ample airflow. Under those conditions, they can last up to about a month. Just be sure not to wash them before storing, as the added moisture could cause them to go bad more quickly.

Cooked sweet potatoes need to be refrigerated

The important caveat here is that all of the above only applies to raw sweet potatoes. Once cooked in any way, sweet potatoes need to go in the fridge, in an airtight container, where they can stay for up to a week.

When you're ready to reheat your cooked sweet potatoes, simply microwave them in 30-second bursts, checking the temperature after each, until they're heated through. This is useful to keep in mind if you're someone who likes to prep your meals in advance for quick weekday lunches and dinners.

You can also warm them in the oven, which is ideal if you're hoping to re-crisp potatoes that have been baked or fried. Spread the leftover potatoes out on a baking sheet, or in the case of whole baked sweet potatoes, you can place them directly on the baking racks. Reheat at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until heated through (about 10 to 15 minutes).

Mashed sweet potatoes are generally best reheated on the stovetop — when microwaved, they may start to become an unpleasantly pasty texture. Place them in a small pot over low heat and stir periodically to make sure they heat evenly.

Freeze cooked sweet potatoes to preserve them longer

If you don't have a cool, dark, dry spot to store them, or you just have far more sweet potatoes than you can reasonably eat within a month, the good news is that they can be frozen once they're cooked. Raw sweet potatoes don't preserve very well in the freezer, so you'll need to prepare them first.

In most cases, you can prepare the sweet potatoes as you normally would, then cool and store them in a freezer-safe container. For whole baked potatoes, wrap them in aluminum foil before storing in a freezer bag. You can also boil and slice them before freezing, for an already-prepped, easy-to-work-with ingredient later on. Sprinkle them with a bit of lemon juice before freezing to keep them from becoming discolored.

If you want to freeze mashed sweet potatoes, however, there's one important difference from how you would usually prepare them. Leave out the dairy (you can always add it back in later when reheating them) and instead mix in a teaspoon of lemon juice to avoid discoloration. If you don't think the mashed sweet potatoes are going to be eaten all at once, consider freezing them in smaller, serving-sized containers so you can avoid reheating and refreezing the whole batch multiple times.

Frozen sweet potatoes (regardless of how they're cooked) tend to keep in the freezer for up to a year. Write down the date that you're making and freezing the potatoes on the outside of the container so it doesn't become an unidentified frozen object later.