In the United States grocery stores, orange-flesh sweet potatoes are usually called yams to differentiate them from the pale variety that has a light yellow skin and flesh. The orange-flesh sweet potato (yam) is available year round but peaks in winter. When purchasing, look for small to medium sweet potatoes that have smooth skin and are firm and free of soft spots. Store whole unpeeled sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week (do not refrigerate or they will dry out).
Tip: One pound of sweet potatoes equals about 2 medium sweet potatoes or 2 3/4 cups cubed.
Before using, scrub the sweet potatoes with a clean produce brush and rinse with cool water. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel sweet potatoes. Using a knife, cut off any woody portions and ends. Cut into bite-size cubes.
Select a saucepan or Dutch oven that will be large enough to hold the sweet potatoes without crowding them. Fill the pot about half full (you will need just enough water to cover the sweet potatoes) and add a dash of salt. Bring to boiling. Add sweet potatoes. Cover the pan and cook sweet potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender on the outside but resistant in the center when pierced with a knife. For soft, tender sweet potatoes, cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
Place a colander in the sink. Remove the lid from the pan and carefully pour the sweet potatoes into the colander. Drain off the water. Set sweet potatoes aside until cool enough to handle or run cold water over them to quick-cool. For an easy side dish, toss cooked sweet potato cubes with butter, salt, and pepper, and serve. Or use the cooked cubes in salads, tacos, soups and stews, and casseroles. You can also mash the cubes to make mashed sweet potatoes or to use as an ingredient in cakes, breads, pies, and savory dishes.