Why are Sweet Potatoes So Hard to Cut?

by Charlie
Raw sweet potatoes

Are you looking for healthy carbohydrates to add to your dietary intake? Sweet potatoes are one of the best, nutrient-rich carbohydrates that you can eat. Not to mention they are delicious. Many people shy away from eating sweet potatoes because they can be hard to prepare and cook. 

Unless you want to steam for 30-45 minutes over the stovetop and be left with a mushy potato that is not too appetizing, you are required to peel and cut the sweet potato. Both of which can be difficult, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous. 

Why are sweet potatoes so hard to cut? Sweet potatoes are hard to cut because they are denser than most other fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes are made up of compacted small molecules. Thus, requiring more strength and effort to separate, or cut, through the sweet potato. 

There are tips and tricks that you can use when preparing sweet potatoes to make them much easier to cut through. Continue reading for more information on the sweet potato and tips that will leave you eating these sweet nutritious treats much more frequently. 

Why are Sweet Potatoes So Hard to Cut?

The composition of a sweet potato is much different than the makeup of most other fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables tend to contain large amounts of water and loosely pack molecules. Thus, making them easy to bite or cut into.

Sweet potatoes are made up of tightly packed small molecules – largely consisting of starch. This makes them dense and durable. To cut into sweet potatoes a large amount of strength or effort is needed to break up or cut through the condensed molecules. 

There are some fruits and vegetables that resemble the structure of sweet potatoes, also much harder to cut or bite through. These include: 

  • Carrots 
  • Butternut squash

You may also find that the larger the sweet potato the harder they are to cut. The larger the sweet potato the more small molecules that are closely attached creating a stronger bond among the sweet potato particles. 

Sweet Potatoes High Sugar Content

Part of what makes sweet potatoes so delicious is that we often forget we are even eating a vegetable because they are so sweet. 

This high percentage of sugar within each sweet potato is another component that makes it hard to cut into. Not only are they extremely dense, but also sticky.

There are about 4.2 grams of sugar within every 100 grams of raw sweet potato – that’s about 4% of the entire sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are made up of a sugary sap that sticks to the knife blade as you continue to cut through them. 

How to Soften Sweet Potatoes When Cutting 

Individuals should not feel the need to shy away from cooking nutritious foods because they are hard to prepare. A recent consumer survey found that 20% of young adults shy away from cooking sweet potatoes because they find them difficult to prepare or cook. 

There are different techniques that you can use to make cutting or preparing sweet potatoes an easier task.

One tip or trick that you can use to ease the process of prepping and cooking sweet potatoes is to soften them by parboiling them over the stove. This trick can be used no matter what you are planning to do with your sweet potato – mash, cube, sticks, etc. 

To parboil your sweet potatoes follow these easy steps: 

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes. 
  2. Cut both ends of the sweet potatoes off. 
  3. Fill a saucepot with water and bring to a boil. 
  4. Add your sweet potatoes. 
  5. Reduce to low heat. 
  6. Allow sweet potatoes to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. 

Parboiling your sweet potatoes will soften up the potatoes a bit without actually fully cooking them. Therefore, hopefully making it easier to cut them and prepare them for whatever dish you are making. 

Now you do have to take into consideration that the sweet potatoes are already partially cooked. So the cooking time for your recipe will need to be altered. You will not need to cook the sweet potatoes for the length of time the recipe calls for. 

Other Tips for Cutting Sweet Potatoes 

If you don’t want to parboil your sweet potatoes or if parboiling does not work with what you are planning to make. Here are some tips that will make the sweet potatoes easier to cut: 

  • Poke holes in the sweet potato with a fork and stick in the microwave for about 1-5 minutes, depending on the size
  • Store your sweet potatoes in a cool and dry area, NEVER in the fridge. Refrigerating sweet potatoes makes them even harder, even after cooking. 
  • Make sure you are using a large, sharpened knife 

You can also pre-cut your sweet potatoes to use for later. Sweet potatoes can be cut, placed in cold water, and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Related Questions

Q: What is the healthiest way to cook sweet potatoes? 

A: Boiling sweet potatoes is the healthiest way to cook sweet potatoes. While any preparation of sweet potatoes is healthy, as sweet potatoes are full of beneficial nutrients, boiling preserves the nutrients (92%) more than baking or frying. 

Q: What is the best knife to cut sweet potatoes? 

A: A chef’s knife is the best knife to use to cut sweet potatoes. A chef’s knife is big enough to cut sweet potatoes and sharp enough (when kept sharpened). 

Q: Can you eat the skin of a sweet potato?

A: Sweet potato skins can be eaten. Incorporating the sweet potato skin into your recipe will actually increase the nutrients you receive from the sweet potato. The skin of a sweet potato is high in fiber and antioxidants. 

Final Thoughts

The molecular makeup of sweet potatoes is what makes them so difficult to cut. There are multiple methods to help soften up the sweet potato and make it easier to cut. Don’t count these gems out of your diet just because you find prepping them difficult. 

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