Breakfast with a side of marketing gimmicks
EC: What's the Deal with Microwavable Sweet Potatoes?
Credit: Photo by Crystal Weddington / EyeEm via Getty Images

It’s no secret that our culture is all about quick and easy methods. The less effort a task requires, the better… right? Well, not always. For example, plastic-wrapped microwavable sweet potatoes have become standard items in many grocery stores. These individually wrapped spuds can be found nestled near the bare sweet potatoes, boasting higher price tags and shiny outfits. So when it comes to things like food preparation, techniques that seem the most convenient are sometimes the most questionable. Plus, one can’t help but wonder if they are full of marketing gimmicks designed by people who literally make them for a living. So let's talk about what's up with microwaving a sweet potato.

Typically, the packaging states that you can achieve a classic oven-baked taste by microwaving the sweet potato for a few minutes. The plastic wrap is supposed to enclose the steam to help the sweet potato cook. And you don’t even need to touch your oven.

But here’s the thing. Unless there is a magical potion infused in the wrap, what makes it different than plastic wrap that you already own? Nothing. The same result can be achieved with a normal sweet potato and normal plastic wrap; people have been doing it for years. Heck, you don’t even need plastic wrap. The same result can be achieved by wrapping the sweet potato in a damp paper towel or nothing at all.

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Credit: photo by Westend61 via getty images

And then there is the debate of safety. Over the years, many have speculated the dangers of microwaving food in plastic containers made of potentially harmful chemicals. And while it’s still a touchy subject, some people simply don’t like the idea of microwaving plastic with their meals.

It’s also not the most environmentally friendly. The average American already produces 4.3 pounds of trash each day, contributing to 3,500 landfills. Something tells me that the plastic wrap on your sweet potato isn’t biodegradable, either.

Despite your personal preferences on microwaves, plastic, and trash, there is a point to be made. You can wrap the sweet potato yourself. When you buy a pre-wrapped potato, you’re simply shelling out extra cash for the plastic and (perceived) convenience.

Ultimately, there’s nothing like actually baking a potato in the oven. It’s a pretty delicious trade-off for waiting another 30 minutes. Besides, skipping the pre-wrapped versions lets you show some love to the sweet potatoes who are comfortable in their own skin, just the way they are.