Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
In the dawn of my grilling days, I experimented with roasting sweet potatoes nestled directly in the coals. While the innards were quite good, those spuds earned the moniker "ashy yam turds" for their external appearance. I course corrected and found ways to roast potatoes on the grill to produce ideal results, but the ashy yam turd almost made a return during the production of these twice-baked sweet potatoes when an unexpected fire came close to a major spud sacrifice that would have been truly disastrous after learning how tasty these were following the consumption of the rescued sweet potatoes.
My sweet potato journeys that began with ember roasting, eventually led me to cooking potatoes on the grill in the same manner I would in the oven, which is over indirect high heat. Cooking in the coals does offer a unique way to speed things up, but ultimately you trade speed for the best balance of edible skin to soft insides. In the end though, that means the grill isn't offering a huge advantage over an oven, so if you're not down for using a chimney of charcoal to roast the spuds, this recipe will come out pretty much that same if put together entirely indoors.
To prep the sweet potatoes for cooking, I first poked them all over with a fork, which aids a bit in cooking, but mostly provides an escape route for steam, avoiding any bursting that could happen. Over indirect high heat, these medium to large sweet potatoes took about 45 minutes to fully cook, and I tested doneness by piercing the centers of the spuds with a paring knife, looking for no resistance at all.
Unlike russets, sweet potatoes turn really creamy when fully cooked, and that made it easy to spoon out the entirety of soft innards after letting the taters rest for a bit to cool down. When I did this on the first potato half though, I quickly found that removing all of the flesh rendered the skin too thin and flimsy to effectively hold up to re-stuffing. So for the remainder of the potatoes, I left about half an inch of flesh along the skins to provide some structural integrity and shape to withhold being stuffed and cooked again.
Once all the potato flesh was scooped out into a bowl, I put together the filling which added butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, scallions, and cayenne into the mix to make the potatoes very smooth and richly flavored.
I then spooned the stuffing back into the potato skins, mounding the filling a little higher than the skins since it had now gained volume and could do so. Finally, before heading to the grill, I topped each sweet potato half with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese.
I was cooking for a large crowd this day, so instead of using the grill to accomplish the second cooking, I placed these in a smoker that I was running at a medium-high temperature. In about 20 minutes, the cheese was completely melted and and stuffing was warmed through, so I began removing the spuds for photos and serving.
Between removing the potatoes from the top rack and moving on to the lower one, the entire inside of the smoker erupted in flames, igniting years of seasoned grease that lined the interior of my Weber bullet. As I saw the potatoes engulfed in the fire, I called for assistance from my friends, but in my panicked state, I could not properly articulate that my goal was to save the potatoes instead of extinguishing the fire, which was large, but well contained. After getting what I needed to reach into the fire and remove the second rack, I pulled out the remaining spuds, which had blackened in spots, but were still salvageable for serving. The only real victim of the fire ended up being my welding gloves, which were probably due for a replacement anyway.
I'm so glad I was able to save these twice-baked sweet potatoes from the fire, because they were insanely delicious and losing them would have meant many of my guests not getting one. One of my friends who ended up getting a salvaged spud came over and asked me why these were so damn good, to which I explained the addition of four different milk fats, and then it made total sense to her. The combination of butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese meant that these not only were rich and creamy, but also had a deep flavor that brought in sharp and tangy notes that went very well with the natural sweetness of the potato. The addition of cayenne was also key in adding just the slightest heat to provide some contrast and further aiding in the final dish from being overly sweet. So the ashy yam turds almost made another appearance at The Meatwave, but disaster was avertered, allowing me to share these incredible spuds with all of my friends and you!
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Yield 4-8 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Cook 1 Hour 20 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 35 Minutes
- 4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean and pierced all over with a fork
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup finely minced scallions, plus more for garnish (about 4 scallions)
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place potatoes on cool side of grill close to, but not directly over, the coals. Brush potatoes all over with oil. Cover grill and cook potatoes until a paring knife glides through entire flesh with no resistance, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove potatoes from grill, slice each in half lengthwise, and let sit until cool enough to handle.
- Scoop out flesh of potatoes into a medium bowl, leaving about 1/2 an inch of flesh remaining around the skins of the potato. Add 4 ounces of the cheddar cheese, butter, sour cream, scallions, cream cheese, and cayenne pepper into the bowl with the potato flesh, Mash or stir until mixture is well combined and smooth. Season with salt, black pepper, and additional cayenne pepper to taste.
- Spoon potato mixture into potato shells, mounding filling over top as necessary. Top each potato with remaining cheese.
- Replenish grill with 2/3 a chimney of freshly lit coals arranged on one side of the charcoal grate. Place stuffed potatoes on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until warmed through and cheese has completely melted, about 20 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a serving platter or plates, garnish with scallions, and serve immediately.