How to cook this favorite Southern vegetable in minutes.

A steaming hot sweet potato topped with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of flaky salt is one of the best and easiest side dishes you can make. I've been known to eat them for snacks too.

While an oven-baked potato is a truly delicious thing, it can take more than an hour for the flesh to fully cook through. You can get great results in much less time by cooking the potato in the microwave. (Just don't bother boiling it!)

Here's how to do it:

1. Wash and scrub the potato skin clean, then dry it.

2. Prick the potato all over with a paring knife. (The holes allow steam to escape.)

3. Place the potato on a microwave-safe plate (sugar may leak out as it cooks) and cook on HIGH for five to six minutes. Halfway through the cook time, rotate the potato—be careful, it will be hot. Check the potato for doneness. If it is still a little too firm, continue microwaving one minute as a time.

If you are cooking multiple sweet potatoes in the microwave, increase the cook time by two to three minutes per potato.

My favorite way to cook sweet potatoes is to soften them in the microwave for two to three minutes, then bake them in a 425˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet. (This prevents sugar from leaking out and making a mess of your pan.) Microwaving jumpstarts the cooking process and cuts down the total cook time by almost an hour, but you will still get the sweet, caramelized flesh and crisp skin that only comes from oven baking. It's the best of both worlds.