Knowing how to prepare winter squash like acorn, hubbard or butternut is essential for cold-weather cooking. The trouble is, prepping them is serious work. Because we love our squash, and want you to as well, our Test Kitchen has a couple tips to take the trickiness out of this particular task.
By the way—here’s how to figure out what kind of winter squash you have on your counter!
Secure your prep surface.
To prevent the squash from wobbling any more than it already will, take care to steady your work surface first.
A dampened kitchen towel (think thinner fabrics like flour sack cloth) works great for this. You can set your cutting board on top and start slicing. If you have one, a wooden cutting board will work better than plastic cutting boards. No matter what type you prefer, take good care of your cutting boards with these tips for cleaning and maintaining them.
Stick with your sharpest chef’s knife.
This is no task for anything less than your best chef’s knife. It should have at least an eight-inch blade, preferably with a freshly sharpened edge. The length will help you slice through most of the squash and is less likely to get stuck mid-cut. You may need to slice two or three times to cut through some of the larger gourds like spaghetti squash.
A chef’s knife should be one of your most-used kitchen knives, but it’s not the only one you need. Here are the four knives every home chef should have.
Start with the outside edges.
As tempting as it can be to dig right in at the center, you’ll make easier work of your squash prep if you start with the outside edges. By trimming off the ends, you’re not only removing the roughest parts of the squash, but also creating two flat surfaces from which to work. It’s an easy way to give that roly-poly squash a bit of stability.
Always cut vertically.
Yes, cutting vertically requires a longer slice. (Hey—that’s why you have that eight-inch blade, right?) But it also spares you from having to make the additional cuts that horizontal slicing would require.
Moreover, many recipes call for length-wise portions, so you’re making your prep that much more efficient, too.
Scoop out seeds like a pro.
If you don’t have a melon baller, now is a great time to invest in one. You can find a high-quality version for about $10. When it comes time to scoop out those slippery, stringy squash seeds, you’ll be glad you have it. Yes, you can just as easily use a spoon, but it’ll take more effort, involve more sliding and up the odds that seeds end up in your final dish. No thanks!
Now that you know how to prepare winter squash, we’ve got 100 gourd-geous recipes for you to explore.