Every week I answer a question from a Good Food listener. You can email me a question to firstname.lastname@example.org, leave one on Facebook or add one in the comments section here. This week’s came from Facebook:
What is the best way to cut and peel winter squash? Sometimes I feel like I’m about to cut my arm off or break my knife.
Every fall when winter squashes make their appearance once again in the markets I wonder how many people at home are going to ruin a thin bladed knife, or much worse cut off a finger. Here are some tips on how to deal with a thick rind, warty squash.
1. If you’re so apprehensive about cutting up the squash at home ask the farmer or produce manager to cut it in quarters for you. Knowing your limits and asking for help is a good thing.
2. If you’re going to roast the squash and use the flesh as a puree don’t bother cutting it up. You can cook a squash whole. It is a cinch to peel and seed it once it’s softened. Put the squash on a foil lined cooking sheet or baking pan and bake in a 450 degree oven until you can pierce the rind with a pairing knife. It can take up to an hour to cook a large squash.
3. Use the proper knife: The hardest cut is the first one. I prefer to use a sturdy chef’s knife of sufficient length to extend past the diameter of the squash by at least 4 inches. This way you can use the weight of both your hands to cut the squash in half. So if the biggest knife you have is eight inches long don’t bring home a 16” monster pumpkin. Unless you want to carve it up jack -o-lantern style. (see below). To cut a whole pumpkin shaped squash position it on a towel (for better traction) on your cutting surface. Place the knife on top of the squash to one side of the stem. Have one hand on the knife handle and the other palm laying flat on top of the other end of the knife. Cut through with one push downward. Now you have two halves and it’s easier to cut the squash into manageable sections.
4. Buy a Butternut Squash with a long neck. They’re the easiest to peel. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Once the skin is removed it is easier to cut the squash lengthwise. Cut the stem end off first.
5. Cut the squash Jack-o-lantern style. You know how to do this. Cut the “hat” out of the squash. Now you can cut vertical slices using the opening as your starting point. Always stabilize the squash on a towel so that it doesn’t slip.