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Q: I love butternut squash, but I am afraid of cutting myself! Any suggestions?

A: Whether you plan to prepare a butternut, acorn, spaghetti or a kabocha squash, cutting a hard winter gourd can be intimidating. Trust me: you are not alone with your squash-a-phobia. Keep the following guidelines in mind when cutting any hard winter squash.

  1. Make sure you have a sturdy cutting board that does not slide around. Putting a damp towel underneath a cutting board is a great way to hold a cutting board in place.
  2. Use a heavy chef’s knife with an 8” blade that allows you to control the squash.
  3. Create a flat surface by trimming the stem and root ends of the squash.
  4. Stand the squash upright on the cutting board. Make one long cut, down the top to the bottom of the squash with the heavy chef’s knife. This will give you even halves that lie nicely on a sheet pan for roasting or stuffing.
  5. Peel the skin with a sharp paring knife, or a vegetable peeler. With the hand that is stabilizing the squash, keep your fingers away from the knife blade or vegetable peeler, even tucking them underneath themselves like a light fist.
  6. Use a melon baller to remove the seeds and strings. The melon baller has sharp edges that dig nicely into the flesh. You can coax the seeds out easily with less of a mess!
  7. If you are cutting the squash into wedges or cubes, place the flat side of the squash on the cutting board and make uniform shapes that will cook evenly.

If you are still a little squeamish about cutting a hard, raw squash, do not worry. You can easily soften the squash prior to cutting by baking the whole squash in a preheated 375° oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Alternately, you can microwave your whole squash on medium heat in a microwave safe dish (or on a paper towel) for about 5 minutes. Prior to putting into the oven or microwave, pierce the squash with a paring knife or fork in several places. This simple step will allow the steam to escape and prevent your squash from exploding. And, keep in mind the squash will be hot when removing from the oven or microwave, so you will need to handle the gourd with an oven mitt or towel. I hope that this information reduces your fears when it comes to prepping your squash.

Click here for our recipe that includes Butternut Squash – Turkey Chili Pumpkin.

Click here for our Spotlight on Taste for more winter squash information!

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Cubed Butternut Squash
Jill Kwasny

Registered Dietitian