There are only a few things that Karl won’t eat- and much to my disappointment, one of those is things is winter squash. He acts like I’m offending him at even the mention of putting some on his plate. It’s become kind of a joke around the homestead now- where if he asks what’s for dinner I’ll often declare, “just squash.” And then a wave of exaggerated sadness washes over his face. Sometimes we’re like a two-man kitchen comedy show. I’m sure only funny to us…
Winter squash can be a pain in the rear to prepare, am I right?
If you’ve ever been defeated and left a squash on your cutting board with a knife stuck in it like cement, than you know what I mean. And if you do get that thing cut in half- then what? Steam it, microwave it, bake it? What’s the best way to cook it, that makes the most of my time and takes the least resources?
I’ve met a lot of squash… in fact, I belong to some rare seed groups and have seen some pretty odd and different squash- and I’ve never seen one that I don’t think would work with either on of these methods. The only restriction is size- that is, if it won’t fit on your pan or in your slow cooker. And come on, if you’re scared of cutting a squash in half, what are you doing with a 5 lb squash? Joking. Well, kind of.
When using a whole squash, whether cutting it in half or leaving it whole, remember to give the outside of it a rinse first. I have two fool-proof squash cooking methods, one if you’re brave enough to cut them in half, and one if you’re not. Plus, a special suggestion for really troublesome squash.
Roasting a Whole Squash | The Cut-in-Half Method
I actually prefer this method, and thankfully I have a sharp knife and forearms of steel- so I can usually cut any squash in half with a little work. Roasting vegetables removes some of the moisture and concentrates the flavors, which is why it’s my favorite.
When cutting a squash in half, always cut it lengthwise, from top to bottom, not across it’s equator. This will ensure you hit the seed pocket and guts.
To cut it without maiming myself, I usually stick the tip of a chef’s knife somewhere in the middle and gently rock the knife down towards the cutting board, cutting in a little further with each rock up and down. This only cuts one side, so then I turn the squash and do the same to the other end… all the while keeping my non-cutting hand in a safe-zone where I won’t loose a finger, even if the knife slips. And remember: just go slow.
Scoop out the innards with a spoon. Did you know you can roast these seeds just like your Halloween pumpkin seeds?! I almost always give the raw guts to the chickens- it’s one of their favorites!
Cut-Side Up or Down
I say cut-side down! To cook, place the squash halves cut-side down on a large baking pan (one with sides) and roast at 400 degrees F for 30-70 minutes. Time will depend on how big your squash is, and you’ll have to use your judgement and your senses to tell when it is done. Err on the side of over-cooked, rather than under-cooked. Piercing it with knife is a good way to determine doneness.
Some people will tell you to roast it cut-side up, but I don’t like this because it seems to dry out the top, even when rubbed with oil or filled with butter. I like the way it kind of steams itself and stays moist with the cut-side down. I don’t use oil, salt or any other seasonings up to this point. Squash cooked in this way (as opposed to diced cubes or slices) will likely go into another dish, or be served mashed, and I can butter it up and add salt on my plate if I want.
You can line the pan with foil, but somehow when I do this juice ALWAYS manages to sneak underneath and make a mess anyways, so I don’t bother now. But maybe you’re more of a foil-whiz than I, so feel free to try!
When it comes out of the oven, allow it to cool a little and then use a tongs to flip it over and scoop the flesh out.
Slow-Cooker Squash | The No-Cut Method
This couldn’t be easier… the only trick is finding a squash that will fit inside your slow cooker (I think the oval ones are best-suited for this). So, this method won’t work if you have a ten pound Hubbard; you’ll have to cut that one- try an axe!
No need to pierce beforehand with a fork or knife. Place the whole squash into the slow cooker and fill with water until there is about a half-inch at the bottom. Cook on LOW for 4-8 hours, or until easily pierced with a knife.
Allow the squash to cool a little and then remove with a tongs. You should now be able to slice through it like butter! Remove the seeds and guts before serving.
Slow-Cooker Cut Squash | Best of Both Worlds
Feel free to combine these two methods- you can also cook a piece of cut squash or squash halves in the slow cooker. Place them cut-side up or arrange on their sides to fit in even more. Halved squash should take less time to cook than whole, unless you pack the whole slow cooker totally full.
How to Cut a Humongous or Very Tough Squash
So… what if you do have a huge squash that won’t fit in the slow cooker and you can’t cut it in half or even into pieces? You might consider utilizing the backwoods method: go outside, raise squash above head, smash squash on concrete.
The hard part about cutting a squash is getting the knife in, so even if smashing it only cracks it, it still provides a nice entry place for your knife- and then you can easily cut pieces off and cook them in the oven or slow cooker. Take out your aggressions and cut your squash!
Want more from the homestead?
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item (any item, not necessarily the one I recommended even!) I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!