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How To Cook a Whole Squash the Easy Way

woman preparing squash in her kitchen
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Even with decent skills and a sharpened knife, prepping a whole winter squash is frustrating at best, dangerous at worst. Stop trying to crack those tough shells with brute force alone. There’s an easier way!

Food bloggers and recipe creators everywhere have managed to make breaking down a raw squash look easy. Yet, every time we try, we seem to be centimeters away from needing emergency services. It’s easy enough to get the point of the knife through a squash’s shell, but trying to cut it from there is a test of strength and coordination. Press down too hard, and you’re apt to cause the knife to skid sideways, taking out a finger or two in the process. It’s a dangerous game to play for a taste of butternut.

And why play it, when truthfully, there’s a far better way? Cozy up to your microwave or preheat the oven, and put the chef’s knife aside. We’re going to cook winter squash whole from here on out, and no knife skills will be required.

The Easiest Way to Cook a Whole Squash

The easiest way to cook a whole winter squash is not to cut it at all. That’s right, no more fighting your knife through that spaghetti squash’s hindquarters. Instead, simply poke a few holes using a small knife, across the squash’s surface. The holes are vital because, without them, the increased heat will force pressure to build up inside the squash. This can lead to a squash explosion in your microwave or oven. So, seriously, don’t forget the holes!

Then, simply place the squash on a baking sheet in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roasting will take anywhere from forty-five minutes to over an hour, depending on the squash’s size and desired level of doneness. For easy clean-up, be sure to line the baking sheet with foil.

In a microwave, you’ll need about five minutes at full power for a small squash, and ten minutes or more for larger varieties. You’ll want to use a shallow, microwave-safe, casserole dish for this method.  And, it’s a good idea to check the squash every few minutes or so, as microwaves vary in terms of power.

When the squash is done, you should be able to pierce the skin with a fork easily. Let it rest at least a few minutes before you attempt to cut it further, though. Once rested, cut the squash open and scoop out the seeds. Then, either cut into pieces to serve or scrape out the inner flesh to use in mashes or soups.

Save your fingers and stop trying to break down raw squash. Instead, be smart and cook it before you cut it. Your still-intact hand will be ever so grateful you did.

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »

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