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How to Cook Winter Squash

Winter squash are a great option for both their delectable taste and high fiber.

How to Cook Winter Squash
Winter squash are a great option for both their delectable taste and high fiber. Whether you opt for acorn, buttercorn, butternut, delicata, hubbard, spaghetti or turban squash, these varieties have hard shells and hollow, seed-filled centers, unlike the tender summer squash.

Choosing Winter Squash

Squash should be heavy for their size and have a dull appearance. They should also be firm to the touch with no soft spots, bruises or cuts. If squash are cut, the flesh should have a moist appearance.

  • Acorn Squash — small, ribbed acorn-shaped squash with smooth, dark green skin, often with yellow or pumpkin-colored patches. The skin can also be orange or ivory. The flesh has a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Buttercup Squash — flat and round with a distinctive knot at the top of their dark green and gray-streaked shell. These sweet squash have bright orange flesh with a smooth, dry texture.
  • Butternut squash — long with a slender neck and bulb-shaped end. The smooth, tan-skinned squash have moist yellow-orange flesh with a subtle nutty flavor.
  • Delicata squash — medium-size and slender with a yellow-orange skin and green stripes. Delicata have a creamy yellow flesh with a subtle corn flavor.
  • Hubbard squash—large and often sold in pieces. The tapered shell is dark green, blue-green or orange-colored with small knobs or warts covering the surface. The flesh is yellow-orange with a more coarse texture and mild flavor.
  • Spaghetti Squash—large, oblong squash with pale yellow skin. When cooked, the flesh of this unique squash can be scraped with a fork into thin, delicate strands that can be used similarly to pasta. The flavor is mild with a crunchy texture.
  • Turban squash—with a varying green and vivid orange color and a turban-shaped top. This variety is a good all-purpose squash with a mild flavor.

Storing Winter Squash

Because of their hard shells, squash may be stored up to six months in a cool, dry place, which allows them to be enjoyed well into the winter months.

Preparing Winter Squash

  • Winter squash are easiest to prepare when they are cooked before the skin is removed.
  • Wash squash, then use a sharp, heavy knife to cut open the squash.
  • Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to easily remove the seeds and fibers.
  • If a recipe requires peeling the squash before cooking, use a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler.

Cooking Squash

How to cook squash in the oven:
  • Bake a smaller squash whole by piercing the skin with a knife in several places or by cutting it in half and removing the seeds and fibers. Place it whole, or halves with cut sides up, in an ungreased baking pan or dish.
  • If baking halves, add about 1/4-inch water to the pan. Dot squash halves with butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 350°F for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size and variety of the squash. Cool slightly.
  • If whole, cut open and remove seeds and fibers after baking. Remove skin.
How to cook squash on the stove-top:
  • Peel squash, and cut into 1-inch cubes or slices.
  • To boil, cover and cook in 1-inch boiling water 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
  • To steam, place steamer basket in ½-inch water in saucepan or skillet; add squash. Cover tightly and heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Steam cubes seven to 10 minutes, for slices steam 12 to 15 minutes.
How to cook squash in the microwave:
  • Pierce whole squash (except spaghetti squash) with a knife in several places to allow steam to escape.
  • Place on microwavable paper towel. Microwave uncovered five minutes or until squash feels warm to the touch.
  • Cut in half; remove seeds and fibers. Arrange halves, cut sides down, in shallow microwavable dish.
  • Microwave five to eight minutes longer or until tender. Let stand for five minutes. 
  • To cook spaghetti squash, pierce with knife and place on paper towel as directed. Microwave 18 to 23 minutes, turning once, until tender. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

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