5 Smart Tips for Cutting Tough Winter Squash

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Come fall, there is nothing I look forward to more than working winter squash — butternut, spaghetti, kabocha, acorn — into my meal plan. What I don’t look forward to, however, is cutting into these hard, roly-poly veggies. I used to dread it every single time, until I learned a few helpful tips that make it easier (and not so scary!).

1. Start with a large, sturdy knife.

Leave your small knives where they are. When it comes to cutting up a large, firm winter squash, the best tool for the job is a large (think: eight inches or larger), relatively heavy and sharp chef’s knife. A well-honed blade will make it easier to slice through the flesh, while the heavier weight will give you more control.

2. Trim the ends of the squash first.

Before cutting through the center of the squash, trim the ends from the root and stem first. This creates flat sides that are easier to stabilize on the cutting board without it wobbling around so much.

3. Cut butternut squash in half at the neck.

If you’re cubing butternut squash to be roasted or tossed into a soup, the easiest way to tackle this tough squash is by first slicing it crosswise, across the neck. This leaves the squash with two smaller, easier-to-manage pieces to continue working with.

4. For easier cutting, heat squash in the microwave first.

Cutting into harder winter squash, be it butternut, kabocha, or spaghetti squash, always feels a little nerve-racking. The simplest way to make this task a whole lot easier is by scoring the squash around the outside, then microwaving it for five minutes. This little bit of prep softens the flesh and lessens the battle against your chef’s knife.

5. If it’s just too tough to cut, cook it whole.

If cutting any type of hard winter squash feels too troublesome, just cook it whole instead, either in the oven or the slow cooker. This cooking method will take some more time, but once it’s ready your knife will seamlessly slide through the skin and flesh.

Read more: An Easy Way to Roast Winter Squashes

Our Favorite Winter Squash Recipes