Cutting Butternut Squash Safely

by mary on January 21, 2012

whole butternut squash shown on a cutting board

whole butternut squash ready to cut

(2/13 Update: Since I first wrote this post I’ve switched to partially microwaving or baking the squash to soften it before peeling or slicing. My new directions are: cook the squash in the microwave for five minutes on high, turning the squash halfway through. Or bake it in the oven on 35o for 20 minutes. Let the squash cool, then peel and cut as desired.)

You’ve got a big, beautiful, very hard butternut squash. Cutting it with an inadequate or dull knife would be dangerous. Time to get out your best sharp chef’s knife. Doesn’t have to be an 8″ Shun, like this one, just a heavy, properly sharpened chef’s knife.

shun chef's knife shown lying on a cutting board

a sharp chef’s knife

Lay a damp towel under your cutting board to keep it from slipping. Now take a thin slice off the short, bottom end of the squash to make a stable, flat surface:

stabilizing the squash with one hand while carefully cutting off the bottom

stabilizing the squash with one hand while carefully cutting off the bottom

This is very important to ensure that the squash won’t slip while you are cutting it.┬áNow do the same thing to the stem end:

stabilizing the squash with one hand while carefully cutting off the top

stabilizing the squash with one hand while carefully cutting off the top

Set the squash on the flat bottom end, and cut it lengthwise from stem to bottom. This is the most difficult part. Make sure the squash is firmly stabilized and your fingers are out of the way.

cutting butternut squash in half

Scoop out the seeds:

removing seeds from butternut squash

And peel it with a sharp peeler or a paring knife:

peeling butternut squash

Slice it with your chef’s knife:

slicing butternut squash with a chef's knife

slicing butternut squash with a chef’s knife

Cut the sliced butternut squash into rounds:

cutting butternut squash into rounds with a chef's knife

cutting butternut squash into rounds

Finally, lay the sliced rounds flat and cut them again to make cubes:

cutting sliced butternut squash into cubes

cubing sliced butternut squash

After about fifteen minutes of work, you have cubed squash for your recipe:

cubes of butternut squash

cubed butternut squash

If you’re cutting a smaller squash, you could microwave it a little to soften it before cutting. This 3# squash, which yielded about 10 cups of cubes, was too big for that.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Yankeepants October 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm

This is a great post, as it’s not always obvious how to cut such a big vegetable safely. I have a friend who had to have surgery after cutting herself while trying to wrangle a butternut squash, and I have been wary of these tasty-but-dangerous critters ever since.
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mary mary October 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Thanks! Wow, scary about your friend!
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