The key = keeping the skin on. 

By Chris Malloy
September 30, 2019
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The season for roasting butternut squash has arrived. Before opening your oven, you may want to rethink your method for roasting this great fall vegetable. Maybe you cube squash. Maybe you start by removing the skin. There are many approaches, and many add extra time and work. Luckily, the best way to roast butternut squash might be the simplest.

First, keep that skin on. Removing it creates unnecessary work. Once your skin-on butternut squash has cooked, the skin should peel away with relative ease.

Second, for general butternut squash use, you don’t have to cut it into small pieces. Though small pieces create greater potential for browning, reducing squash to uniform pieces of some shapes, like cubes, can be hard. Squash has a round, tapering shape that isn’t amenable to many right-angled cuts. Some round shapes, like half-moons, require less knifework, sure. But because bigger pieces of squash roast so well, you can skip slicing into even these shapes.

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Today, we’re sharing a one-cut butternut squash roasting method. It requires just that: one cut.

Starting with a sharp knife, securing the base of the squash on a cutting board, cut top-to-bottom down the middle. This is much easier and safer with a sharp chef’s knife, which should slide through. If your knife isn’t sharp, be sure to maximize safety and take care of that before you start on squash, beets, parsnips, and all the hardy vegetables the cooler months bring.

Once you cut butternut squash down its long center, its symmetrical sides will fall free, showing bright orange.

From here, your active work is swift, no more than a few minutes. Put the squash skin-side-down on a rimmed baking sheet. (A rim will corral juices that leak during baking.) Massage the smooth orange surface with olive oil. Pop that quash into the oven. At 350 degrees on a middle or top rack, it will take between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Your squash is done when a fork slides in deep with little push.  

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Fortunately, this once-cut method gives you room for error. If you cook a few minutes too short or long, it won’t matter. (If you cook smaller pieces a few minutes too long, they could brown too much.)

Once cooler, skin should peel away. The butternut squash will be a lusher, deeper orange. If you put the squash smooth-orange-side-down, you can now easily cut it into half-moons or whatever shape you want. If you prefer, you can scoop the fragrant orange meat with a spoon. The seeds, too, should scoop away with little effort now. Almost like cooking bone-in chicken, pork, or beef, roasting with the seeds in seems to produce more flavor.

You may notice that we didn’t use salt. Be sure to salt at the end, when you build the cooked squash into a larger dish or simply eat it alone. Salt will coax more flavor, even if you’re using your squash for a preparation leaning more toward sweet.

But the very best way to extract flavor? And the most pivotal tip for roasting squash? Start with the best squash you can. Given butternut squash’s seasonal ties and deep roots in American agriculture, spending an extra few dollars at the farmers’ market is the best roasting head-start and final seasoning you’ll find.

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