HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend. Today, we’re talking about winter squash, since we know you’ll be cooking with it a lot from now til February. 

If you spend anytime on the foodie internet, you’ll notice that squash and pumpkin are absolutely everywhere. They’re beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, so today we wanted to discuss the bridge between those two steps: the cooking process.

Squash, sweet and tender when cooked, are notoriously tough to split and peel. Here are the best ways to get at the delicious and healthful vegetable within!

The first step is to split the squash open. This can be its own challenge, one we’ll talk more about next week when we’re making this pumpkin potage. Most of the time, you can use your sharpest, heaviest knife to split the pumpkin or squash, then cut it into even wedges, being careful of your knife sliding around on the sometimes slippery skin. Scoop out the seeds and slimy stuff from the center and discard. From here, the way forward diverges.

Bake the Squash. To wrestle least with your squash, simply cut it into wedges, rub them with oil, and placed them on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes or more, until the squash is very tender. At this point you can either serve in wedges, perhaps with a sauce as in the Spaghetti Squash with Mustard Greens above, or you can scoop the flesh out and use it in stews,  pastas, or gratins. 

Peel, Chop, and Cook the Squash. Alternatively, you can peel the squash much as you would an apple and potato. Once peeled, cut the squash into bite-sized pieces, which you can then use in dishes like curries. Though the prep takes longer if you go this route, you’ll find that the squash cooks much more quickly–in under 10 minutes.