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11/04/2011 11:58 am ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Peel, Seed And Cut Squash

Bruce Mattel of The Culinary Institute of America says it can be difficult to peel and cut a hard-shelled squash like butternut. Unlike a zucchini, you don't eat the peel, and you also want to get rid of the seeds. He starts the process by cutting off both ends of the squash with a heavy chef's knife. Then, he says, you have a choice: You can either shave off the peel with a smaller knife, or use a peeler to do it. He prefers using a peeler since it takes less of the flesh away. Once the squash is peeled, he cuts off the neck of the squash, where there are no seeds. Next, he cuts the bulbous bottom in half and scrapes out the seeds with a spoon. Once the seeds are removed, he cuts this section into wedges, then into bite-sized pieces. For the top section, he cuts off a slice along one side, then uses that as a stable surface to cut the section first into thick slices, then into bite-sized pieces. To serve, he suggests roasting the squash with a little butter and maple syrup at 350F for 20 minutes or until tender.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Bruce Mattel from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to peel, seed and cut a butternut squash.

Here we have a nice butternut squash. This is a hard-shelled squash and it's mostly available at the end of summer. Unlike a zucchini, which is a soft-shelled squash, you typically do not eat the peel. We also take the seeds out of a butternut squash; they're great for toasting, like you would with pumpkin seeds, but it's not something you want to cook along with the vegetable.

We're going to prepare the squash now. What we want to do is take a chef's knife, or a pretty heavy knife, and we're going to slice off the ends, just about half an inch off on each side. Now I have a choice. I could take a knife, maybe a smaller knife, and just shave off this outer peel, but I like to do it with a peeler because it takes less of the flesh away and I get a better yield. I'm going to start about halfway down, so I'll clear off some of these bottom pieces first, and then I'll turn the squash around and be able to strip it off. We're almost done, and you just want to inspect the squash, and make sure you got all the peel off. Great!

What I like to do is first cut that top solid part off. I put it to the side - you can see there's not too many seeds in there - and then I'm going to cut the bulbous part in half, so I can take the seeds out. I use a medium-sized kitchen spoon, and I'm going to scrape out the seeds. These seeds are edible. If you're making a butternut squash soup, you could surely toast them and use them as a garnish on top of the soup.

I'm going to cut the squash into pieces that are just large enough for maybe two bites. I'm going to take my chef's knife again and I'm going to cut these halves in little wedges, then turn them crossways and slice them again into uniform pieces like this. I'll take two or three at a time to make those cuts. I'll approach my solid piece a little differently. First I'll turn it on its side and carefully slice off one slice, about the same thickness as the pieces I've already cut. Then I'll place the rest of it down on the flat side I just cut, so it's not rocking back and forth, and again I'm going to slice it - probably in about three slices. Then I'll take my flat slices here and cut those again, lengthwise and then crosswise. Now if we toss this in a little bit of sugar, maple syrup, butter, and place this into a 350-degree preheated oven, it would take twenty minutes or slightly less to get these pieces tender.