Three Ways to Cut Squash – Safely and Easily

How to cut squash is the most frequent question I get about winter squash. And it’s no wonder, that rind is TOUGH! The odd shapes and ridges don’t help either.

variety of squash in leaves
Winter squash have hard outer rinds – great for storing, but hard for cutting.

Also Read: How to Cut, Peel & Cook Butternut Squash, How to Cook Spaghetti Squash, Favourite Winter Squash Recipes

I’ve tried many different techniques but here are my favourite three options for how to cut squash.

How to Cut Squash – Three Options

OPTION 1 – SOFTEN THE RIND

Using the microwave to soften the rind before cutting is my favourite technique. Pre-cooking the squash a little makes cutting much easier and whatever time you spend pre-cooking, you can shave off the final cooking time – so you don’t really lose any time.

You can soften the rind in the microwave or oven.

In the Microwave

ALWAYS pierce holes into squash before putting in the microwave.

Use a knife, fork or skewer to make at least 5-8 deep holes around the squash. Go about 1/2 inch deep.

Microwave on high power for 4-6 minutes.

Let it cool slightly before cutting.

tips for softening rind before cutting squash

In the Oven

Follow the same steps using the oven. Just set your oven to 375°F and cook your squash for 15 minutes. You can subtract this cooking time from your final cooking method.

OPTION 2 – USE A TOWEL AND MALLET

If you want to get right to the cutting without softening the rind, I recommend using a towel and mallet or wooden rolling pin. The mallet will help power through the tough rind and the towel will protect the knife and your fingers if anything slips.

Use the tip of your knife or a small paring knife to score a groove in the squash where you want to make the cut. Score the line on either side of the stem to avoid cutting through the toughest part of the squash.

Position a large chef knife into the groove to help guide the cut and prevent the knife from sliding.

Cover the back of your knife with a double layer of towel. Use the mallet to pound the knife through the squash. Reposition the large knife as needed.

cutting winter squash with mallet

OPTION 3 – COOK SQUASH WHOLE

My final advice for how to cut squash is to wait to cut it until after you’ve cooked it. That’s right, cook squash whole and cut it afterwards. Be sure to let the squash cool for 10 minutes before cutting and removing seeds.

You can cook whole squash in the microwave, oven, Instant pot or crockpot. Just remember to pierce your squash all over.

Microwave – Wash, pierce and cook on high for 15 minutes (check & rotate in between).

Oven – Wash, pierce, place on rimmed sheet and bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes.

Instant Pot – Wash, pierce, place in steamer basket ensuring lid fits securely, set timer for 15 minutes at high pressure and add 1 cup water for a 6 quart pot and 11/2 cups for an 8 quart pot. Use the quick pressure release when time is up.

Crockpot – Wash, pierce, place in cooker and ensure lid fits securely. Cook squash 3 to 4 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low. Add an hour for larger squash. Estimate about 1 to 1 1/2 hours on high per pound of squash.

pierce squash before cooking whole in crockpot

More Tips and Ideas

  • If your squash is really wobbly, shave a slice off the bottom or one side so it rests more evenly on your cutting board.
  • If slicing a piece off is impossible, place your squash on a towel to prevent it from moving as much.
  • Cut vertically. Cut a little off the bottom so it stands straight up. Using a knife, towel and mallet, drive the knife through the squash from top to bottom.
  • Big pumpkins and other squash that you plan to use for purees don’t have to be cut in even halves. Sometimes it’s easier to cut off wedges or pieces. Cut it however works best.
  • Go ahead and wrap gigantic, gnarly, wobbly squash in a double layer of plastic bags and drop it onto concrete outside. Sometimes, brute force is the only way in!
gigantic hubbard squash
The only way I could get into a big blue hubbard squash like this was by dropping it on concrete outside. These guys are tough!

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More Articles & Recipes on Winter Squash

Have a look, there’s plenty to read, watch and cook!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to try to cut through a tough winter squash? An axe? A chainsaw? An electric knife? Let me know your favourite tips and tricks for getting into squash. Or better yet, show me with a photo! Tag me on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.
Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.

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