When cool weather arrives, so does winter squash season. You can find them at farmers markets, your local grocer, and maybe even in your own garden? I love these beauties because they last so long, for months depending on the variety, sitting around decorating various horizontal surfaces in my kitchen and dining room until I’m ready to cook them. So what is the best way to cook a squash like a butternut, acorn, or Hubbard to bring out its earthy sweetness? My research dug up several recommendations, and my experiment picked one as best.
Most of the recommendations I found suggested roasting as the best way to bring out a winter squash’s sweetness. Suggestions ranged from roasting them whole, to halved, and chopped. Roasting whole sounded appealing since it requires almost no work – love that. Just place them on the oven rack and cook until tender. Halving the squash and roasting them on a baking sheet, cut side down, was also suggested, as was peeling, chopping, then roasting. Peeling and chopping is extra work, but in the name of science I got out my vegetable peeler. Hubby Tim and I did the taste testing. The results were very interesting with noticeable differences in flavor, texture, and visual appeal.
Here were the test parameters for all three methods:
- butternut squash placed in parchment-lined pie pans
- oven rack in lower-middle position
- roasted at 425 °F for 40-45 minutes
- Whole: this was the least interesting of the results. The texture was moist, but the flavor was bland, not particularly sweet, and the lack of caramelized flesh made for a rather boring appearance.
- Peeled and chopped: excellent flavor but a little drier in texture than the roasted halves. And it cooled very quickly compared to the other two methods – not great if you plan to serve them as alone as a side dish.
- Halved, seeds removed, roasted cut side down: the best result. Sweet flavor, like the peeled and chopped method, but a bit moister, and more visually appealing. It also stayed warm much longer than the chunks.
And the winner is……… roasted halves!
I’ve read that the best cooking method for one type of squash may not be best for a different type. So, if you do some experimenting, we’d love to hear your results. Just add them to the comments here.