Butternut squash is a favorite vegetable for the colder months. It’s an amazingly versatile component suitable for a wide variety of dishes in numerous types of cuisine. With its sweet and nutty flavor, you’ll find this tasty squash in dishes across the world of cooking, from Italian to Japanese.
The dense, golden orange flesh isn’t just a delicious and colorful way to add a different vegetable to your diet. It’s chock full of important nutrients!
One cup of butternut squash provides 437% percent of your vitamin A! It’s also especially high in vitamin C, and scores high for vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Butternut squash has loads of fiber. This includes a large amount of the often under-appreciated soluble fiber, which is fantastic for improving digestive health.
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Additionally, because it’s low in calories, butternut squash can help combat obesity-related conditions when substituted for unhealthier foods.
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An international ingredient
Also known as butternut pumpkin in some places, like Australia and New Zealand, butternut squash is a fantastic international ingredient.
It’s especially popular roasted, and as a base for soups and stews. It can be made into risottos or mashed. You can even grill it on the barbecue for a sweet, smoky side dish. It’s delightful when deep fried to a golden brown. (Japanese restaurants often use thin slices of this vegetable in their light and crispy tempura batter.)
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The most common herbs and spices used with butternut squash are nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, oregano, thyme, garlic, rosemary, black pepper and allspice.
However it’s being cooked, there’s one problem that everyone comes across when cooking it. That is, of course, the question of how to go about peeling it!
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What to do about that skin?
Butternut squash has a thick and fibrous skin. While this beige skin is technically edible (after cooking), it is quite chewy and tough. Along with the seeds and the stalk, it’s standard practice to discard the skin before cooking, unless you’re roasting it.
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Unlike many vegetables, peeling a butternut squash doesn’t greatly diminish its nutritional value. So, what’s the best peeler for butternut squash?
Considerations when choosing a peeler
There are a few important things to consider when choosing a peeler for butternut squash. It may not be as simple and straightforward as you might think! Price isn’t as important as many believe. You can find a great quality peeler for hard and tough vegetables, like those in the squash family, at a range of different prices.
That’s great news for those of us on a budget, because there are many reasonably-priced peelers. You just have to know what to look for.
I’ll explain what criteria to look for, so you can see why I recommend the following two options. I selected the Swiss-made Victorinox Stainless Steel Kitchen Tool / Potato Peeler “REX” as the best lower-priced option. For a slightly superior, but more expensive model, I recommend the Victorinox Swiss Fruit & Vegetable Peeler. These are two quality products at two difference price points that are both excellent peelers for butternut squash.
What to look for in a peeler for squash
The most important feature is the blade itself. It needs to be made from quality steel. I don’t recommend trying to use a flimsy plastic peeler. It could easily break and cause injury. High-quality stainless steel or carbon steel are the best options here, although there are ceramic and “super plastic” blades out there. It’s also important to look for a peeler with a moveable blade. Additionally, the peeler needs to be sharp. It needs to stay sharp, as it’s essentially impossible to sharpen the blades.
Ergonomics, design, and safety are the other main considerations. While I’ll mention some standard rules of thumb, the best thing I can say here is to make sure your chosen peeler is comfortable for you. Peeling, especially of thick-skinned vegetables like squashes, can be very tough on the delicate joints and muscles in your hand and wrists.
Some apprentice chefs even end up with RSI (repetitive strain injury) after peeling sack after sack of potatoes, carrots, or butternut squash for weeks on end. This could have been prevented if they’d used a quality, ergonomic peeler designed for comfort.
Y-shaped peelers are the best for this, as your wrist will remain in a natural position. You want a peeler that fits nicely into your hand and has a comfortable and secure grip that doesn’t slip.
Why Victorinox Peelers?
Victorinox is a very well-respected brand in both the professional culinary industry and the home cooking community. This is because of their combination of quality design, reasonable price tags, as well as the long-life of their products. For over 125 years, Victorinox has been the official manufacturer of the original Swiss Army Knife.
The company, founded by professional cutler Karl Elsener, has built an impressive reputation for more than a century. Today, Victorinox maintains its commitment to excellence and reliability. The company says that its aim is to “provide customers around the world with functional and practical high-quality products at affordable prices.”
Victorinox is also a company that expresses a commitment to environmental protection. As an ecologically-conscious consumer, I’m always on the lookout for products produced using sustainable manufacturing methods and materials. Many of the products I’ve recommended on The Kitchen Professor are organic, fair trade, or Energy Star certified.
Victorinox Swiss Fruit/Vegetable Peeler & Stainless Steel “REX”
Rubberized or composite grips, such as those on the Victorinox Swiss Fruit & Vegetable Peeler, are the best for comfort. This tool is very well-designed, from the indentations for fingers that provide a good grip, to the angle of the blade.
The REX model is a Y-shape peeler. However, the blade is angled slightly to provide even more comfort and ease-of-use. The wide gap between the blade and the handle makes peeling tough-skinned, large vegetables like butternut squash easier than using traditional stick type peelers.
Victorinox Swiss Fruit & Vegetable Peeler
The REX shows this, as it is both comfortable and safe to use, but the Victorinox Swiss Fruit & Vegetable Peeler is also excellent. The angled handle is made from durable polypropaline. It’s finely-honed blade is sturdy and will make light work of even the toughest skinned vegetables.
Another added bonus: this model is dishwasher safe!
However you choose to cook this delicious and nutritious vegetable (and there are thousands of recipes and styles of cooking), make sure that you use the best peeler for butternut squash available. But remember to watch your fingers!
How to peel a butternut squash without a peeler
In the meantime, you may find yourself without a suitable peeler and a small mountain of butternut squash to get through. Such is the nature of seasonal produce! In any case, despite its hard, thick skin, a butternut squash can be peeled without a peeler.
Save money by buying seasonal squash in bulk while you still can, and store it for later with the best containers for the freezer!
To peel a butternut squash is fairly simple, if you take care. Ideally, you’d have a vegetable peeler, as this will make the work much safer and faster (but still be aware of your fingers!). However, it is possible with just a sharp knife and a sturdy chopping board.
If you do have a good quality, vegetable peeler, you’ll still want to follow these steps. Just replace the third step of the process (the actual peeling itself) with safe instructions for a peeler rather than a knife. The rest of the advice still applies, and you’ll still require a nice sharp knife for cutting the squash before and after peeling. The most important thing, and something that all restaurant professionals will repeatedly stress, is to have a good setup.
Step 1: Set up your work environment
First, your cutting board should be strong, flat, and of a suitable material and size. Wood or heavy-duty plastic are the preferred materials. Despite what you may be told, wood (as long as both washed and dried effectively) is just as resistant to bacteria as plastic or other materials. Plus, wood won’t dull your knives like boards made of glass, bamboo, or marble. You can read my recommendations of some great cutting boards here.
It’s important that the cutting board is firmly secured. It’s safest to use a rubber mat. If you don’t have one, a common trick is to lay down a damp (but not soaking wet) tea towel underneath the cutting board to hold it in place.
Secondly, your knife must be sharp. There’s no reason not to have a sharp knife in this day and age of simple, affordable sharpeners! A dull knife is a dangerous knife. This is especially true when you’re dealing with hard and smooth ingredients like vegetables. Knives that haven’t been sharpened properly are likely to slip, and they won’t do as good a job.
A dull knife edge is difficult to exert control over. This means higher chance of injury. Should an accident occur, a dull knife will also leave a much worse cut. I don’t want any of you getting hurt, so please exercise caution!
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Step 2: Prepare the squash
Rinse off the butternut squash with fresh water to remove any dirt. Let it dry before putting it on your cutting board.
A professional tip you can try is to microwave it for thirty seconds (or steam for one to two minutes) before peeling. This will help begin to soften the skin slightly, making peeling easier.
Make sure you have a firm grip on both the squash and your knife. Firmly, but carefully, slice off the very top where the stem is (around half an inch).
Next, turn the butternut around and repeat the process to remove the base. Again, cut offaround half an inch. Both ends should be roughly even to each other and perpendicular to the length of the vegetable.
Next, you want to split the squash into two pieces for easier and safer peeling. To do this, you cut parallel to the first two slices, but close to the center of the squash. The ideal place is where the bulbous part containing the seeds merges into the long solid neck that goes to the stalk.
Each butternut squash will be slightly different in this regard, as some have larger bottoms and some have longer necks. In cases of a giraffe-like squash, the neck may then be cut into two different pieces.
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Step 3: Peeling the squash
After discarding the top and bottom of the butternut, set aside the other pieces and place one segment onto your board. The widest cut side should be down. It should hold nicely to the board without slipping, and provide a sturdy and secure squash for peeling and slicing.
Hold the squash firmly with one hand, but always keep aware of your fingers and never put any part of them between your knife edge and the board. You want to carefully slice downwards, keeping the knife just underneath the skin and green, until only the orange flesh remains.
It may take several cuts to shave off the skin, but take your time. Don’t worry too much about preciseness at first. You’ll return to this part of the vegetable soon.
Next, turn the butternut around a little bit (clockwise if the knife is on the right) and repeat this slicing action to shave off the next strip of skin. Subsequent cuts should be easier as you can now see how thick the skin is. Keep at it until you have a peeled circle of butternut squash. Repeat this with all the other sections.
That’s all! Now you can enjoy your favorite winter vegetable however you like. Bon Appétit!
If you liked this article, be sure to check back at The Kitchen Professor for more reviews, recipes, and how-tos for all things kitchen-related. I post about everything from the history of Wagner cast iron to how to keep a kitchen clean and organized!