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How do I Peel Squash?

By Shannon D'Alessio
Updated May 16, 2024
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Depending on the type of squash being used, peeling it can be a daunting and even dangerous task. Summer squash tends to have a thin and tender skin, which can easily be removed with a conventional vegetable peeler. Winter squash, however, typically has a thicker and tougher outer skin, which can make removal challenging. Attempting to remove the tough skin with a regular vegetable peeler or paring knife can leave one with sore wrists and bandaged fingers.

There are two basic options when it comes to peeling squash: peel it raw, or cook the vegetable to some degree. Cooking helps make the skin softer and easier to remove. How the squash will be served is usually the deciding factor in choosing which method to use.

Cooking the squash prior to peeling does tenderize the skin, but it can also affect the consistency of the vegetable and may not be suitable if you plan to dice or cut it in a given shape. In this case you will want to peel the squash while it is raw. Start with cutting off the top and bottom and then, if it has a bulbous portion, separate it from the straight part. Stabilizing the squash on its flat end, use a very sharp knife or serrated peeler and begin to remove the skin, cutting down and away from your hand. Another option for peeling raw squash is to cut it into smaller pieces and then, with a knife or peeler, remove the skin.

If peeling the vegetable raw proves too difficult but you don't want to lose the firmness of the flesh, you can cook it very briefly (e.g., less than a minute in the microwave, or for about four to five minutes in boiling water on the stove top) to steam the skin without cooking the flesh. This will make it easier to remove the skin and still allow you to prepare the squash as you wish.

If you plan to use the squash for a base in a recipe where it will be mashed, pureed or are just looking to eat it roasted, the task of peeling the skin is even easier. Simply cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Place the cut sides up on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F (176.6°C) for 45 minutes. Allow it to cool and then scoop the flesh away from the skin.

Lastly, if all else fails, there is always the option of pre cut and peeled variety found in stores. This may save time and effort, and in some cases, it may be the safest option.

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Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Oct 26, 2013

Cutting off the top and bottom part of the squash first is really the most important thing to do. Peeling is much easier after this and it also prevents the knife or peeler from slipping. I learned this tip from my mom.

By ZipLine — On Oct 25, 2013

@ddljohn-- If you're making soup, why don't you just cook the squash with the skin and remove the skin later?

I agree that this is not possible if you're making something like roasted butternut squash or butternut squash fries. You have to peel and cut the squash when it's raw. But if the squash is going to end up as some kind of puree, you can save yourself the trouble and cook it with the skin. You'll still have to cut the squash into a few pieces, but that's not as difficult as peeling them. Just make sure that you wash the squash nicely when you do this.

By ddljohn — On Oct 25, 2013

This is precisely why I prefer summer squash over winter squash. It's too much work to peel and clean winter squash. I don't have the patience or skill for it. Safety is another issue. Once, I cut my hand while trying to peel a winter squash with a knife. I had to get stitches.

I don't mind buying peeled squash from farmer's markets or groceries though. I can't deny that squash soup is a treat in fall.

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