How to Cook Acorn Squash
Two easy techniques turn this versatile winter squash tender and delicately sweet.
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What Is Acorn Squash?
Acorn squash is a small winter squash with orange flesh and a dark green, orange-spotted exterior. Acorn squash is easily recognizable by its ridges and small, round shape. When cooked, the flesh is sweet. Also, when the squash is roasted, the skin turns tender and is edible.
Acorn squash, simply prepared, makes a wonderful side dish. You can also season the squash with any herbs, spices or oils you wish and serve it in salads, grain bowls and soups. Acorn squash can also be used to make vegetarian main dishes, like pasta and lasagna, more hearty.
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How to Prepare Acorn Squash
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If you have experience preparing butternut squash, you'll know how to prepare an acorn squash quite easily. Many of the steps are the same. However, with an acorn squash, you can leave the skin on the flesh.
How you prepare acorn squash before you cook it depends on what you'd like to do with the squash once it's cooked. Acorn squash can be cooked as halves, in wedges, slices or chopped into cubes. If you're planning to remove the skin, it's easier to do it once the squash is cut. While it's whole, removing the skin is difficult because of the ridges.
1. Wash the squash. Don't cut through the skin until you've washed it. You'll move any bacteria on the skin into the flesh once you slice.
2. Slice in half. Starting at the stem, pierce the squash and move the knife down toward the end of the squash. Remove the knife and repeat on the other side.
3. Split the squash. Grab each half of the squash and twist the two apart. If it doesn't split easily, use your knife to separate any sections that aren't sliced.
4. Remove the seeds. With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy membranes. You can save the seeds and roast them later if you'd like.
5. Cut into wedges or cubes. If you're planning to cube the squash or slice it into wedges, you can do that at this step. Use the squash's natural ridges as a guide for the wedges. If you want to remove the peel, use a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife to slice off the skin.
Two Ways to Cook Acorn Squash
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Roasting acorn squash in an oven is the preferred cooking technique. It creates a silky squash with a tender skin. At higher heats, the squash can develop a bit of caramelization because of its natural sugars. However, in a pinch, you can also microwave acorn squash to get it tender more quickly.
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How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Oven
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1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Position an oven rack in the bottom third.
2. Season the squash. Season the squash halves, wedges or cubes according to your preferred taste.
3. Line the pan. Whether you're cooking cubes, wedges or acorn squash halves, line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
4. Arrange. Place squash halves cut-side down on the parchment paper-lined sheet. With cubes or wedges, arrange them in a single layer on the pan.
5. Cook. For acorn squash halves, roast until you can pierce the flesh with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes. For wedges, roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes. For 1-inch cubes, roast until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Microwave
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Cooking acorn squash in a microwave is a faster method. It's the ideal cooking method when you need the tender squash for fillings or soups.
1. Place squash halves cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish.
2. Add seasoning. If you are planning to scoop the squash straight from the skin as a side dish, you can add seasoning here. You can also wait until the squash is cooked.
3. Add water. Pour about 1/2 inch of water into the microwave-safe dish.
4. Cook. Microwave on High until you can pierce the flesh with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes.
Acorn Squash Nutrition Facts
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Acorn squash is a wonderful source of several vitamins and minerals. It's a great addition to winter menus when fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce.
One-half cup of cooked acorn squash has 57 calories, 15 grams carbs and almost zero fat. It's high in vitamins C and A, fiber and potassium. It's also a rich source of thiamin, magnesium and manganese.
How to Shop for Acorn Squash
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When you're picking an acorn squash in the grocery store, look for one that feels heavy for its size. The squash's exterior skin should be dark and dull with no soft spots. Shiny acorn squash skin is a sign that the squash hasn't matured.
Acorn squash skin should have a good balance of green with orange spots. If there's too much orange, the squash may be overripe. If it's fully green, the squash isn't mature.
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How to Store Acorn Squash
Acorn squash that's not cooked can be stored in a cool, dry place like a pantry for several weeks. Once cooked, however, you should use it within three to four days. Refrigerate the cooked squash in an airtight container until you're ready to eat it or cook with it.