How to Cut Tough-Skinned Vegetables in Half

By Marie Rama, Bryan Miller

With their nearly impervious skins and odd shapes, winter squash, such as butternut squash, is difficult to cut open. Use a Chinese cleaver and a mallet or hammer rather than a chef’s knife, which can slip. The squash will be fresher and cheaper if you cut and peel it yourself. But for convenience’s sake, many markets now sell precut butternut squash. Follow these steps:

  1. Place the squash on a cutting board.

    If needed, place a damp kitchen towel underneath the cutting board to help stabilize it.

  2. Place the cleaver on the squash so its blade runs lengthwise from stem to end.

  3. To make your first cut, hit the top of the blade with the mallet, pounding several times until the cleaver completely severs the squash in half.

  4. Using an ice-cream scoop or a large spoon, remove and then discard all the seeds and fibers.

    [Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]

    Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman