How to Choose the Perfect Squash

Everything you need to know about how to select and prepare pumpkin, butternut squash, and acorn squash.

Starting now, we're going to show you how you can achieve great taste with a select ingredient each month. This content was created in partnership with Food52.

Winter squash piled high at the farmers market makes us happy; the arrival of squash marks the change of seasons and the adoption of a new cooking philosophy. Cool, bright summer produce give way to warm, comforting, slow-cooked meals.

The only thing standing in our way of roasting and braising squash all season long is a little know-how when it comes to selecting squash for a recipe; choose a heavy one with a strong stem and a rich, matte color. Here’s what you should know before cooking with pumpkin, butternut squash, and acorn squash:


Technically, all large, hard-skinned squash can be called pumpkins. But, of the bright orange, Halloween-variety that we’re familiar with, some are better for eating than others. Ask the farmers at your local market about the best variety for what you’re cooking — whether a warm salad, quick bread, or pasta — but generally, you’ll want one that is very hard (if you can scratch it with your fingernail, it’s too young). Also, look for a warm yellow or orange patch — rather than green — where it was growing on the soil. No matter what, don’t toss the seeds. They’re great on their own as a crunchy snack, folded into granola bars, and sprinkled over hummus, or a grain salad. You can even save the “guts” to toss into a vegetable.


Butternut squash is thin-skinned, tan in color, and has an oblong, bulbous shape. At the market, look for one with a wide, long neck — this is where most of the squash’s meat is.

Butternuts are sweet and flavorful, but not overwhelming, which makes them a great all-purpose squash to be used for almost any recipe — from classic butternut squash soup to autumn salad, to desserts, like cakes and scones. In fact, most canned pumpkin purées are made from butternuts, so they’re a great alternative in pumpkin pie and crème brulée, too. For a savory take on butternut pastries, try making this Butternut Squash and Onion Savory Galette. 

Squash Galette

Named for its shape, acorn squash are ridged and green-skinned with an orange blush. At the market, choose one that is hard and heavy, without too much orange skin (a sign of over-ripeness). Their ridges make them especially difficult to peel, which is why we usually don’t — like delicata and a few other varieties, its skin is thin enough to eat.

Once broken down into wedges, we like to roast acorn squash, like in this Roasted Winter Squash with Thyme and Sage Pesto recipe, or braise it.

Live.Love.Lux. Tip: With an Electrolux induction range, braising at a steady medium-high heat is simple, yielding consistent results every time. Or, if you prefer, you can even halve and stuff small acorns for a great vegetarian dish. 

Check out these squash recipes for some seasonal inspiration:

Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry
Serves 4 to 6 

Butternut Squash Soup

One 3- to 4-pound butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and de-seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Pinch salt, plus more to taste
2 large leeks, white and light green part only, chopped (about 2 cups total)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry sherry, plus more to finish
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for serving

Get the full recipe and instructions here.

Butternut Squash and Onion Savory Galette
Serves 4 to 6

French Galette

For the pastry:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
One 2-pound butternut squash or other winter squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary sprigs
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
1 cup grated Gruyère
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Get the full recipe and instructions here.

Roasted Winter Squash with Thyme and Sage Pesto
Serves 4

Roasted Squash

For the roasted squash:
3 1/2 pounds winter squash, like butternut, acorn, or kabocha
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

For the pesto:
4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted\
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crumbled feta

Get the full recipe and instructions here.

All photos by James Ransom