Baked whole squash is a filling, nutritious and low-calorie addition to any meal. Though squash is categorized as either a winter or summer variety, most types are available year round. Baking whole squashes is the best way to bring out the taste and texture because boiling squash can ruin its delicate flavor, says Chef Ris Lacoste in an article for "Fine Cooking." Whole baked squash is also versatile and can be prepared with both sweet and savory seasonings.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and spray a baking dish or cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
Wash the squash thoroughly, being certain to remove all traces of dirt. Raw squash, except for butternut and smaller types such as crookneck, can be very difficult to peel, so it’s best to just bake them with the skin on.
Slice a small piece off the top or side of the squash so that it sits flat on the cutting board if you intend to cut the squash in half to bake it. Most squash skins are very tough, so stability is crucial to avoid injury. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Tap the blade down through the squash if the knife sticks rather than trying to force it. Poke holes in the skin of the squash if you don’t intend to cut it in half before baking.
Lay a punctured, whole squash in a baking dish. If you are baking cut squash, there are two ways to do it. Either place cut squash face up in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet and sprinkle it with whatever herbs and spices you choose. You may also spread maple syrup or orange juice on the bottom of the baking dish or cookie sheet and place the squash cut side down, which gives the meat of the squash a caramelized effect.
Bake the squash for 20 to 30 minutes, checking it by poking it with a fork from time to time. The fork should slide into the squash easily and encounter no resistance when the squash is done.
Let the squash coo until you are ableto handle if you want to peel it. Scoop the insides out of the shell, or slice or cube the squash to serve it without the skin.
Stuff both halves of a cut squash with chopped vegetables and spices and drizzle it with olive oil before baking for a special treat.
Never try to muscle a knife through a raw squash because squash can be slippery and hard to hold.