My small kitchen garden sometimes pushes up so many butternut squashes that there’s no chance my family will eat all of them. This inspired me to set some on the grill. Now grilled quash provides a fine counterpoint to the baked, mashed, and cubed squash dishes I’d repeated so many times over the years.
My small kitchen garden sometimes produces way more of a particular vegetable than my family will eat. Worse: when we have too much of a type of vegetable on hand, it’s easy to fall into the trap of preparing it the same way again and again.
This happened a few years ago with butternut squash, and I developed a great urge for a quick but different way to prepare it. After some thought, I decided to exercise my grill: it seemed that a big slab of squash would perform much like a slab of beef or pork. The result made me very happy and I hope it will make you happy too. Follow the instructions in the photo captions to make your own grilled butternut squash.
If you try this, please let me know what you think—or share whatever variations you feel are noteworthy. Grilled squash goes especially well with smoked poultry or just about anything else you prepare on the grill.
Before you start on the squash, start your grill and leave it on high so it’s hot when the filets are ready. A vegetable peeler removes skin from a butternut squash; it helps to rest the squash on a firm surface and draw the peeler down toward that surface. After peeling the squash, cut off the stem and the blossom scar.
To cut up a squash for grilling, it helps to have a big honking chef’s knife. Be cautious and always cut toward a cutting board with the hand that steadies the squash safely above the knife’s blade. My first cut goes down the center of the squash, but notice that I start the cut through the seed end before standing the squash up and forcing the knife down through the neck.
I scrape the seeds out of the squash before slicing it into filets. The filets are about a quarter to three-eighths of an inch thick. Notice again that I start each cut at one end of the squash, cutting down and through (I’m not pushing the knife toward my hand in the center photo… just down toward the cutting board). This first cut acts as a guide when I stand the squash on end and work the knife down through the length of the fruit.
Once I’ve cut out all my squash filets, I paint them on one side with a thin coating of olive oil (left). Then I sprinkle on cayenne pepper and black pepper (center). You could add salt at this point if you like. I finish with a light distribution of brown sugar which I press into the oil with my fingers so it will adhere when I put the squash on the grill.
I place the squash filets seasoning-side-down on my grill and immediately paint the unseasoned faces with oil. Then I season them as I did the other sides. I put the cover on the grill and let the squash cook for just three or four minutes. Then I flip the squash and cook it for another three or four minutes. CAUTION! The squash may be soft when you flip it, so work a spatula along the length of each piece before lifting it off the grill.
Grilling caramelizes the sugar, but the charring usually adds complexity to the flavor of the squash; don’t reject it just because it looks singed. If six to eight minutes on the grill doesn’t get your squash filets soft, put them back on the grill or finish them off in your microwave oven. This grilled squash is soft, sweet, and savory with a touch of heat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.