FYI: Your Ice Cream Scoop Is a Brilliant Tool for Prepping Squash
We tested out ice cream scoops to make squash preparation a breeze. The results were glorious! Read on for our squash-scooping tips, plus some gourd-eous squash recipes.
Photograph by Olga Ivanova
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It’s fall so you know what that means: pumpkin everything. It’s also all-kinds-of-squash season, so whether you have a bumper crop of zucchini from your summer harvest, you’re gearing up to carve a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, or you’re looking for new ways to enjoy other winter squash like butternut or acorn, I’ve got a great hack for you that’ll make preparing this versatile vegetable so much easier. It involves a kitchen gadget you’ve likely already got in the utensil drawer: an ice cream scoop. No, we aren’t going to be making pumpkin ice cream (although here’s a great recipe if you want to check it out). Instead, we’ll be using our handy dandy ice cream scoop to dig out all those slimy, messy squash guts and seeds with little effort.
Before I discovered this nifty ice cream scoop trick, I would use a spoon to remove the insides of squash. Sure, that worked okay, but by the time I’d scooped out the seeds from the zucchini for stuffing, the poor boats were a little on the mutilated side. Or, after digging out the guts from a Halloween pumpkin, my fingers would be red and raw. How exciting to have discovered a better way!
Testing ice cream scoops
Our team did the hard work for you and put three ice cream scoop models to the test to determine which type is best suited for squash prepping. In our experiment, we tried a lever-style scoop, a classic-style scoop, and a spade-style scoop. Overall, our favorite option was the classic-style scoop, with the spade-style in a close second. Both were great at removing the stringy insides of the squash, but the curved edges of the classic made it easier to scrape. If you’re in a pinch, a lever-style scoop will work, although it did catapult some zucchini over our tester’s head, and your hand may grow tired from squeezing the handle.
Tips and recipes, organized by type of squash
So what type of squash does this trick work best with? Well, the good news is that it’s great for most every variety. Winter squash are known for having all of those large seeds and stringy insides, so this hack is optimal for those. However, this handy secret also works great for making boats out of summer squash like zucchini. The experiment proved that using the scoop to remove the inside of zucchini halves is much better than a spoon and yields beautiful boats perfect for stuffing. If you’ve got zucchini out the wazoo like I do from a plentiful summer garden, try this recipe for Grain-Free Zucchini Boats. The video shows using a spoon to scrape out the centers, but I think you’ll find that an ice cream scoop is even better.
So let's scoop shall we? Here we go...
The scoop on winter squash
What about winter squash? Well therein lies the beauty of this hack; it works for essentially every variety of winter squash from acorn squash to pumpkins. In addition to zucchini, acorn squash are also great for stuffing. In fact, just two passes with the scooper got those babies clean and ready to be filled as opposed to the spoon method that usually requires scrape, scrape, scraping. I love this Quinoa-, Spinach-, and Mushroom-Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe as either a main course or as a spectacular side dish for a special meal.
The scoop on butternut squash
When prepping butternut squash, our experiment yielded similar results to the acorn squash. Just a couple of scoops got all of the seeds and strings out in a flash. (As a side note, if you have trouble cutting butternut or other winter squash in half lengthwise before scooping, pierce the tough skin a few times with a fork and then zap it in the microwave at HIGH in 30-second intervals for a minute or two. That will soften the flesh just enough to be able to cut through it easily. And of course, be sure to use a large, sharp knife like a chef's knife.) I love making butternut squash recipes for my family. The natural sweetness means my son gobbles it up (hooray for getting kids to eat their veggies!), and it works in so many different preparations and cooking methods. You can cube the squash, or make a butternut squash puree for use in sauces and soups. A few favorite dishes are the classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Roasted Pears and Butternut Squash with Sticky Balsamic Glaze, and Parmesan and Thyme Roasted Butternut Squash.
The scoop on buttercup squash
Another squash very similar to the acorn and butternut is the buttercup squash, also known as a turban squash. This variety is one of the sweetest, and is wonderful as the star ingredient in desserts. Try this Buttercup Squash Custard recipe and I think you’ll agree.
The scoop on hubbard squash
The Roasted Squash Cinnamon Rolls below call for another dessert-friendly squash—hubbard—although pumpkin and buttercup will also work. The moisture content of the squash helps with that ideal tender crumb for pillowy soft cinnamon rolls the whole family will love. This Hubbard Squash Pie is a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Hubbard squash is also great in savory applications, and I think this Blue Hubbard Torchetti with Pancetta and Sage will be a crowd-pleaser, too.
The scoop on delicata squash
Delicata squash are probably my favorite variety; their tender skins mean they don’t need peeling (hooray!), and they’re great as the hero in side dishes like this Delicata Squash with Browned Butter Vinaigrette, Roasted Hasselback Delicata Squash, or as the star of the show in this Creamy Sausage-Stuffed Butternut or Delicata Squash recipe.
The scoop on pumpkins
When it comes to pumpkins, not only does an ice cream scoop work great for getting rid of the gooey insides from jack-o-lanterns for carving, it also is a dream for prepping smaller pie and sugar pumpkins. Pumpkins are not just for making smiley faces for Halloween decorations or pies for Thanksgiving; they’re also great for roasting. For an easy autumn side dish, try this Spice-Roasted Pumpkin recipe; the warm spices make it an ideal accompaniment to roasted chicken or as the star in a Meatless Monday grain bowl. Speaking of Meatless Monday, this Roasted Pumpkin, Beet, Chickpea, and Barley Salad is another winner. And don’t forget to save those seeds you scrape out. After you carve them out, run the seeds under cold water in a colander and remove any stringy pulp; let them dry on a paper towel. Then try this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Seeds.
The scoop on kabocha and spaghetti squash
Finally, we tested two “stringier” squash varieties in our experiment: kabocha squash and spaghetti squash. While the ice cream scoop did remove the seeds easier than when using a spoon, these two varieties are stringy by nature, and thus it was still tricky to clean them out nicely. However, I still find the ice cream scoop method ideal for even these trouble-maker squash and love to use it when making recipes like this Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Spaghetti Squash and Chunky Curried Kabocha Squash Dip. Fun fact: If cutting these large squash in half intimidates you, you can actually cook a whole squash in the Instant Pot first and then cut and scoop out the seeds after, keeping all your fingers intact.
I hope our experiment and this pool of recipes inspire you to try this simple trick. Want to know a secret? It also works great for cantaloupe and honeydew melons! Give it a go, and let us know what you think.
For even more squash recipes, check out these related Yummly articles:
Happy fall, y’all!