Roasting butternut squash can be a great way to make a quick, healthy side dish or a flavorful cooking method to prep it for another dish. Some of the best tips for cooking squash in this manner are to cut it into cubes rather than roasting it in larger pieces and using a small amount of fat to aid in the cooking process. Adding the oil or cooking spray prior to seasoning it can make the herbs and spices that you use stick, and to make sure that the butternut squash roasts instead of steams, it can be helpful to leave adequate space between each piece.
One of the best tips for roasting winter squash is to cut it into cubes rather than using large pieces, as this helps to deepen the flavor of the squash in two ways: increased caramelization and seasoning exposure. When cut into cubes, more of the vegetable is exposed to direct heat, causing it to caramelize all the way around, thus increasing the flavor. This cutting method also makes it possible for more of the butternut squash to be seasoned. Oftentimes, if you are planning to puree the squash or use it in another dish, roasting butternut squash after only cutting it in half may seem like the best option. The more flavor that the squash has, however, the better-tasting any dish that you add it to will be.
Even if you prefer low-fat cooking methods, you should always use some sort of oil when roasting butternut squash. The oil aids in browning, adds a small amount of flavor, and helps the other seasonings to stick to the squash. If you are concerned about adding excess calories or fat to an otherwise extremely healthy vegetable, you can use a low-fat cooking spray. Despite this, the use of healthy fats such as canola oil or olive oil is always a good option, and you typically only need a small drizzle to coat an entire cut-up butternut squash.
The order in which you add ingredients is also important when cooking butternut squash in this manner. If you add the seasonings first and then the oil, dry herbs and spices will likely run off. Instead, a good tip for roasting butternut squash is to apply a light drizzle of oil or a spray of low-fat cooking spray to the cubed butternut squash and then season it. Instead of the oil washing off the spices, it will actually help the seasoning to stick.
A common mistake that people make when roasting any kind of food is overcrowding the baking sheet. When roasting butternut squash, it is important that none of the pieces are touching, and ideally that there is a fair amount of space between each one. If the squash is too close together, it will cause moisture to collect in between the pieces, preventing the outside from browning.