Will It Hasselback? (The Answer is Probably Yes)

January  5, 2017

I feel confident in saying that I am not the only one who took an involuntary moment of silence upon viewing the Hasselback Butternut Squash with Bay Leaves in Bon Appétit's November issue.

the squash that, in my mind, started it all

In case you haven't seen the thing, it's a butternut squash halved and belly down, its back rising triumphantly on the platter (imagine: a humpback whale breaching the water's surface).

Cutting through its skin are what appear to be (and what are!) millions of extremely precise slits less than 1/8 inch apart (imagine: the lines left by wind in desert sand). Each slice has either smiled and frowned under the oven's heat; the golden-browness along the cuts indicates crispiness. Tucked gingerly into a few fissures are bay leaves and, resting atop the squash's humps, balance carefully placed chile slivers.

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Ah, it is a sight to behold!

BA's Awe-Inspiring Squash
Its Likeness

But more than sheer preternatural beauty, the squash also has innovation on its side: We shrug at hasselback potatoes (named, according to Julia Moskin, after the Stockholm hotel where it was invented in the 1950s), but squash? I hadn't seen it before.

And since Bon Appétit's recipe came on the scene, I've noticed—and feel free to mock me here—a mini resurgence in hasselbacking (grammaticians, turn away). People are hasselbacking it all. When in doubt, hasselback. Hasselback or bust. Hasselback or be hasselbacked.

Personally, I've never had the patience to make all those surgical incisions, but advantages of hasselbacking include...

  • An extremely impressive appearance
  • A larger surface area for crispy, caramelized edges
  • Ample opportunity to insert stuff (cheese, breadcrumbs, butter, spices, syrups) into the flesh of whatever you're hasselbacking
  • Assurance that you will probably be happy with whatever you make since it took so many slices to reach that point?

You have reason to be wary of dryness, but hopefully you'll compensate for that with lots of butter (and in the case of BA's butternut, with basting every 10 minutes for an hour—eep!).

So, what can you hasselback? And what hasn't been hasselbacked yet (read: opportunity to be a H.B. pioneer)?

Will it hasselback?

  • Potatoes: Yes. Not news.
  • Sweet potatoes: Yes.
  • Apples: Yes. Here, a honey-orange glaze drips into all the apple slices. (Favorite part of the recipe instructions: "This is hasselbacking." This is Sparta.)
  • Delicata Squash: Yes. The thin skin makes it easier to cut (at the same time that it makes hasselbacking less necessary).
  • Hard-boiled egg: Probably not a good idea but haven't seen it done yet.
  • Eggplant: Yes, and there's even a Cook's Science recipe that comes with a smart tip—place chopsticks on either side of the eggplant as you slice to prevent the knife from cutting all the way through.
  • Sausage: It's been done. Salami, too.
  • Chicken breast: Can't say I recommend it, but it's been done.
  • Tofu: Yes.
  • Cauliflower: Are you crazy?
  • Green beans: If you're crazy. You could use a teeny razor or Xacto knife to make the tiny incisions—might be fun!
  • Zucchini and summer squash: Sure (but sounds kind of watery, right?).
  • Pears: Yes. Halve and core them first.
  • Beets: Uh huh.
  • Persimmon: Haven't seen it happen yet. Go for it!
  • Bread: We're really pushing the limit of "hasselback" here, but many have claimed to do it. And it looks extremely good-tasting (but also a lot like garlic bread?).
  • Tomatoes: Yep. Seems kind of funny since you'll have to just slice them completely to eat them anyway.
  • Fish: I kid, I kid!
  • Meat: Time for this list to be over, I'd say.

Have you had success hasselbacking? Have you tried BA's squash? Share an experience in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • janesuperstar
  • jean
  • Emma Nelson
    Emma Nelson
  • EmilyC
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


janesuperstar January 8, 2017
I made Bon App's Hasselback butternut squash for Xmas, glaze and all, and I gave it a big meh! Not worth all the extra effort when the flavor was just like any ole roasted winter squash. I was so disappointed. We also did Hasselback Potatoes and those were great of course. I might try the squash again, but I would use hot honey instead of making the suggested glaze. Less effort, similar flavor.
jean January 8, 2017
I learned a technique ages ago that make it easy to slice whatever you are using, although I've only done potatoes. Lay the potatoe in a spoon about the same size, then your slices won't go all the way through. Works like a charm and fast...
Emma N. January 6, 2017
I'm both hungry and desperately wanting a shirt that says "hasselback or be hasselbacked."
EmilyC January 5, 2017
My conclusion after my own squash hasselbacking is that delicata work a little better than butternut because of their more uniform shape/size, even though the butternut are prettier to behold! The long necks of the butternut took longer to cook than the bottoms (which are less dense and thick since you're hollowing them and discarding the seeds). But the uneven cooking time isn't a reason to not go for it -- given your point above (you will probably be happy with whatever you make since it took so many slices to reach that point)! : )

Now I'm wondering about a hasselbacked head of radicchio, roasted and stuffed with herbs and bacon...
Kenzi W. January 5, 2017
Woahhhhhhh. I love the sound of that.