Why You Should Absolutely Be Smoking Whole Butternut Squash - Exclusive

Smoked and stuffed butternut squash
Smoked and stuffed butternut squash - Daria Arnautova/Shutterstock

At legendary Tennessee pitmaster Pat Martin's restaurants, smoked meats like pulled pork, brisket, and ribs reign; but for Martin personally, plant-based barbecue can be even more interesting than meat. As he told Tasting Table in an exclusive interview, he's gotten a bit bored with meat and finds experimenting with vegetables exciting.

Martin loves to cook butternut squash (and other large squash or pumpkin varieties) on his open-pit barbecue rig. One reason they work so well is that aesthetically, they make for an eye-catching centerpiece for a plant-based meal. The flavor of butternut is also perfect for smoking because its natural sweetness plays well with the savory taste of smoke. Per Martin, "The sugars in butternuts are great, especially when you put some salt, and chili flakes, and really great olive oil on them. But I'm also getting some of that char."

You can simply throw a whole butternut squash straight into your smoker, or if you want some char directly on the flesh of the squash, you can cut it in half, rub it with oil and spices, and smoke it cut side down. Squash will be ready much faster than slow-cooked barbecue meat; the vegetable may become tender in under an hour, depending on size.

Read more: 13 Underrated Cuts Of Meat You Should Be Grilling

How To Serve Smoked Butternut Squash

Butternut squash salad
Butternut squash salad - Haoliang/Getty Images

When it's time to serve your smoked squash, you have a few options. You can bring it to the table whole and carve it like a roast — it's flavorful enough to stand on its own. Or, you can use it as an ingredient in another dish. Martin recommends scooping out the flesh and adding it to a hearty salad along with chunks of bread.

Of course, if you don't want to give up smoked meats, you can cook the squash alongside a traditional barbecue cut and serve the vegetable as a side. But Martin loves cooking different vegetables and serving them all together as a colorful harvest feast, especially during the warmer months when many things are in season. "I like to just get into everything, just have endives, char off Brussels sprouts. Obviously, tomatoes everywhere, onions, and tons of potatoes cooked in the ash." Butternut squash would fit in nicely with that kind of plant-based spread. You'll get such a variety of tastes and textures from the different veggies that you won't miss meat at all.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint has locations in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

Read the original article on Tasting Table