I LOVE avocados. They’re creamy and flavorful and go great with so many different things—from Mexican food to eggs to salads to sandwiches. I buy a lot of avocados, and without a doubt, one of the biggest disappointments of an avocado enthusiast is to cut into what you assume to be a ripe avocado only to discover that it’s riddled with brown spots.
Back when I was first starting to shop for myself, this used to happen to me a lot. Eventually I got completely fed up and started experimenting with the best way to pick delicious avocados every time. Over the last five-ish years I’ve honed my method—and these days I very rarely get stuck with a bad avocado.
Although I’m titling this post how to pick a perfect avocado, picking your avocados at the store is really the easy part. What matters just as much is how you care for your avocados once you bring them home.
(These instructions are specifically aimed at Hass avocados, as that is nearly always the variety that I encounter in my local grocery stores. I am not sure how this method would work for other types of avocados.)
Picking Avocados at the Store
I always buy my avocados rock hard. Yes, rock hard. Occasionally I will buy an avocado that has a very slight give to it, but I never, ever buy avocados that already feel ripe.
The reason for this is because I have too much trouble telling the difference between a ripe avocado and a bruised or spoiled avocado. As far as I can tell, they feel pretty much the same, and you won’t know the difference until you actually cut into the avocado. Since this isn’t possible to do before buying the avocado, sticking to only hard avocados significantly reduces the likelihood that you will end up purchasing an already spoiled avocado.
Now, this method does require some planning ahead, since you can expect that any avocados you buy rock hard at the store will take at least two to three days to ripen and sometimes more like a week. We eat avocados regularly so I just usually buy the same amount each week (though sometimes more if they are on a fantastic sale). By buying avocados every week I consistently have a stash of ripe and ripening avocados in my kitchen. If you only buy avocados for particular occasions, you’ll just have to budget in enough ripening time so that your avocados will be ready in time for when you want to use them.
Caring for Your Avocados at Home
Once you get your avocados home you will need to monitor them as they begin to ripen. I find that my avocados typically begin to feel ripe no earlier than two or three days after bringing them home from the store. Sometimes this process takes much longer—more like five days or a week. It’s impossible to know beforehand, though, so I recommend checking your avocados for ripeness about once a day after they’ve been at home for a couple of days.
Checking for ripeness is easy. Very gently squeeze the avocado with your fingers. If it’s ripe, the flesh will yield to gentle pressure. The avocado should still feel firm, but no longer hard. If it feels soft, it may be overripe, although sometimes soft avocados are perfectly fine inside. Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating now—after a little while of checking for ripeness (and then eating the avocados in question), you’ll soon figure out what the perfect ripeness feels like.
Preserving Ripened Avocados
Once your avocado feels ripe, you have two options. You can either eat the avocado within the next day or so, or you can put it in the fridge to preserve it for later use. Personally I almost always opt for the fridge route, even if I expect to eat the avocado by the following day. If you put the avocado in the fridge, the colder temperatures will rapidly slow the ripening process, keeping your avocado at a state of perfect ripeness for at least the next several days. When left at room temperature, on the other hand, it’s very difficult to know how long the avocado will last before becoming overripe and spoiled.
I need to stress that the fridge method works best when you stick the avocado in right when it becomes ripe. I haven’t experimented much with putting hard avocados in the fridge, but I assume that a hard avocado would take a very, very long time to ripen in the fridge. (And wouldn’t you rather use that fridge space for other things in the meantime? :)) Sticking an overripe avocado in the fridge will not retard spoilage if it has already started to occur. So, watch your avocados carefully so you know when they’re ready to go into the fridge.
Now that I’ve explained all of the rationale behind the method, let me quickly recap the steps:
1. Buy hard avocados at the store.
2. Store avocados at room temperature at home.
3. After about two days at home, start checking the avocados for ripeness on a daily basis.
4. When an avocado feels ripe, eat it within the next day or so or immediately put it in the fridge to prolong its shelf life. Ripe avocados stored in the fridge should last for at least four or five days (and sometimes significantly longer).
How to you ensure the perfect avocado? Please share your tips in the comments!
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