Avocados can add a lot to your meal—they’re flavorful, creamy and have close to 20 essential vitamins and nutrients, including folate, potassium and vitamin E. But if you’re finding that your avocados are not adding the zing you want to your meals, you might need to rethink how you’re working with them.
From knowing how to tell if an avocado is ripe to proper prep and storage, the way you handle an avocado can make all the difference. Learn more about common mistakes people make when working with avocados, plus easy tips to keep your avocado-accented meals tasting delicious.
Mistake #1: Picking an Overripe Avocado
Nothing ruins a good dish like a rancid-tasting avocado, so knowing how to pick a perfectly ripe (or almost-ripe) one at the store is important. To tell when an avocado is ripe, hold the fruit in the palm of your hand, and squeeze the skin gently with your fingertips. It should be firm but yield to slight pressure. In most cases, you’ll want an avocado that is dark green or nearly black in color, but in a few varieties, pale green is also OK.
Another trick: Pull back the tiny stem at the top. It should come off fairly easily, and underneath, you should see green flesh. If the stem falls off too quickly and it’s brown beneath, you know you’ve got an overripe fruit on your hands. On the other hand, if the stem resists removal and the flesh underneath is white, that means it needs a little more ripening.
To use your perfectly ripe avocado in a dish like guacamole, consider a masher to help get a consistent texture. If you like your guac chunky, simply slice the flesh with an avocado slicer (look for one that does triple duty slicing the avocado in half and removing the pit, too), then mix with a fork.
Mistake #2: Opening an Avocado Before It’s Ripe
Using an unripe avocado can make a tasty dish really bland—and possibly a little bitter. Listen to the fruit: If an avocado is hard as a rock and resists being peeled, it’s probably not ripe. Luckily, you don’t have to spend days waiting for your avocado to ripen. Instead, place the avocado in a brown bag and close it, leaving it on a countertop not the fridge. The fruit should ripen in about a day. Add an apple to the bag to help expedite the process—apples release a hormone called ethylene, which encourages ripening.
Mistake #3: Using a Knife to Remove the Pit
Once your avocado is ripe, the next step is knowing how to prepare it properly. Removing an avocado pit can be messy, and wrestling with a knife to get that slippery sucker out is downright dangerous. Avoid ruining your avocado and winding up with slime all over your counter by using a tool that removes the pit for you.
Mistake #4: Slicing Too Thin
Envious of those picture-perfect avocado slicers you see at restaurants? That takes the exact degree of ripeness—and the help of a professional chef. You can get great-looking slices too, though, if you err on the side of slightly thicker wedges. To get your avocado slices to Instagrammable standards, use the 3-In-1 Avocado Slicer or a professional-grade slicing knife for a smooth and even cut (be sure to place the avocado on a no-slip cutting board first to protect your countertop).
Mistake #5: Leaving an Avocado Uncovered
Avocado 101: Never leave an open avocado uncovered for any amount of time. When exposed to air, the flesh will oxidize rapidly and turn an uninviting brown color. If you aren’t planning to use the whole avocado at once, here’s how to store half for later: Sprinkle the flesh with lemon juice or white vinegar, then store it in an airtight container with the fleshy part facing down. It’s preferable to store it with the pit still in, since this minimizes the amount of flesh exposed to the air.
Once you’ve picked, ripened and sliced your avocado, use it to make the best guacamole or avocado toast around.