By Erik Marcus
I once thought of avocados as the world’s trickiest fruit to buy. But six months of living in Mexico, eating avocados near-daily, enabled me to crack the code. Now I can consistently select a perfect avocado nearly every time. I want to share this hard-won knowledge with you.
Avocados will never lie to you. You will know the moment you cut one open whether it’s a great one. Here’s how to dramatically increase your odds.
Avocado Buying Advice
You’re undoubtedly reading this because you’re tired of buying avocados that disappoint. Since they’re among the most expensive foods, learning how to choose a great avocado ranks among the best shopping skills you can acquire.
Buying great avocados comes down to following one inviolable rule (only purchase avocados that are completely unripe), and then developing a feel for telling when they’re ready to cut open. There’s virtually no luck involved, and your batting average can easily approach 1000.
Choose the Right Avocado Variety, and Buy Them Unripe
The first step to choosing great avocados is simply to buy the right variety. Hass avocados are widely-regarded as the tastiest. And any avocado that resembles the Hass usually won’t disappoint, even if it’s an alternate variety. I try to buy fuerte avocados when Hass aren’t available. Reed avocados are also excellent, but they have a short growing season. Generally, large avocados with shiny skins are terrible. At all costs avoid the slick-skinned bacon avocado, as this variety lacks flavor and has a watery texture.
Regardless of which variety you choose, always buy your avocados completely unripe. You want to purchase them greenish and rock hard. That way, they are unlikely to be bruised. Avocados are tricky because even a tiny bruise will spread brown rot throughout the fruit as it ripens.
The main problem here is that people tend to squeeze them at the market to test ripeness, and that’s all it takes to bruise and ultimately ruin an avocado that’s just starting to ripen. The riper the avocado you purchase, the more likely it will suffer from bruise-triggered rotting. Even partially ripe avocados will bruise easily. So I urge you to only buy avocados when they are green and totally unripe.
Thoroughly unripe avocados don’t easily bruise. I’ve had one roll off the kitchen table and onto a tile floor, and still ripen perfectly. So you can buy your avocados green confident that they’ll ripen up nicely. Just bring them home and put them in a paper bag for two to four days.
Storing Your Avocados
Once you buy your unripe avocados, you’re going to need to store them.
After purchasing, I keep my hard green avocados in a fruit bowl at room temperature. I then check them a couple times a day to see how they’re progressing. I like to have my avocados reach perfect ripeness on different days. To accomplish this I’ll put one or two avocados in a paper bag, rolled shut, to speed ripeness—they’ll then usually ripen a day ahead of the others.
You need to look at your avocados twice a day in order to catch each one at peak ripeness.
With practice, you’ll gain a knack of knowing when one’s ready to cut open. The trouble is there’s only a brief window of time when avocados are perfectly ripe. Any significant waiting past reaching ripeness is detrimental. Figure it takes about a day for a not-quite-ripe avocado to perfectly ripen. Then less than another day before it’ll begin to pass its peak. Avocados often develop disgusting brown fibers running through the fruit as they pass peak ripeness.
How to Tell When to Cut an Avocado Open
To fully enjoy your avocado, you’ve got to pick a good one and then cut it open just as it hits peak ripeness.
The more avocados you cut open, the better you’ll get at judging when the one you’re examining has reached peak ripeness. The skin will turn from green to off-black as the fruit ripens, but that in itself won’t tell you everything. The best indication is softness. Once you get a feel for it, the softest imaginable squeeze is all you need to reliably judge ripeness.
Another hazard is that once you start cutting your avocado open, you can’t go back. If it’s unripe, you’ve ruined the fruit. I’ve opened more than a thousand avocados in my life, and I still sometimes misjudge. You’ll know you’ve blown it if the flesh is still fused to the pit. Unripe fruit won’t mash properly into guacamole and it digests like you’ve eaten plastic.
That’s all there is to it. All the trouble is worth it because avocados are one of the most delicious and satisfying foods you’ll ever eat.
Avocado Serving Ideas
Of course the most famous preparation method is for guacamole. Just mash some avocados and blend in some lime juice, black pepper, salt, garlic, and perhaps some finely-diced tomato and minced cilantro.
Avocado slices go wonderfully on both salads and sandwiches. Their rich texture combines perfectly with any sort of crunchy vegetable. And of course, sliced avocados are the perfect garnish for just about any Mexican dish.
Finally, no better breakfast exists than a freshly-baked baguette sandwich with perfectly ripe avocado slices. these two foods offer one of the most delicious flavor combinations you’ll ever experience. You won’t even need salt or pepper.