I should start this by telling you that I’ve spent the past several months in Mexico. Avocados here are excellent, sold everywhere, and very cheap. I’ve therefore been eating some avocado almost every day for the past several months. My time here has enabled me to master the dual skill of knowing how to buy great avocados, and properly judging when they’ve reached peak ripeness.
Avocado just might be the world’s trickiest fruit to buy. You can have two avocados that appear identical, but cut them open and one’s brown and nasty inside and the other is absolutely perfect. No matter how good you get at choosing avocados, you’ll still pick a disappointing one occasionally. That said, I’ve learned how to dramatically improve your odds—reliably choosing good ones and eating them at peak ripeness. If you want to learn how to reliably choose a great avocado, here’s everything you need to know.
Avocado Buying Advice
The first step to not being disappointed is to buy the right variety. Hass avocados are widely-regarded as the tastiest variety. 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 the Hass variety isn’t available. 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, the key is to buy your avocados 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, and once partly ripe the fruits bruise easily. 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. Half-ripe avocados bruise easily, and may even carry bruising you can’t yet see. So I like purchasing my avocados green and totally unripe.
Thoroughly unripe avocados don’t easily bruise, so you can buy them green confident that they’ll ripen up nicely. Just bring them home and put them in a paper bag for two to four days.
Keeping Your Avocados
Since you don’t want to buy your avocados ripe, or even nearly ripe, you are going to need to store them.
Once purchased, 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 practices, you’ll gain a knack of knowing when one’s ready to be 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. Most avocados develop disgusting brown fibers running through the fruit as they pass peak ripeness.
Knowing When to Cut 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.
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 also a perfect garnish for just about any Mexican dish.
Finally, no better breakfast exists than a freshly-baked baguette sandwich with perfectly ripe avocado slices. No seasonings are required—these two foods offer one of the most delicious flavor combinations you’ll ever experience.