- Ripe avocados should feel a little soft and will stay ripe at room temp for a couple of days.
- Speed up avocado ripening by placing it in a brown bag with bananas or other ethylene-rich fruits.
- Microwaving or baking an avocado in an attempt to ripen it will compromise its flavor and texture.
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Avocado consumption in the United States has doubled over the past decade, and they are a delicious and versatile ingredient in sweet and savory dishes, but it’s important to use them at peak ripeness for optimal flavor and rich, creamy texture. Chef Brooke Williamson, Top Chef winner and owner of Playa Provisions, shares her tips, along with what not to do, when ripening avocados.
How to tell if an avocado is ripe
Williamson recommends buying avocados at different stages of ripeness for different applications. Riper avocados will be easier to mash up for creamy guacamole or avocado toast. Slightly less ripe avocados will hold their shape better if you plan to slice them for a salad or more detailed presentations. Here’s what to look for:
- Gently touch the avocado. It should be softly firm, giving slightly to the touch.
- Look at the skin. The darker the color, the riper the avocado.
- Avoid bruised avocados. This might indicate decay and discoloration inside.
- Look for uneven textures. If part of the avocado feels softer than the rest, pick a different one.
- Don’t worry about surface scratches. Small cosmetic blemishes or scuffs are most likely nothing to worry about.
- Check the stem. “It starts to sink when the avocado ripens,” says Williamson, “whereas an unripe avocado has a stem that is still intact and almost sticks out.”
How to ripen avocados quickly
Place your avocado in a paper bag to ripen it in half the time.
Though there are many techniques outlined in various corners of the internet — some more dubious than others — the best technique for ripening an avocado is to just give it the time it needs. But there is one genuine trick for speeding it up a bit:
- Concentrate the ethylene. Avocados produce ethylene gas, a plant hormone that triggers ripening. Bananas, apples, and kiwi fruit also produce ethylene, so you can use proximity to ripen your avocados quickly.
- Bag them up. Place your avocados plus a buddy fruit — bananas work best — in a brown paper bag to concentrate and contain the ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening. A slightly underripe avocado should ripen overnight. Less ripe avocados may take more time, but the ethylene will generally halve the normal ripening timeline.
- Newspaper works too. If you don’t have a paper bag, wrapping avocados in newspaper and placing them in a plastic bag also works well.
- Put them in the sunlight. Warmer temperatures help encourage ripening — but not too warm!
Can you ripen an avocado in the microwave?
The short answer is, “no.” Though this technique is a ubiquitous “life hack,” it’s not one Williamson recommends. Baking or microwaving an avocado won’t truly ripen it. What it will do is cook it, which makes it softer, but it also compromises the texture and flavor.
“Microwaving and baking the avocado literally changes the cell structure within the flesh of the avocado,” Williamson says. “There’s nothing better than a fresh avocado, and you just destroy it when you cook it.” Instead of the buttery, nutty flavor we know and love, you’ll end up with a mushy, bitter fruit.
How to ripen a cut avocado
If you’ve already cut it open just to discover it’s not ripe yet, there’s still hope. Just like you would squeeze lime juice over guacamole to keep the mixture looking fresh and green, you’ll want to rub the exposed avocado flesh with acid and cover it tightly with plastic wrap so it doesn’t oxidize and turn brown. Then leave it at room temp to ripen naturally. Williamson suggests leaving the pit in too to help with ripening.
How to keep avocados ripe for longer
Avocados will remain optimally ripe at room temperature for two to three days. To extend that period, store them uncut in the refrigerator. This slows down the ripening process and extends the shelf life to five days.
You can also freeze ripe avocados to keep them for four to six months. However, they will lose their fresh flavor and texture and wouldn’t be good for guacamole or avocado toast anymore. But frozen avocados can work just fine blended in smoothies, baby food, or soups.
To freeze avocados, peel them and slice them in quarters or chunks. Rub them with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning, then freeze them on a tray so they don’t stick together. Once frozen, you can transfer to a freezer bag.
Placing your avocado in a paper bag with a banana or other ethylene-rich fruit will help it ripen faster. Ethylene gas occurs naturally to trigger the ripening process, so concentrating it will result in a ripe avocado in about half the time. Microwaving or baking your avocado is not advised. It will soften it, but won’t ripen in, resulting in an off taste and texture.
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