Have You Been Ripening Avocados All Wrong?

By the editors of Cook's Illustrated

  • Print

Here's everything every guacamole fan needs to know.

Last year, it's estimated that Americans consumed roughly 158 million avocados around the time of the Super Bowl. We imagine that those avocados were heartily consumed in the form of guacamole, dips, toppings for salads, and other layered dishes.

Given the impending game this Sunday, here’s everything you need to know about football’s favorite fruit.

Understanding Two Different Types of Avocado

You may think of the Hass avocado (shown above) when you think of avocados, but there’s also a type called the Florida avocado. Sometimes referred to as skinny avocados (and are actually labeled SlimCados by one producer), their fat by weight can be as little as half of that of the Hass (which are grown primarily in California).

In terms of appearance, besides being smaller, Hass avocados have a wrinkly skin that turns dark greenish or even black when ripe. Florida avocados are usually about 2.5 times the size of a typical Hass, with a shape similar to that of a papaya and a smooth, bright-green exterior.

We compared them three ways: plain, in guacamole, and in our recipe for Avocado Salad with Mango and Jícama.

We came to the conclusion that Florida avocados were waterier, with a milder, fruitier flavor. We didn’t love them in guacamole: they tasted more washed-out than the Hass. And as Florida avocados have roughly six times the sugar by weight, it’s not surprising that tasters also found these samples sweeter.

So while we’re sticking with nutty, buttery Hass avocados for guacamole, the skinny variety is fine in salads or other dishes where you’re looking for a fresh, mild fruit flavor.

How to Ripen an Avocado

Avocados have a notoriously small window of perfect ripeness. To see if we could broaden this time frame, we bought a case of unripe avocados and ripened them at room temperature and in the refrigerator three ways: on the counter (or refrigerator shelf), enclosed in a paper bag, and enclosed in a paper bag with pieces of green apple (fruit gives off ethylene gas, which helps many fruits and vegetables ripen more quickly). In the end, the only thing that mattered was the temperature at which the avocados were stored.

At room temperature, rock-hard avocados ripened within two days, but many of them ended up ripening unevenly, developing soft spots and air pockets on one side just as the other side was beginning to soften. After completely ripening, they lasted two days on average if kept at room temperature (stored in the fridge after ripening, they lasted five days). Avocados ripened in the refrigerator, whether in a bag or out in the open, took around four days to soften, but did so evenly. Stored in the fridge, they lasted a full five days before starting to show signs of over-ripening.

So If you need your avocados to ripen sooner rather than later, keep them on the counter. Otherwise, for better quality, you’re better off putting them in the fridge and allowing them to ripen slowly. In either case, store the ripened fruit in the fridge to extend its shelf life.

RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas

This spicy Mexican shredded pork known as tinga boasts all the smoke and fork-tenderness of good barbecued pulled pork. Even better, it cooks completely on the stove.

In My Favorites
Please Wait…
Remove Favorite
Add to custom collection