How to Pick an Avocado Like a Pro

By: Katy Green

Katy Green is a produce field inspector at Whole Foods Market, which means she works with farmers to make sure the highest quality produce arrives in stores. She certainly knows a thing or two (or three … or many) about avocados.

Most people love avocados, and that makes sense. I do, too! They have a delicious and smooth, buttery flavor. And while I can’t say I’ve totally jumped on the avocado toast bandwagon, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of flavored salts with avocados on toast.

But how do you pick an avocado so that it’s perfect and ready-to-eat? It’s pretty easy if you break it down into a few steps.

Check the Color

Every variety has a different skin color and shape. The skin color for Hass avocados, for example, can range from green to black with various shades of purple and black — or even a slightly reddish-black in the mix. This is important: The color can tell you when the avocado will be ready to eat: A green Hass will be very hard and will take roughly 7 – 10 days to soften. If you’re looking for an avocado to eat today or the next day, look for darker shades of black, purple-black and reddish-black. You should also make sure the skin is fairly consistent in coloring with no punctures, bruising or visible breakdown.

Here’s a helpful color scale, too:

Avocado Firmness scale,  Very Firm Wait a few days to eat, Firm good for slicing, Soft and Ripe great for Guacamole

Do a Squeeze Test

This is the most important step! There should be a slight give to pressure when you hold a ripe avocado in your hand. You don’t want the fruit to be soft to the touch. If it’s soft and gives too much, it’s beyond the perfect level of ripeness. Most importantly, you want to make sure there is no layer of oxygen or any air pockets between the exterior skin and the flesh. These layers of oxygen feel like little air bubbles, and they’re what causes brown flesh, mold and an off flavor.

You should be able to take your perfectly picked avocado and keep it in the fridge for about five days — it will maintain its level of softness, more or less. If you pick up a fruit that’s a little firm, you should leave it out on the counter until it gives slightly to pressure. Then move it into the fridge until you’re ready to eat it. There’s no way to stop the ripening process, but you can slow it down when it’s in the fridge. If fruit is at the perfect level of softness, you should be able to pull off the stem with ease and see the color of the fruit flesh. The flesh should be bright green without any browning.

You can also speed up the ripening process by putting your avocados in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. Close the paper bag and put it in a warm place (like on your counter or on top of the fridge). When it’s ready, it’s time to make that perfect guac or avocado toast — or you can just eat it with a spoon with a little sea salt. That’s my favorite way to eat an avocado!

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