How to Ripen Avocados

Whatever you do, don’t microwave them.

March 23, 2020
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Fresh avocado on cutting board over wooden background

Photo by: tashka2000

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By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

Presenting a week in the life of an avocado, a dramatic short: Day 1: unripe; Day 2: unripe; Day 3: unripe; Day 4: unripe; Day 5: ripe!!!!!; Day 6: ripe but slightly mushy?; Day 7: haha, too ripe!

Although we joke, we’re not too far off: The California Avocado Commission, which is the trade association serving the state's avocado growers, has a detailed chart of the five stages of avocado ripeness. From firm to firm ripe to ripe, the timeline is broken down day by day. Here’s the thing, though: Depending on how an avocado is handled, this timeline can be condensed (or lengthened). To all of the eager makers of guacamole and avocado toast, here’s how to ripen avocados more quickly.

1. Select the Best Avocados in the Supermarket

Look for avocados that feel heavy for their size, with skin that’s dark with a hint of green. Avoid avocados with loose-feeling skin, dents or portions that feel softer than the rest of the avocado. These bruises are typically caused by shoppers squeezing avocados with their fingertips. Surprise: The proper way to feel for ripeness is to gently squeeze an avocado with the palm of your hand – not your fingers! If it easily yields, it’s ripe and ready to eat.

2. Determine How Quickly You Want to Ripen the Avocados

Okay, you could only find rock-hard, unripe avocados at the supermarket. Sorry to break the bad news, but eating them for dinner tonight is out of the question. Internet hacks, like microwaving an avocado to instantly ripen it, are simply smoke and mirrors. (Heating up an avocado may soften it, but won’t impart a ripe, buttery flavor.) So your next step is determine whether your goal is to eat them as quickly as possible – tomorrow or the next day – or in time for taco night at the end of the week.

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Stock photo of avocado out of paper bagSerie:

Photo by: onebluelight ©onebluelight

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3. Store Unripe Avocados on the Counter, Not in the Refrigerator

In nature, avocados begin ripening when they fall from the tree onto the ground — at room temperature. Storing avocados in the refrigerator slows down ripening, and can even halt the ripening process permanently. Stash them in the fridge only once they’ve fully ripened. The cool temerpatures will preserve them at peak ripeness — and they’ll last in there for up to a week.

4. For the Fastest Results, Stash the Avocados in a Paper Bag with Fruit

Time for a cool science lesson. Avocados — and apples and kiwis — produce a plant hormone called ethylene which triggers fruit ripening. Ethylene is actually used commercially as a natural and effective way to ripen all sorts of other produce. You can harness its powers at home by putting your avocados in a paper bag and rolling up the top to seal it. The paper bag will trap the ethylene close around the avocados and — bingo — speed up ripening. For an extra dose of ripening power, add an apple or kiwi (or both).

And once you cut them open, if you end up having leftover halves that you want to save, here is the best avocado keeper, to prolong that buttery bliss just a bit longer.

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