Creamy, delicious and totally good for you—yup, avocados are basically the perfect food. But they can also be a bit finicky, and using an under- or over-ripe avocado—or an avocado that's been stored improperly—can completely ruin a dish. Read on to learn exactly how to serve the perfect avocado every time, and get some recipe inspiration along the way.
There are two major types of avocados you'll come across in grocery stores: Hass avocados (sometimes called California avocados) and Florida avocados. Hass avocados have a very dark textured skin that can take on an almost blackened look as the avocado ripens. Florida avocados, on the other hand, are lighter, with a brighter green skin that's smooth in texture. Hass avocados have slightly higher fat content than the Florida varieties, so they're the best choice when you want an extra-creamy texture, like in a dip or spread.
No matter which variety you choose, you can gauge the fruit's ripeness by feel. Ripe avocados should be a bit spongy when you press the skin. Avoid mushy-feeling avocados (they're overripe) but don't worry if the avocado feels too hard—you can ripen it by placing it in a paper bag with an apple or banana at room temperature for up to three days.
Once you've got your avocado ripened to perfection, it's time to cut! How you should cut your avocado depends on how you plan to use it.
Use a paring knife to slice through the avocado down to the pit, then twist to separate the halves. Use a spoon to remove the pit, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.
This method works best if you plan to mash, blend or purée your avocado. Try it while prepping avocado asparagus wantons, mashed avocado toast or, of course, guacamole. Alternatively, you can simply grill the halved avocado face down (with the skin on) for an easy but decadent side dish.
Cutting your avocado into simple slices or cubes takes just a second. Half and pit the avocado as described above. Hold a half in your hand and use a paring knife to gently slice the flesh lengthwise (cut again widthwise if you want cubes), without piercing the skin. Use a spoon to separate the cubes from the flesh, and you're ready to go.
Use those perfect avocados slices to top turkey bacon cheeseburgers, to make tart-and-creamy avocado and red grapefruit salad or in chipotle ranch chicken wraps. And those avocado cubes? Use them to make yummy tomato and avocado salad, or bread and bake them for kid-friendly avocado bites.
If you've ever made guacamole in advance, only for it to turn brown before it gets to the table, you already know that pre-cut avocados left don't have a long shelf life. Avocado flesh begins oxidizing as soon as it's exposed to air, leading to that less-than-pleasant hue.
Keeping sliced avocados away from the air can help minimize browning. If you're only using half an avocado, keep the pit in the other half to act as a barrier. Coat any exposed flesh with a thin layer of olive oil—it works as a barrier to keep air out—or, if you plan to use the avocado within the next day, store it under water in the fridge. Strange as it sounds, storing your avocado half in an airtight container with a halved onion also helps, since onions emit natural "preservatives" that keep your avocado fresh.
If you bought a bag of avocados, store them in the fridge until a few days before you plan to use them. The lower temperature delays ripening for up to two weeks. Leaving some of the avocados in the fridge will ensure you don't end up wasting any by having too many ripen at the same time.
Enjoying avocados goes far beyond just avocado toast and guac. Try one of these delicious recipes to expand your culinary horizons.