Pineapples are a vibrant taste of the tropics that are good for much more than garnishing piña coladas and mai tais and eating on their own or chopped up in fruit salad. But that’s only if you get one that is perfectly ripe—bright yellow, sweet, and so full of juice that, according to Chowhound user Veggo, “they almost explode like water balloons.” But since it’s so difficult to ship ripe pineapples, the ones we find in grocery stores are often at least somewhat hard and green. So how do you know which pineapple to pick?
The conventional classic signs of a ripe pineapple are a golden color (“You should see a healthy yellowing happening from the bottom to as much as midway up the pineapple skin,” says HillJ; the more uniformly yellow-gold, the better), a sweet aroma, a slight give to the skin, and a leaf that pulls easily from the crown.
Use Your Nose
However, the Dole website says neither color nor loosely attached leaves are actually good indicators of ripeness, but you can pretty much always trust your nose: You’ll know a good pineapple when you smell it. You want a sweet, full fragrance, with no sharp or funky notes. If you can’t detect a scent, pass it up (or risk being disappointed).
Look for Big Eyes
Look for large eyes (the knots on a pineapple) as well, especially if they’re large near the crown as well as all around the body, as this indicates the fruit had a longer time to ripen on the tree—and once it’s picked, it won’t ripen any further. Instead, it will just begin to degrade, with the starches converting to sugar.
Watch Out for Overripe Pineapple
If there’s already juice oozing from the bottom of the pineapple, it’s past its prime, and if it smells tangy or sharp, it’s probably begun to ferment and won’t taste good. It should feel fairly firm—not rock-hard, but not really soft either; too much give indicates it’s breaking down from the inside out.
How to Store Pineapple
If you’re not ready to eat your pineapple right away, store it in the fridge to keep it fresh, then cut it up as suits your needs.
How to Cut Pineapple
If you need help with your plan of attack, see our guide on how to cut a pineapple. You may be tempted to try that “pulling apart a pineapple” trick you’ve probably seen on Instagram, but beware: even if your fruit is super ripe, it’s harder than it looks!
Yesker Stainless Steel Pineapple Corer, $6.99 on Amazon
This tool promises to make coring and peeling your pineapple easy—per the reviews, just be sure to watch your fingers.
In addition to using your perfectly ripe pineapple in classic applications like pineapple cocktails and desserts, try mixing it into slaw, grilling it, turning it into edible flowers, and making homemade Dole Whip. Or try one of these easy pineapple recipes.
Grilled fruit is great, and charred pineapple pairs especially well with plump, tender shrimp. Serve with rice and grilled vegetables (like bell peppers, onions, and broccoli) brushed with the same simple, sweet-tangy, soy-based glaze. Get our Pineapple Glazed Shrimp Skewers recipe.
Grilled again, but this time turned into a refreshing drink perfect for hot summer days. It’s worth seeking out the Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb liqueur (made with orange peel, spices, and rhum agricole, a Martinique-style rum made from sugarcane juice instead of molasses). There’s not really a good substitute for it, but grilling your pineapple would still add a nice smoky dimension to all your standard tiki drinks. Get our Grilled Pineapple Daiquiri recipe.
Make guacamole more interesting and extra-refreshing by adding diced crunchy cucumber and soft, juicy pineapple to the mix. Its chunky texture makes it just as good for using to top fish tacos as it is for scooping up with chips. Get our Pineapple and Cucumber Guacamole recipe.
Soy sauce and pineapple juice lend a lot of salty-sweet flavor to slow-braised pork shoulder, which you can use in all sorts of ways. We like shredding it for sliders on sweet Hawaiian buns, with fresh pineapple slices and a bit of crisp jicama on top. Get our Pineapple Braised Pork Sandwiches recipe.
Frozen puff pastry makes these chewy mini tarts with fresh pineapple and shredded coconut easy to achieve. The sweet tropical flavor is accented with a little warmth from ginger. Get our Pineapple-Coconut Tartlets recipe.
In addition to tasting delicious paired with various kinds of meat, pineapple also helps tenderize it. Pair it with pork and smoky chiles for classic tacos al pastor, an unbeatable flavor combo that we’ve adapted for the home grill. Get our Tacos al Pastor recipe.
A perfectly ripe pineapple doesn’t need a lot of dressing up. Here, it’s pureed with a little bit of sugar, lime juice, water, and rum for a thirst-quenching summer drink that you can also make non-alcoholic if you prefer. Get our Spiked Pineapple Agua Fresca recipe.
This might be the lightest, brightest summer dessert you could possibly hope for—just pureed fresh pineapple with a little fresh orange juice and zest, plus enough sugar and water to help it freeze to the right fluffy, icy consistency. Get our Pineapple Granité recipe.
Related Video: How to Cut a Pineapple
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