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!
Pineapple Corer and Slicer, $19.95 from Sur La Table
Try this if your knife skills aren't so sharp.
How to Use Pineapple in Recipes
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 any of our other pineapple recipes.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.