How to slice, pit and peel an avocado without ending up in the ER

When I was in physical therapy a few years ago for a small knife injury to my index finger, I was seated next to a very nice gentleman (in front of a TV showing the Food Network, naturally). He laughed when I told him why I was there.

He showed me his hand, which had a massive scar between his thumb and index finger. It had been patched up as best could be done, but it still looked gruesome. He had sliced straight through the skin - and artery, muscle and even down to the bone, if I am remembering correctly - while trying to remove an avocado pit with a knife.

He's not alone. Traumatic injuries caused by people attempting to slice and pit Instagram's favorite fruit are becoming so common that doctors have dubbed the malady "avocado hand."

I don't want this to happen to you.

- Halving

The safest, most comfortable way I have found to slice an avocado in half is to put it on its side on a cutting board. Hold the avocado in place with one hand on top and start slicing into the fruit with a chef's knife, with the blade positioned parallel to the board. You'll be cutting along the axis that runs from the fruit's top to bottom.

Now begin rotating the avocado so the knife starts cutting all the way around the pit. You really don't need to be moving the knife much at all. Your hand moving the avocado is doing all the work for you and, more importantly, not moving ever-closer to the edge of the knife. In short order, you will have made a complete circle around the avocado. Put down the knife and simply twist apart the halves.

- Pitting

Now to the pit.

I would like to once and for all quash the myth that the best way to remove the pit of an avocado is with a knife. It's nice that the New York Times recommended against digging it out with the tip of the knife, but I don't understand why it says the "right" way is by "gently striking the pit with a knife to embed its long edge into the stone." No. No. No! Sure, this looks cool, but in my experience, it's totally unnecessary. Why risk a glancing blow where the knife slips and goes into your hand? Why make this more complicated than it needs to be? Grab a spoon. Scoop out the pit. Done.

- Slicing and peeling

At this point, you can do something fun with your avocado halves - bake eggs in them, for example - or simply use the spoon to scoop out the flesh. You can use a knife to score the flesh, too, for easy removal, but there's no need to run the risk that the blade will slice through the avocado skin and then into your skin. Simply use the back of the knife blade rather than the sharpened side. Or be even safer and whip out a good old butter knife.

If you don't care about keeping the avocado half intact or are looking to achieve some nice wedges, we like the method espoused by chef, cookbook author and TV host Sara Moulton. Proceed with the same horizontal cut as described above. Then, with the knife perpendicular to the board, cut the top side of the avocado from stem to bottom. Flip the avocado over, and repeat on the other side. You end up with four sections; the pit is attached to one, and you can easily pluck it out with your fingers.

The sections also make it easy to peel the skin and keep them whole. Just run a spoon between flesh and skin. If your avocado is really ripe, you might even be able to get away with peeling the skin off with your fingers.

- Saving

If you want to save an avocado you've cut without it oxidizing and turning brown, you can apply something acidic to the surface, such as lemon or lime juice or vinegar, before wrapping it in plastic. The browning doesn't matter much to me, so I usually just tightly pull plastic wrap over the flesh, and sometimes that is enough to keep discoloration at bay.

Whole unripened avocados can sit at room temperature until they ripen, usually four to five days. If you want to cut that time roughly in half, place the avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana. Ripe avocados will yield to a bit of gentle pressure - they should be soft but not mushy - and may darken in color on the outside. At that point, store them in the refrigerator for up to two or three days.

Now that your crash course is complete, the only danger you'll face from avocados is eating too much guacamole.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Food

How to choose the right flour for the right baking recipe
How to choose the right flour for the right baking recipe

You probably have a bag of flour in your pantry. And it's probably all-purpose, the workhorse of baking. But there are plenty of other, more specialized flours out there, and even if you're just starting to dabble in baking, it will help to have a basic understanding of flour varieties. The biggest difference to consider is protein content, which is...
In NAFTA talks, U.S. tries to limit junk food warning labels
In NAFTA talks, U.S. tries to limit junk food warning labels

The contentious negotiations over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement have veered into one of the world’s most pressing health issues: fighting obesity. Urged on by big American food and soft-drink companies, the Trump administration is using the trade talks with Mexico and Canada to try to limit the ability of the pact&rsquo...
All hail kolaches, the buns of Texas
All hail kolaches, the buns of Texas

Kolaches are Czech-born, Texas-favorite soft rolls with a satisfyingly sunken patch of filling. Ask almost anyone from the Lone Star State whether they know about kolache [co-LAHCH] and be prepared for a promotional treatise. Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin stake their own kolache claims, and I would venture to say anyone who has ever tasted the...
A celebration of black Southern food
A celebration of black Southern food

As great restaurants will do, JuneBaby pulled me in from more than one direction. The first, of course, was the sheer pleasure of the cooking. (Without that, the others wouldn’t matter.) The food is Southern, which I was primed to like before I walked through JuneBaby’s Dutch doors in this city’s Ravenna neighborhood. And whenever...
Defiant Rick Pitino insists he did nothing wrong - and wants back in
Defiant Rick Pitino insists he did nothing wrong - and wants back in

When the NCAA basketball tournament games tipped off last Thursday, Rick Pitino was sitting in a lounge chair on the patio of his palatial, waterfront home on a tiny island dubbed the "billionaire bunker." He'd just finished a round of golf. His son, owner of a margarita salt company, watched the early games with him but left in the afternoon...
More Stories