Pineapple is delicious eaten fresh as a snack, grilled, or served with meat. But it’s important to choose a pineapple in prime condition before you bring it home from the store. Pineapple is one of the few fruits that you can’t ripen at home.
How to choose a ripe pineapple
Most of the traditional “secrets” to selecting ripe pineapples are unreliable. Don’t bother trying to judge the fruit by its color (it can range from green to yellow-gold depending on the variety), or by thumping it to test its “soundness,” or by pulling a crown leaf to see how loose it is.
Your best guide to quality is a label or tag indicating that the pineapple was jet-shipped from the grower. These pineapples are more likely to be in prime condition—and unfortunately more expensive—than those brought in by truck or boat. Pineapples grown in Central America are often picked too green, which means they may be fibrous and not very sweet.
A large pineapple will have a greater proportion of edible flesh to rind and core, but small and medium-sized pineapples can still be delicious. The fruit should be firm and plump, as well as heavy for its size, with fresh looking green leaves. Look out for bruises or soft spots, especially at the base. A good pineapple should be fragrant, though if the fruit is cold the aroma may not be apparent. Never buy a pineapple with a sour or fermented smell.
How to store pineapple at home
Although it will not increase in sweetness, a pineapple will get somewhat softer and juicier if it is left at room temperature for a day or two before serving. After ripening, you can refrigerate pineapple for three to five days—but no longer or the fruit may be damaged by the cold. Refrigerate the pineapple in a plastic bag to help conserve its moisture content. Cut-up pineapple, stored in an airtight container, will keep for about a week.
How to core pineapple
Some stores have pineapple coring and shelling devices in their produce department to simplify the preparation of this fruit. If you take advantage of this convenience you may lose some of the fruit you’re paying for, as the device cannot be adjusted to the size of the individual fruit and may remove more flesh than necessary.
To cut pineapple into chunks, twist or cut off the leafy crown (or feel free to leave it on for a more decorative presentation). Using a large, heavy knife, halve the fruit lengthwise from bottom to top, then cut the two halves in half again to form quarters. Slice off the core from the top of each wedge-shaped quarter, then slide a knife between the flesh and rind to free the flesh.
Cut the wedge of fruit as required for your recipe. Or use the pineapple rind as a serving “boat.” For this, after cutting between the flesh and rind, make crosswise cuts to divide the fruit into bite-sized pieces. Leave the pineapple pieces in place on the rind.
To cut round slices of pineapple, it’s easiest to cut off the top and bottom of the fruit, then cut the unpeeled fruit into slices and peel and core each slice individually.
Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which digests protein. The fresh fruit is never used in gelatin molds because the bromelain would break down the protein in the gelatin and prevent it from setting. Heating pineapple to the boiling point, however, inactivates the enzyme, so canned pineapple can be safely used in gelatin molds.
Fresh pineapple should not be mixed with yogurt or cottage cheese until just before serving, because the bromelain will begin to digest the protein in these foods, changing their flavor and consistency. On the plus side, this same enzyme action means you can use pineapple to tenderize meats and poultry. Try including the fresh fruit—shredded, pureed, or juiced—in marinades.
11 pineapple recipe ideas
- Toss pineapple chunks in a blender along with plain yogurt or buttermilk and ice to make a smoothie. Or make a smoothie using pineapple with some kale, mint, and citrus.
- Substitute pineapple for tomato in a chunky salsa recipe.
- Grill or broil pineapple slices plain or sprinkled with a little brown sugar. Try them with a touch of cayenne pepper for a little heat.
- Serve thinly sliced pineapple topped with a lightly sweetened and spiced yogurt or ricotta cheese.
- Add pineapple chunks to chicken salad or pork salad.
- Top a cheese pizza with finely diced pineapple.
- Make pineapple sauce instead of applesauce.
- Replace some of the zucchini in zucchini bread with finely chopped pineapple.
- Add pineapple chunks to kababs and grill. Pineapple pairs well with pork, beef, poultry, or tofu.
- Cook carrots in pineapple juice.
- Toss sliced strawberries, raspberries, pineapple wedges, and sliced bananas in pineapple juice for a dessert.