Choose an avocado that's ripe but not overripe; an avocado past its prime will be too soft to slice cleanly. At the market, look for avocados that are firm to the touch. If you want to use them immediately, look for avocados that yield to gentle pressure when touched.
Hold the avocado gently but firmly so it doesn't slip from your hand. With a large, sharp knife in the other hand, cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit. Slightly twist the two halves, separate and remove the seed (see below).
You can scoop the pit out with a spoon, cut around it or -- if you're confident in your knife skills -- tap the avocado pit with a knife until it makes a significant cut in the pit. Then, just twist the pit out.
If you're making guacamole or serving the avocado mashed -- say, on a sandwich -- scoop the avocado flesh from its shell with a spoon. If you're making a salad and prefer to dice the avocado, slice a crosshatch pattern with a small paring knife into the avocado. Alternatively, cut each half into long wedges with the peel still on; remove the peel once the pieces have separated.
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