By Stephanie Osmanski

Though the window of opportunity between chowing down on the perfect avocado and being forced to throw it out is slim, there are a couple of tricks for determining optimum avocado ripeness. Remember these tips the next time you’re at the market, and check out our bonus ideas for speeding up the ripening process. Let’s get cracking.

How To Easily Tell When an Avocado is Ripe - properly open an avocado

Trick #1: Remove the Stem

The avocado’s ripeness is indicated by both the color underneath the removed stem and the ease with which it was removed.

If the nub was impossible to remove, it’s not ready to eat yet. Take it home, but give it some time to ripen.

If the stem broke off easily to reveal green underneath, chow down!

If it’s brown underneath the stem, the avocado is overripe.

How To Easily Tell When an Avocado is Ripe - the perfect avocado

Trick #2: Go by Look and Feel

While stem removal is the ultimate test to resolving avo-readiness, you can also determine ripeness by its look and feel.

If you’re using the avocado in less than 24 hours (#blessed), look for a dark, taut avocado that can handle gentle pressure, but isn’t so mushy that you can squish it.

Friendly warning: deflating skin = overripe

If you’re using avocados throughout the week opt for a variety. A green avocado that is firm and hard to the touch (think tennis ball instead of stress ball) is not ripe. Give it 4 – 5 days to ripen. An avocado showing both dark and light spots is in the ripening stage and will be ready in 1 – 2 days.

How To Easily Tell When an Avocado is Ripe - avocado toast

Trick #3: Ripen it at Home

We’ve all been there; parsing through the bin of avocados, lightly touching every single one, desperate to find one that’s perfectly ripe for tonight’s dinner. But alas, no such luck. So what does one do with a completely unripe crop?

Learn how to ripen your own avocado.

Avocados release ethylene gas when ripening, but it’s usually a slow process and can take about five days. Manually speed it up with one of these tricks.

1.  Microwave your unripe avocado in 30-second intervals, but heed this warning: microwaving decreases the flavor.

2.  Alternatively, you can bake an avocado in the oven. Wrap the fruit in tin foil, set it on a baking sheet, and cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 200°F. This does the trick because more ethylene gas is emitted faster. The best part is, it won’t curtail the avocado’s flavor like the microwave would!

3.  If you’re looking to ripen your avocado without heat, there’s the paper bag and flour tip. Fill a brown paper bag with two inches of flour, place the avocado inside and let it sit for about two days. Though this hack takes a bit longer than the oven, it’ll leave you with near-perfect avocados.

Looking for the perfect summer avocado recipe? (And why wouldn’t you be?) We’ve got you covered. Click here.