When I was little, one of our favorite treats was fresh pineapple. We kids would gather around the table with wide-eyed fascination as our father would carefully prep the pineapple.
My father's method is simple, though not at all obvious by just looking at the pineapple.
How to Properly Cut a Pineapple
First you off the green spiky top. Then carefully cut the skin off the sides, as close to the edge of the pineapple as you can. The sweetest and juiciest parts of the pineapple were usually right at the very edge.
Cutting close to the edge exposes a bunch of brown, scraggly dots, called eyes, that need to be removed. You can't eat them, they're too prickly.
If you looked carefully you can tell that the eyes line up in a spiral. My father carefully cuts away at the eyes, making V-shaped trenches as he rotates around the pineapple to remove them.
When the pineapple is all ready to go, you can slice it in rounds or make lengthwise cuts to make spears or chunks.
How to Tell a Pineapple Is Ripe
The best way to tell that a pineapple is ripe is to pick it up and smell it from the bottom. If it smells like sweet, fresh pineapple juice, it's ripe.
If it doesn't smell of pineapple, it isn't ripe. If it smells fermented, it's over-ripe.
A ripe pineapple should be firm, not soft, and the leaves should look fresh, not dried out. The pineapple can be green, golden, or a mix, it doesn't matter. What matters is the smell.
Contrary to a common misperception, pineapples do not continue to ripen once picked. They will get more golden, and more soft, but the sugars will not continue to develop after they're picked. (See Hawaiian Crown and Dole articles on this.)
Pineapples should be eaten soon after they're bought. If you need to store them, store them in the refrigerator; they'll keep longer.
Pineapple Rounds Are a Terrific Treat for Kids
My father would slice the pineapple in rounds, giving each of us forks to spear our own round in the tough center.
Then we would run outside, holding the pineapple round on our fork, and eat that pineapple ring all around the sweet juicy edges (taking our drippy mess outside).
If all the rounds were accounted for (there were six of us kids), and we were still desperate for more pineapple, we would nibble on the tough core until everything was eaten.
These days most people (sometimes me included) don't bother with the spiral cuts, they just make deeper cuts initially to cut off the pineapple skin and the eyes together.
If you are rushed for time you can easily do that. But the far edges are the best part, especially if the pineapple is still a little green.
So here's my dad's way of cutting a pineapple, if you want to take a couple extra minutes to extract more of the juicy bits.
How to Cut a Pineapple
- One ripe pineapple
Slice off the top
Place the pineapple on its side on a cutting board. With a sharp chef's knife, slice off the top green crown and about a half inch of the top of the pineapple.
Stand the pineapple upright on the cutting board.
Cut away the outer peel
Use a sharp knife to carefully cut away the outer peel, from top to bottom, following the contours of the pineapple.
Do not cut so deep as to cut away the eyes. The outer edge of the pineapple has the sweetest flesh, so you want to retain that if you can.
Cut off the bottom half inch or so of the pineapple.
Make diagonal cuts to carve out the pineapple eyes
Now you have a pineapple dotted with eyes which must be removed. You can use a small paring knife to carefully carve out each one, but there is an easier way.
Notice that the eyes all line up on a diagonal! Make a diagonal cut across the side of the pineapple, like a V-shaped trench, and more easily cut out all of the eyes that are on that diagonal.
Continue to work your way around the pineapple. You do waste a little bit of good pineapple this way, but not much, and it is a lot faster than trying to carefully cut out each eye.
Make the final cuts
Now the pineapple is ready to cut further. There are several ways to make the final cuts of the pineapple, depending how you are serving it.
If you want rounds, just lay the pineapple on its side and cut it into 3/4 inch rounds. For rings, cut out the tough core.
When we were kids we preferred to keep the core in. We liked to spear the core in a solid pineapple round with our fork, and then hold up the pineapple round to eat the ripe edges.
If you just want chunks, cut the pineapple lengthwise into quarters.
Cut out the tough core, then cut each quarter lengthwise again. Then cut crosswise into chunks.