Sweet, succulent and refreshing—a ripe pear is a thing of beauty. Unripe pears, on the other hand, are not nearly as rewarding. Fortunately, our guide on how to ripen pears will spare you the disappointment of biting into a rock-hard, flavorless piece of fruit.
Pears are one of very few fruits that do not ripen on the tree. In fact, they are always harvested when mature, but not yet ripe, which is why it’s pretty common to encounter unripe pears at the farmer’s market and grocery store. The good news is that pears that have been plucked from the tree will naturally ripen, so long as they are not exposed to cold temperatures. (Hint: This is why you should never store unripe pears in the refrigerator.) Read on for a few different methods for ripening pears and remember that room temperature is a prerequisite across the board.
But first, here’s how to check a pear for ripeness
Not sure how to determine whether or not a pear is ripe? Well, friends, it’s actually very easy to do, and there’s even a catchy phrase that will help you remember. Just “check the neck” by applying gentle pressure with your thumb to the neck, not the body, of the fruit. If the neck of the pear yields to pressure, it’s ripe and ready to eat.
Method 1: Room temperature
Pears will ripen naturally when left at room temperature on the kitchen counter. That said, this hands-off method requires a little patience, since it will take roughly four to seven days for an unripe pear to reach its peak. It’s also worth noting that pears stored on the kitchen counter should be kept away from direct sunlight, or they might go straight from under ripe to overripe and mushy. Also, keep in mind that pears can ripen at different rates, so be sure to check your fruit for ripeness on the daily.
Method 2: Fruit bowl
If four to seven days seems too long to wait for a juicy pear, the folks at USA Pears suggest speeding things up by stashing unripe pears in a fruit bowl alongside other ripening fruit, like bananas. The ethylene gas emitted by the surrounding fruit will accelerate the ripening process, so you can sink your teeth into a juicy pear a day or two sooner. Again, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your pears—namely because once they reach their peak, it won’t be long before they become overripe and unappetizing
Method 3: Paper bag
Storing pears in a bowl with other fruit will help move things along, but there’s an even more effective way to coax a pear into ripening. For this method, simply store the pears in a loosely closed paper bag. This traps the ethylene gas emitted by the pears and the end result is rapid ripening. When using this method, it is impearative (sorry, we had to) that you check on the fruit every day—and definitely do not attempt this with a plastic bag, as this will suffocate the pears and lead to spoilage, rather than ripening.
Method 4: Paper bag + ripe fruit
Given that ripe fruits emit ethylene gas, and paper bags trap said gas, it stands to reason that the very fastest way to ripen pears is to store them in a loosely closed paper bag with other ripe fruit. (Think: ready-to-eat apples and bananas.) In other words, combine methods two and three for the very fastest route to perfectly ripened pears—just be sure to make short work of them once they’re ready to go.
How to store ripe pears
So you picked one of the above methods, waited it out, and now your underripe pears have reached their sweet and juicy pinnacle. Needless to say, if you’re dealing with a single ripe pear, just give it a wash and sink your teeth in. But if you have more ripe pears than you can put away in a single day, your best bet is to preserve them in the refrigerator. Per the fruit experts, ripe pears “can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process and saved for use up to five days later.” When storing ripe pears in the fridge, it’s best to keep them apart from other fruits and certain ethylene-producing vegetables, like peppers. Also be sure to find them a safe spot in the ice box where they aren’t at risk of being bruised and damaged by other heavy food items. Finally, if you dropped the ball and let a few choice pieces of fruit become overripe, you needn’t send them straight to the compost bin. Instead, toss them in the blender for use in smoothies, soups and purees.