How to CookAvocado

The Best Way to Stop Your Avocado from Browning: Do Nothing

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Last week, we suggested a smarter way to cut an avocado to reduce the surface area exposed to air and thereby susceptible to browning.

Some of you cried blasphemy!...

...while others commented with advice for other ways to stymie the browning. Always on the search for new tips, we cut some avocados down the center the traditional way, took out the pits, then put these 6 techniques to the test:

  • Red onion: line the bottom of a container with chopped red onion
  • Lemon juice: brush the surface with lemon juice
  • Olive oil: brush the surface with extra-virgin olive oil
  • Boiling and shocking: boil the cut half for 1 minute, then shock in an ice bath
  • Coconut oil: brush the surface with melted coconut oil
  • Cold water: peel avocado, run under cold water, and set on a paper towel for up to 4 hours

We also set one avocado aside as a control, leaving the pit in one half (which we hypothesized would curb browning).

Hour 0 versus hour 24.

So what did we find?

  • Most of the methods did more harm than good.
  • For the techniques that did work (the red onion and the lemon juice), it's not clear whether they were more effective than doing nothing at all. So if it makes you rest easy knowing you've taken preventative measures against a brown avocado, go ahead and use one of the methods that actually worked.
  • But this is also your permission to be lazy: to slice your avocado, take no action, and store it in a sealed container. We think it will fare just as well as the lemon-juice coated one.

Read on for the full report...

But does this *really* work?
But does this *really* work? Photo by James Ransom

Hour 0: The Lineup

Top row, from left to right: red onion, olive oil, control (pit), control (no pit)
Bottom row, from left to right: lemon juice, boil & shock, coconut oil, cold water

Our avocados, ready to brown (or not).
Our avocados, ready to brown (or not).

Once we had prepared all the avocados, we put sealed them all in individual quart containers (with the exception of the cold water test, as that method purported to keep the avocado green whilst exposed to air at room temperature) and tucked them into the refrigerator.

We returned 1 hour later.

Hour 1: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Significant changes had taken place on our avocado halves after just one hour in airtight containers in the refrigerator! (Magic!/Tragedy!)

There's oxidation afoot!
There's oxidation afoot!

The red onion and lemon juice avocado both showed small signs of browning, but remained nearly pristine.

Red onion (left) and lemon juice (right).

The olive oil-brushed and the boiled and shocked avocado, however, already looked unappetizing.

Olive oil (left) and boil & shock (right).

The coconut oil congealed on the coconut oil-brushed avocado, leaving a white film. The avocado that had been peeled and showered under cold water was already showing signs of browning all over, but was not entirely hopeless.

Coconut oil (left) and cold water (right).

The real surprise was the control avocado halves, both of which looked nearly unscathed.

Control with pit (left) and control without pit (right).

Hour 2: The Going Gets Tough Ugly

Here's when things really took a turn for the worse.

While the techniques that seemed successful between hour 0 and hour 1 remained effective between hour 1 and 2 (red onion and lemon juice), the ugly avocados only got uglier.

The real losers—boiling & shocking, running under cold water, and brushing with olive or coconut oil—already looked too unappetizing to eat in their current state:

Boiled & shocked (right) and cold water (left).
Coconut oil (left) and olive oil (left).

Hour 4: More of the Same

We returned 2 hours later to no real surprises: The gross avocados were deteriorating (and fast), while the others (red onion, lemon juice, and both controls) were showing signs of mild, largely innocuous browning.

Compare the two control avocados (top) to some of the worst performers, coconut oil and cold water (bottom):

Then compare the red onion and lemon methods (left) to the olive oil and boiling and shocked methods (right):

Hour 24: The Plain Ol' Avocados Look Best

Here was the real test of technique. It's fair to make the assumption that many, if not most, people looking to ward off avocado browning are looking to store their avocado halves for at least 24 hours (rather than just 1 or 2). But would these methods hold up?

The Winners:

Red onion (left) and lemon juice (right).

While the red onion and lemon juice methods did not brown very much, it's up for debate as to whether these avocado halves were in better condition than the control group—on which we took absolutely no action.

We ate all four of these halves (happily) but noted that the avocado that had been stored with red onion did taste and smell onion-y—it'd make the perfect start to guacamole but might be a bit strange as the base for a chocolate mousse.

Control with pit (left) and control without pit (right)

The Losers:

Olive oil (right) and coconut oil (left).

While the olive oil avocado was particularly brown (especially in its cavity), at least it did not have the congealed film of the coconut oil avocado or the weird textural issues of the avocado that had been boiled and shocked.

Boiled & shocked (& kind of a mess, with a cooked ring along its outside).
Boiled & shocked (& kind of a mess, with a cooked ring along its outside).

As for the avocado that had been peeled and run under cold water, we transferred it to a plastic bag for its overnight shift. It did not fare well.

Would not eat.

Are you convinced to try any of these methods? Do you have any other avocado-browning tricks? Tell us in the comments below.

Tags: Tips & Techniques, So Hot Right Now, Ingredients