What Is Avocado Hand?

May 12, 2017

At the beginning of this month, The New York Times ran an 11-paragraph article on how to cut an avocado without cutting yourself. It detailed the increasing number of injuries sparked by the menial, seemingly innocuous task of splicing open an avocado, that lush, verdant fruit with a seed the size of a goiter.

The mere existence of that article in a respected American publication can, at first blush, seem like a totally pointless waste of digital real estate. Guess again.

“Avocado hand” has recently become a medical term over in the United Kingdom, where, as the London Times reports, there’s been a recent spate of amateur cooks sent to the ER after some slippage led to ungainly hand lacerations, wherein they've damaged crucial nerves and tendons, some of their scars permanent.

It’s careened into an issue so widespread that the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons is lobbying for safety labels to be on avocados to prevent the gross slip-n-stab that can so easily happen when you cut. Simon Eccles, the association’s secretary, sees at least four patients a week who roll through his offices at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London with bloody, maimed hands.

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Laugh all you’d like at the woes of this constituency of avocado toast consumers, but that Times diagnosis brings forth a pretty cogent point: In spite of this fruit’s increasing ubiquity atop toasts and in guacamole, there still isn’t much information on how to cut an avocado without mauling yourself. The most tried-and-true method seems to be cutting lengthwise around the pit, on a flat surface. Smooth and steady. Take it from Jamie Oliver.

Or perhaps you can take a cue from my colleague Sarah Jampel, who recommends slicing open an avocado crosswise to achieve perfect petals of green. Next time you buy an avocado, take some time to learn what method works best for you, and don't rush through it; I wouldn't want you (or a loved one) to fall victim to the avocado hand.

Have a preferred method of slicing an avocado? Have an avocado-slicing injury anecdote of your own you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Kathy R. May 15, 2017
Safety labels on avocados? Who are you going to sue? God?
Betsey May 16, 2017
Feel better?
Mary B. May 15, 2017
While removing the seed from an avocado 2 years ago, my paring knife slipped off the seed and went completely through my left hand. The injury sliced a nerve and nicked a tendon, requiring hand surgery. Plus, my kitchen looked like a crime scene from NCIS. I now use a spoon to remove the seed.
Betsey May 15, 2017
My coworker had this same injury last year.
Anne May 15, 2017
Why does anybody cut an avocado in their hand??? This is so unsafe. You don't need to bury your knife into the pit either. Maybe some people need to work on their knife skills and take a safety class
Betsey May 15, 2017
A co-worker of mine nearly cut her thumb off doing this and had to have a gruesome and complicated surgery with lots of recovery time. It's easy to get complacent. Please be careful.
mrslarkin May 15, 2017
I'm a giant-plastic-Costco-honey-bottle-sliced-open-with-a-serrated-knife victim. Avocados are easy.
susan G. May 17, 2017
Serrated knives are unforegiving...
BerryBaby May 13, 2017
I read this previously, and can't believe people. I cut the avocado in half. Them using my thumb, slide it under the skin. Peels right off. Use a spoon to remove pit from other half. So simple and you don't lose any fruit.
Windischgirl May 13, 2017
The Swedish musician, Jens Lekman, has a song titled 'Your Arms Around Me.' The first lines of the lyrics describe how he sustained an avocado hand injury...so it's a cross-cultural phenomenon.

That said, I'm a big proponent of the spoon method.
Anne May 12, 2017
Holy Moley. Put the thing on a cutting board, carefully cut longituditally, guiding knife around pit. Slide the two sides apart to reveal the pit. Stick your knife onto the pit and twist it out. Then remove the flesh with a spoon.
Donna H. May 13, 2017
Karla W. May 13, 2017
I've known two people who seriously injured their hands on the "stick your knife onto the pit" part...I'm not quite sure how. I guess they just used too much force and the knife slipped around the pit and into their hands? I just use my thumbnail since the pits are so soft; you really don't need that much force.
Amanda M. May 12, 2017
At work, we are required to wear a 'cut glove' on the hand not holding the knife, with a latex glove over it for cleanliness. So, you'd wear the glove on the hand holding the avocado. One imagine's that the glove feels somewhat clumsy, but it isn't really. All you're doing with the gloved hand is holding the avocado. (This is what you are doing with the gloved hand in any case - holding the object still while you cut with the other hand). I've never cut myself while cutting, or removing the pit from, an avocado. But the glove comes in handy for all cutting activities. You always want a sharp knife - they are safer!
Connor B. May 12, 2017
I have definitely compared avocado injuries with other people in the office on several occasions.
Phyllis G. May 12, 2017
jamie makes me melt.
Meredith R. May 12, 2017
@Susie - why not just rap the knife on the edge of a trash can? Comes right off! I have to confess I was one of the mystified people--I've been cutting avocados open for decades and have never managed to injure myself!
ktr May 12, 2017
I pinch the pit from the blunt side of the knife and it pops right off the blade and my hand is safely away from the sharp edge of the knife.
Whiteantlers May 12, 2017
Jamie is an absolute darling! Rock and roll indeed. : )
Susie May 12, 2017
I never ever used the knife in the pit method. I always just take a spoon or dinner knife, edge around the pit, and leverage it out. If I haven't trimmed my nails recently I can kinda pinch the pit and pull it out. I just....how do you get the pit *off* the knife safely? Whenever I've tried it's really difficult and feels dangerous. I'm a home cook so picture perfect avocado slices are less important than not going to the hospital.
Fox.Fern May 12, 2017
Use. A. Butterknife. Oh my god; it's not a squash. You don't need a sharp tool. Animals tear them open without thumbs, for crissake.
BerryBaby May 13, 2017
Panfusine May 12, 2017
Avocado prepping immediately brings to mind mangoes, the same slipperiness of texture. and the potential dangers thereof and somewhere in the recesses of the brain, a wariness automatically activates, perhaps from multiple instances of knife accidents from a mango rich childhood. I tend to be more careful while dealing with avocados than say an apple or pear.
Kaitlin B. May 12, 2017
🙋 avocado hand victim.
Emily B. May 12, 2017