Test kitchen: Avocado

Published on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:12 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to use avocado as an ingredient in a salad but was afraid to cut it too soon because of the dreaded browning.

Typically, I will make salads a couple of hours before the meal so that the bowl and all ingredients can chill in the refrigerator. But when I add diced or sliced avocado, I wait until the very last minute to cut through that tough avocado skin.

And of course, anytime you are making guacamole it can never be made in advance – or can it?

I saw an article recently that offered some additional solutions to prevent avocado browning and decided I was tired of wondering what to do, when to do it and what crazy idea actually works. It was time for a test kitchen experiment.

I went through six avocados that were treated numerous ways. Some were sliced, some diced, others mashed, and some just halved.

The weapons used against browning included plastic wrap, lemon juice, cooking spray, water and the freezer.

There were a few clear results.

First, it does make a difference how you slice it. Cubes, slices and halves stayed green longer than mashing with any number of treatments.

Second, leaving the pit in the avocado doesn’t work, at all. The portion of the avocado that is in direct contact with the pit does stay green, but it did nothing to help any of the other exposed edges.

Third, all mashed treatments started to brown within two to six hours. The only clear solution I can offer for making guacamole more than two hours in advance or consuming leftover guacamole is to scrape off the top brown layer. Underneath will still be bright green.

Fourth, you can slice or dice up to four hours in advance with no browning or mash up to two hours before serving with no browning.

Fifth, the age of your avocado makes a difference. Very ripe avocados will brown faster. Ones that are more firm will stay green longer after slicing.

Below are the results for all categories of treatment:

Mashed with Water Barrier: I read that you can make your guacamole and then add a thin layer of water to the top. The guacamole will stay green and then you just pour off the water when ready to serve. This was not the ideal suggestion. It made the top of the guacamole soggy and began browning after six to eight hours.

Mashed with Lemon: Lemon juice was mashed into the avocado. It began browning after eight hours. There was no difference between mashing with, or without lemon, or pressing plastic wrap onto the surface. All test subjects had browning after storing overnight.

Avocado Half with Cooking Spray: Only slight browning after 24 hours. Oily film could be wiped off.

Avocado Half in Bowl of Water: Placed the half, flesh side down in icy water. Still bright green after 24 hours. Texture was okay too.

Avocado Half with Lemon and Plastic: This was the winner. Remove pit, rub all exposed parts of the avocado with lemon juice and then tightly press plastic wrap onto the flesh and in the pit area. Gather the plastic around the back of the half. It stayed bright green for several days.

Frozen Avocado Half: Put in a plastic bag, untreated and frozen for several days. Thawed and used. Must be used within four hours. Texture was still okay for making guacamole, but not for slicing or dicing.

Sliced Avocado in Bowl of Water: Bright green after 24 hours, but texture was getting soft.

Avocado Slices tossed with Lemon Juice: Left uncovered on a plate in refrigerator. Still bright green after 24 hours.

Diced Avocado tossed in Lemon Juice: Still bright green after 24 hours

Diced Avocado with Plastic Wrap: Wrapped tightly on top and bottom. Began browning after eight hours.

In conclusion, my future course of action when facing the browning dilemma will vary according to the way I will be using the avocado:

Guacamole or mashed avocado I will make two hours in advance or use the water method. The leftover moisture can be stirred into the mixture.

Avocado slices or cubes will be cut and tossed in lemon juice and then covered with plastic wrap that is touching the avocado. This can be done up to a day in advance with a firm avocado.

Leftover avocado halves will be rubbed with lemon juice and wrapped tightly in plastic if I will be using them within two days. Otherwise, I will freeze it.

If you have a test kitchen idea that you would like to have investigated send your suggestion tofood@tylerpaper.com or 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, Texas, 75702, Attn: Food Editor.

In other news, Sweet Gourmet, located at 4554 S. Broadway in the French Quarter, will be having their annual spring kickoff event on Thursday, April 3. There will be specials and sales throughout the day and a cooking class that evening.

You can still make reservations for the class which will be taught by Executive Chef Mike Garaghty. He will be demonstrating an Easter dinner that includes Deviled Eggs 4 Ways, Easter Porchetta, Steakhouse Creamed Spinach, Potato and Apple Hash, Banana Nut Rum Upside Down Cake.

Each person attending the class will also receive a gift bag that includes items from Le Crueset, Epicurean Cutting Boards, Now Design Linens, and Wusthof Knives. To make reservations call 903-534-0840.

Some other events to put on your calendar include the Taste of Tyler on April 15 at Harvey Convention Center, and Taste of Whitehouse on April 22.

If you have a food-related event you would like to promote in FLAVOR email your submission to food@tylerpaper.com.