Pineapple Desserts: How to Choose, Cut, and Serve Pineapple
While both bananas and pineapples can be found in the grocery store year-round, bananas don’t have a peak growing season. Pineapples, on the other hand, peak in spring and early summer. That means it’s time to grab a fresh pineapple and get cooking! We’ll share the best tips we found for choosing and cutting pineapple, along with a few recipes for pineapple desserts you’ll definitely want to try.
How to Choose a Pineapple
Let’s start by clearing up a myth: stop yanking fronds from the top of pineapples. Whether or not you can easily pull a leaf out of the crown of a pineapple has no bearing on ripeness. Look for the following key indicators instead:
1. Pineapples from Hawaii will be fresher than pineapples from outside the US. It takes 2-4 days for Hawaiian pineapples to reach the mainland, while pineapples from countries like Mexico and Honduras may take up to two weeks.
2. Imported pineapples will not be fully ripe, no matter what your grocery store might say. Fully ripe pineapples can’t hold up to the ordeal of shipping; they bruise, rot, and turn moldy. Look for gold extending upward from the base. The more gold on your pineapple, the sweeter it will be.
3. Sniff the base of your gold pineapple from Hawaii. The ideal scent is mildly sweet; put the pineapple back if you can smell fermentation, or if you can’t smell anything at all.
Finally, look for a fresh pineapple on the day you plan to eat it or cook with it. If you must store it, put your pineapple in the refrigerator and use it as soon as possible.
How to Cut a Pineapple
Of all the pineapple cutting posts we read, this one from Serious Eats is the best. It’s the quickest and tidiest, with the least waste. After all, when you’ve gone to the trouble of choosing the sweetest, freshest pineapple you can find, you certainly don’t want to waste any of it. Plus, the strategy for removing eyes results in a pretty pattern without even trying.
Start with a good, sharp chef’s knife and hack off the top and bottom of the pineapple, then remove the rind in strips (above). Leave as much yellow flesh on the fruit as possible, even if it means leaving the eyes intact.
While you could use the tip of a peeler to extract each individual eye, that method can get pretty tedious. Here’s where the Serious Eats method becomes especially brilliant: Look for diagonal lines of eyes. Then cut a shallow wedge along each diagonal line to remove those eyes. Check out the picture below to get a better idea of how to make these cuts:
At this point, you can proceed with the steps outlined by Serious Eats for cutting pineapple into chunks. Or if you prefer to create rings, use a paring knife to remove the core from each one. Please don’t bother with a pineapple corer or other gadget; pineapple cores vary in size, and you won’t want to lose more of the sweet yellow flesh than necessary.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking With Pineapple
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that breaks down proteins. That’s why pineapple is often used in marinades for meat — it’s a natural tenderizer. This same enzyme makes it impossible to use fresh pineapple in gelatins or combined with dairy. Use canned fruit in pineapple desserts that aren’t baked or heated.
Recipes for Pineapple Desserts
The best known pineapple desserts are probably pineapple upside-down cake with maraschino cherries and gelatin molds made with canned crushed pineapple. We promise these pineapple desserts are much better.
Not only do we love Chef David Lebovitz’s adaptation of Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, we love how he relates her stories of homemade desserts in France. (They’re not as extravagant as you might think.) This recipe for caramelized pineapple requires a couple hours in the oven, but most of the prep time is inactive. Just remember to turn the pineapple occasionally and ladle the liquid over it.
Rum-Soaked Grilled Pineapple
When we saw that Ali from Gimme Some Oven insists this dessert must be made with fresh pineapple, we knew we’d found a winner. You can let the pineapple marinate for as little as 10 minutes, or all afternoon if you prefer. Then you’ll use the marinade to make sauce for drizzling over the top of the pineapple. While the name implies you’ll need to fire up the grill, a grill pan will work well too.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
We know, we made fun of pineapple upside-down cake just a few paragraphs ago. But this cake from Smitten Kitchen is different. First, Deb also insists on fresh pineapple. Next, she bakes in the same cast iron skillet used for making the caramel. Finally, there are no artificially colored cherries in this cake. (Though we’re all for serving a small dish of them for guests who can’t imagine pineapple upside-down cake any other way.)