How to tell if a watermelon is ripe

Learn the best way to prepare watermelon, plus new recipes for making the most out of this refreshing fruit.
/ Source: TODAY

Sweet, juicy watermelon is one of summer’s most beloved treats.

But watermelons are large, heavy and if you happen to get a less-than-stellar specimen, you’re stuck with a lot of lackluster fruit. Here’s everything you need to know to pick out a beautifully ripe melon, plus how to prep, store and enjoy it in different ways.

How to pick a ripe watermelon from the store

  • Watermelon comes in different sizes, as well as with and without seeds. You can even by a half or a quarter of a watermelon at most grocery stores. And it's also available in pre-cut slices or cubes — but you'll end paying quite a bit more for that convenience.
  • A whole watermelon should be hard and firm, with no soft spots or cracks. Weight is a sign that there’s a lot of water inside and the fruit will be juicy, so look for watermelons that are heavy for their size.
  • If you knock on the underside of a ripe watermelon, it should sound hollow; under-ripe and over-ripe melons tend to sound dull.
  • How to tell if watermelons are ripe: A creamy yellow spot on the watermelon’s underside is a good sign of ripeness. It’s called the "field spot" and it's where the melon was resting on the ground. Darker field spots usually mean the melon spent more time ripening on the vine, while a white or non-existent field spot typically means under-ripe fruit.

How to store watermelon

  • Whole watermelons can be kept at room temperature for up to 10 days. Once cut, watermelon should be refrigerated in an airtight container, and will keep for 3-5 days. If you buy pre-cut melon in the store, it will probably last 2 or 3 days before the texture and color start to change.
  • If you're serving melon outside on a hot day, it's best to put it over ice to keep it nice and cool.

How to cut a watermelon

  • To cut a watermelon, use a large chef’s knife or a serrated knife to carefully cut off both ends, then cut the fruit in half crosswise.
  • Flip the watermelon halves so they sit flat on the cutting board. Following the curve of the watermelon, use vertical cuts to remove the rind then cut the melon crosswise into slices.
  • Arrange the slices so they sit flat on the cutting board then cut them into sticks or cubes.

Our favorite watermelon recipes

Watermelon Dessert 'Pizza'

Equal parts refreshing and indulgent! Watermelon pizzas are made using thick slices of baby watermelon and are such an easy way to serve dessert. We love to set up a mix and match toppings bar so guests can make their own.

The fresh, fruity flavors of the juicy watermelon and creamy avocado are complimented perfectly by the briny bite of the feta cheese. It's beautifully balanced and so delicious.

Watermelon Sangria

Watermelon Sangria

Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, knows a thing or two about entertaining. With this summery sangria, she adds big chunks of fresh watermelon to rosé wine — what's not to love? The best part is eating the wine-soaked chunks of fruit when you're all done sipping!

This refreshing salad tastes like summer on a plate. The bright citrus, sweet watermelon and grilled shrimp really showcase the light and fresh flavors of the season.

Watermelon Frosé Cocktail

Made with chunks of frozen watermelon, rosé and a touch of Campari for the grown-up summer edge this cocktail is light, refreshing and just the right amount of sweet. Serve up this slushy in short glasses straight out of the blender. They don't last long in the summer heat, but no worries: It's the perfect excuse to make a second batch!

There's something so refreshing about the combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta. When you add sweet blueberries, you have the perfect, patriotic summer salad.

This article was originally published June 24, 2015.