Perfectly ripe pears have a juicy texture and delicately floral flavor that’s a hallmark of autumn. They’re also incredibly versatile; pears are delicious raw, roasted and simmered, and can be paired with pork for a savory course or baked into a beautiful tart. Read on for some of our best tips on choosing and prepping pears, plus delicious ways to prepare them from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Look for smooth, unblemished fruits with their stems still attached. They should be fragrant and just beginning to soften near the stem. Leave them at room temperature to soften and sweeten; they’re ready to eat when they wrinkle a little at the stem end and are slightly soft at the blossom end. They can be refrigerated in plastic bags for 3 to 5 days, depending on their degree of ripeness, but for the best flavor, be sure to bring them back to room temperature before eating.
Prep tips: Pears can be left unpeeled for eating fresh, but be sure to peel them before cooking. Although the peel is edible, some fruits may have tough skins with a slightly bitter flavor that’s especially pronounced when cooked. When cutting pears for salads or hors d’oeuvres, halve them lengthwise, then scoop out the core with a small spoon or melon baller. Like cut apples, cut pears should be tossed with a little lemon juice to prevent discoloring.
Uses: Pears are wonderful eaten out of hand, but they also add elegance to tarts, pastries and other fall desserts. Poached whole in wine or transformed into compote, their flavor blends well with ginger, vanilla, orange peel, raisins and warm spices, such as clove and cinnamon.
Varieties: Available from summer through fall, the Asian pear belongs to a species completely different from regular pears. They resemble large, pale yellow green apples. These pears have a flowery fragrance, a mildly sweet flavor and a slightly granular texture that bursts with juice from the first bite. They’re best served raw; eat them on their own or in salads. Learn about more pear types in our glossary.
Flatbread with Pears and Prosciutto: Brush pizza dough with olive oil. Top with pear slices, caramelized onions and crumbled goat cheese. Bake on a pizza stone at 500ºF until crust is crispy underneath, 6 to 8 minutes. Top with strips of prosciutto and sprinkle arugula in the center; drizzle with olive oil.
Pears Poached in Riesling: In a large saucepan, combine 1 bottle Riesling and 1 cup sugar. Place 4 peeled, cored pears upright in the pan. Add enough water to cover pears; top pan with a parchment-paper round and a plate to weigh the pears down. Simmer until pears are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt drizzled with honey.
Sauteed Pear Salad with Blue Cheese: Whisk together sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Saute pear slices in melted butter until just tender. Toss frisee, endive or mixed greens with vinaigrette, toasted pecans and crumbled blue cheese; top with sauteed pears.
Pears Foster: In saute pan, melt 1 part butter with 2 parts brown sugar. Ad peeled, sliced pears; cook until soft; if desired, add a splash of rum and ignite. Serve pears and sauce on their own or with vanilla ice cream.