The secrets to choosing, cooking, and ripening pears ūüćź

Pears are a flexible fruit that you can enjoy raw as a snack or cooked to make a fancy dessert. Learn about the different types of pears, which are best for cooking, and how to store them. Learn to recognize when your pear is perfectly ripe (or “pear-fectly” ripe, yes you‚Äôre welcome).

6 different types of pears on a marble backgroundPin

Pears are one of the oldest known fruits that we enjoy all over the world. There are traces of pears in prehistoric Switzerland. Records of pear cultivation and cooking go as far back as 2000 B.C. from ancient Chinese and Romans times. 

What are pears?

Pears are the fruit from the pear tree. They’re closely related to apples and are part of the rose family. The most common forms of pears to eat are fresh, canned, dried, stewed, and juiced. 

While there are over 3000 different kinds of pears worldwide, these are the most common varieties of pears sold in grocery stores. 

  • Bartlett (Williams, Williams’ bon chr√©tien):¬†Soft and juicy when ripe, bartlett pears are great for eating raw or baking. The quintessential pyriform, bartlett pears are the most common type of pear used for canning. Because they’re juicy and break down when cooked, bartlett pears are a great choice for stewing to make jams, sauces, and pur√©e.
  • D’Anjou (anjou, beurr√© d’anjou):¬†Anjou pears are soft and juicy when they’re ripe. They hold their shape well, which makes them an ideal sweet addition on top of salads and yogurt. I find the anjou skin has a tough texture so you may prefer to peel if you plan to cook it.
  • Red d’Anjou:¬†The red version of the green anjou with the same mild and sweet flavor and egg-shaped body. Red anjou pears have a burgundy red skin, which offers a splash of color to your salad or cheeseboard.¬†
  • Bosc (beurr√© bosc, Kaiser):¬†With crispy flesh that doesn‚Äôt soften much, bosc pears have a denser and smoother flesh , than bartlett or anjou pears. They’re excellent for poaching because they hold their shape. They’re also great for topping salads thanks to the crunchy texture.
  • Forelle:¬†Forelles are smaller than other pears. Enjoy them when they’re crispy and sweet. Their skin is a beautiful golden yellow with red freckles. Because of their smaller stature, they’re best for snacking on raw. Because of with their beautiful coats, they’re great for adorning salads. Avoid eating when over ripe because they taste mushy like wet bread.¬†
  • Comice:¬†Comice pears are very juicy and sweet when ripe, which makes them a fantastic snack or dessert when eaten raw. But they’re not ideal for cooking unless you’re looking for the pear to break down to become a sauce (similar to bartlett).
  • Concorde:¬†Concorde pears are very sweet and crispy, which makes them forgiving pears to eat if you’re too impatient to wait for them to ripen. They hold their shape well, which makes concorde pears a good choice for cooking, roasting, poaching, saut√©ing, and grilling. They’re slower to brown so they’re great for topping salads and adding to cheeseboards.¬†
  • Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, sand pear‚ÄĒ goes by many names):¬†Asian pears are crispy and very juicy with a gritty texture and light floral taste. Their crunch makes Asian pears more similar to apples than bartlett pears (they’re apple-shaped too). Asian pears are best enjoyed raw, though the juice is often used in Korean cooking.¬†
  • Chinese white pear:¬†This pear is lighter in color than the Asian pear and shaped like the anjou pear. It has a milder flavor than the Asian pear and less gritty texture while still being as crispy and sweet.
  • Taylor’s gold (gold, Taylor’s golden):¬†Taylor’s gold pears are the main pears I grew up with in New Zealand. They’re sweet and juicy, especially when ripened. They’re a natural cross between bosc and a comice pear and best enjoyed raw.
  • Packham:¬†Growing up in New Zealand, I had plenty of packham pears that originate from Australia. You can enjoy them crisp and sweet or very ripe and juicy.¬†
  • Bartlett (Williams, Williams’ bon chr√©tien):¬†Soft and juicy when ripe, bartlett pears are great for eating raw or baking. The quintessential pyriform, bartlett pears are the most common type of pear used for canning. Because they’re juicy and break down when cooked, bartlett pears are a great choice for stewing to make jams, sauces, and pur√©e.
  • D’Anjou (anjou, beurr√© d’anjou):¬†Anjou pears are soft and juicy when they’re ripe. They hold their shape well, which makes them an ideal sweet addition on top of salads and yogurt. I find the anjou skin has a tough texture so you may prefer to peel if you plan to cook it and find the skin too rough.
  • Red d’Anjou:¬†The red version of the green anjou with the same mild and sweet flavor and egg-shaped body. Red anjou pears have a burgundy red skin, which offers a splash of color to your salad or cheese board.¬†
  • Bosc (beurr√© bosc, Kaiser):¬†With crispy flesh that doesn‚Äôt soften much, bosc pears have a denser and smoother than bartlett or anjou pears. They’re great for poaching because it holds its shape and ideal for topping salads thanks to its crunch.
  • Forelle:¬†Forelles are smaller than other pears. Enjoy them when they’re crispy and sweet. Their skin is a beautiful golden yellow with red freckles. Because of their smaller stature, they’re best for snacking on raw and adorning salads with its beautiful coat. Avoid eating when over ripe because they taste mushy like wet bread.¬†
  • Comice:¬†Comice pears are very juicy and sweet when ripe, which makes them a fantastic snack or dessert when eaten raw. But they’re not ideal for cooking unless you’re looking for the pear to break down to become a sauce (similar to bartlett).
  • Concorde:¬†Concorde pears are very sweet when crispy, which makes them the most forgiving pears to eat if you’re too impatient to wait for them to ripen. They hold their shape well, which makes concorde pears a good choice for cooking, roasting, poaching, saut√©ing, and grilling. They’re also slower to brown so they’re great for topping salads and adding to cheese boards.¬†
  • Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, sand pear‚ÄĒ goes by many names):¬†Asian pears are crispy and very juicy with a gritty texture and light floral taste. Their crunch makes Asian pears more similar to apples than bartlett pears (they’re similarly apple-shaped too). Asian pears are best enjoyed raw.¬†
  • Chinese white pear:¬†This pear is lighter in color than the Asian pear and shaped like the anjou pear. It has a milder flavor than the Asian pear and less gritty texture while still being as crispy and juicy.
  • Taylor’s gold (gold, Taylor’s golden):¬†Taylor’s gold pears are the main pears I grew up with in New Zealand. They’re sweet and juicy, especially when ripened. They’re a natural cross between bosc and a comice pear and best enjoyed raw.
  • Packham:¬†Growing up in New Zealand, I had plenty of packham pears from Australia. You can enjoy them crisp and sweet or very ripe and juicy.¬†
A collage of 6 images showing different pears (foresee, red anjou, bosc, green anjou, bartlett, Asian pears)Pin

NOTE: Many pears have beurr√© in their name because they originated in Europe. In French, beurr√© means buttery/buttered and refers to a group of pears, including bosc and anjou, that have “creamy flesh”.


How to prep pears

Wash the pears to remove germs by rubbing them thoroughly under clean running water. Cut away bruised or damaged areas.

TIP: Check out the FDA’s guide on how to properly wash fruits and vegetables to prevent illness. 

If desired, you can peel and discard the pear skins before chopping and eating the fruits.

How to cut pears

Here are the most common ways I cut up pears to enjoy for eating, topping salads, or to prepare for poaching and baking. 

From the largest to the finest cut style:

8 different types of cuts for pears compared side-by-sidePin
  • Whole:¬†Perfect for eating raw as a snack or dessert
  • Peeled whole:¬†Great for poaching or baking
  • Halved: Great for grilling and baking
  • Halved & cored:¬†Great for roasting, baking, or grilling¬†
  • Quartered & cored: The perfect size for eating raw
  • Sliced:¬†Ideal for faster poaching, pies and tarts, serving on top of a green salad, placed on toast, or accompanying a cheeseboard
  • Large dice:¬†Ideal for adding to a fruit salad or topping a leafy green salad, use it for stewing to make pear butter or jam,¬†
  • Small dice:¬†Great for topping oatmeal, yogurt, cr√®me fra√ģche, ice cream, or cheesecake.

NOTE: You can keep the skin on or peel it off for any of these cuts. While skin has plenty of fiber and nutrients, it’s a personal preference to keep the skin on because not everybody like the texture.


How to eat pears raw

Pears are great to eat raw as a snack or a dessert. Much like an apple, you can wash the outside and bite into it whole. You could remove the core and slice it for a finer presentation. 

Raw pears are great additions to these dishes: 

  • Sliced and placed on top of a butter lettuce salad with goat cheese and beets
  • Sliced on top of a baby spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Chopped and served on top of oatmeal with cinnamon
  • Sliced and served on a cheeseboard with cheeses, nuts, and crackers
  • Thinly sliced and served over Brie on a piece of toast drizzled with honey
  • Blended with other fruits in a smoothie¬†

How to tell if pears are ripe

You’ll notice green bartlett pears change color when they ripen. The bartlett skin changes from bright green to yellow. (The red bartlett don’t change much in color.) 

But many pears remain mostly the same color when they’re ripe and ready to eat (soon enough they turn brown and spoil). 

Since pears ripen from the inside out, by the time you notice the outer flesh is squishy, the inside is mushy and rotten. 

Therefore, the tell-tale sign that pears are ripe is to check the neck.

Neck check

Push gently on the neck when the stem protrudes. If you feel some give or see wrinkling, the pear is ready to eat. If you feel you have to push hard, then the pear isn’t ready.

You can check every day or every other day while waiting for your pears to ripen. 

Painting of a pear with the words "check the neck"Pin

Keep pears from browning

The exposed flesh of cut pears oxidizes, which turns the creamy white flesh into an undesirable rusty brown. This makes cut fruit look less appetizing as a snack or on display on the cheeseboard.

I’ve heard the passed-down wisdom of dipping (or soaking) cut pears in water with lemon juice to prevent browning. 

While searching for details, I chanced on this article from Serious Eats that tested the effectiveness of lemon juice compared to salt. The article argues that salt water is more effective at preventing browning than lemon juice and can be easily rinsed to remove the saltiness.

I did a test and found lemon juice and salt both effective at reducing browning whereas simply soaking in water was not. If I had to pick one, the salt water appears to be slightly more effective.

3 containers of cut pears in water, in lemon juice and water, and saline to prevent browningPin

TIP: Don’t leave the fruit soaking for more than an hour or it tastes waterlogged. Soak the cut fruit in saline for 10-15 minutes drain. You can rinse it if you want to remove the salt before serving.


How to cook pears

There are numerous ways to cook pears, including:

  • Poaching them in syrup or spiced wine
  • Grilling them to add a smoky flavor and beautiful grill marks
  • Roasting them with honey, cinnamon, and nuts
  • Baking them in a tart or galette
  • Canning them for another day
  • Stewing them to make pear butter or pear pur√©e

Best pears for grilling: Anjou, Bosc, Concorde, Asian

Best pears for baking/roasting: Bartlett, Anjou, Comice

Best pears for poaching: Bosc, Anjou, Concorde,

Best pears for stewing & canning: Bartlett, Anjou, Comice

TIP: My general principle when cooking pears is to ask if I want the pears to keep their shape or not. If the end result you want is to have a cooked firm pear (such as with poaching pears), pick a crisp variety that stays crunchy when ripe (bosc, anjou, and concorde). If the goal is to make a pear sauce or butter, pick a soft and juicy variety (bartlett, comice, starkrimson). 

A chart showing the different types of pears on the axes of firmness (x-axis) versus sweetness (y-axis)Pin

Pears work well with…

  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Citrus:¬†Lemons, oranges, limes
  • Stone fruits:¬†Peaches, apricots, cherries,
  • Spices:¬†Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise, ginger
  • Herbs:¬†rosemary, tarragon, mint, thyme, basil¬†
  • Cream and dairy: Whipped cream, yogurt, cr√®me fra√ģche, ice cream, goat cheese, soft cheeses, sheep’s milk cheese¬†
  • Nuts:¬†Almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios
  • Leafy greens:¬†Romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, arugula, spinach
  • Root vegetables:¬†Beets, sweet potatoes

NOTE: Check out other ingredients profiles, such as the cabbage and ginger profile.

Recipes with pears

Easy & healthy spiced pears poached in red wine
Thinly sliced pears are poached in red wine with honey and spices. You'll love this healthy dessert. Serve it with your favorite yogurt, ice cream, or pancakes.
Get the Recipe

How to substitute pears

You can substitute the different types of pears without much issue. For example, if you’re poaching pears and there aren’t any bosc varieties, look for anjou or concorde. 

If you’re looking for pears and can’t find any, any fruits from the pome family work. The most common fruit in the pome family is the apple.

If you’re looking for a fruit to poach, grill, or saut√©, another firm-fleshed fruit that stands up well to cooking would substitute well, such as peaches, pineapples, cantaloupe, bananas, or figs.¬†


Where to buy pears

You can buy pears at your grocery store and local farmers markets.

TIP:¬†I found that Asian pears are very expensive at my local supermarket ($1.99 for 1 pear at Safeway!). I get the lowest price on Asian pears at the (you guessed it) Asian supermarket. They’re not as cheap in Colorado as in California but the Asian grocer sells these pears (likely imported) at a more affordable price.¬†

Are pears seasonal?

While pears are available all year round thanks to innovations in agriculture and food storage technologies, pears have a season. In the Northern Hemisphere, they are ready to pick from late summer into October.

Thanks to careful storage, pears are usually available in grocery stores beginning September all the way to spring. 

If you’re in the height of summer and unable to find fresh pear, try canned pears or frozen pears as a substitute. 

How to pick pears

Choose pears that are unblemished and firm with smooth, satiny skin. They shouldn’t have brown spots or feel mushy. 

How to store pears

Pears mature on the tree, and they’re picked before ripening. They’re one of the few fruits that ripen off the tree, which gives them a surprisingly long shelf life. 

As a result, you’ll likely need to ripen your pears before you can eat them (unless you buy them from the store or farmers market where they’re already ripened). 

If you want to eat the pears in 5-7 days: Leave them on your kitchen counter to ripen at a regular pace.

If you want to eat the pears as soon as possible: Put the pears in a brown paper bag, ideally with a banana. The ethylene gas from the banana acts as a plant hormone, which speeds up the ripening process in the pears. Keeping them in a bag traps the ethylene to further speed up ripening. 

If the pears are ripe but you’re not ready to eat them:¬†Store them in the produce drawer in your fridge. They should keep for 3-5 days. Because they continue to ripen in the fridge, check on them daily to eat them before they spoil.

If you want to store the pears for as long as possible:¬†Keep them in the fridge until you’re almost ready to eat them. They can last in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. When you’re ready, move the pears to your kitchen counter and use the “neck check test” to determine when they’re ripe enough to eat.¬†


Fun things to do with pears

Pears have served as muses to great painters for centuries, including the Old Masters, thanks to their comely shape and vibrant coloring, which can show up as a vivid green or subtly transition from red to gold to green. 

You can play at being an Old Master painter. Here’s a great video for beginners to learn how to paint a pear.


FAQ about pears

What can you make with a lot of pears?

Here are recipes that can use up a lot of ripe pears: 

READ NEXT: The Definitive Guide to Carrots for Beginner and Expert Cooks

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About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on GarlicDelight.com with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles ūüćú and believe in "improv cooking".

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