How to Cut Watermelon

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik. Video: Natalie Holt]

Committing to a watermelon always involves a trade-off—I want this delicious fruit, but I also enjoy walking home without an extra 10 to 15 pounds in my tote. The chilled flesh is refreshing and hydrating, but then again, there goes all my fridge space.

If I’m going to make that kind of sacrifice, I want to ensure that it’s going to be worth it. I want to cut into a juicy, crisp, and sweet melon, with bright-red flesh that isn’t mealy and bland.

Watermelon cubes and wedges

Through all that thick, striped rind, it can be tough to tell if you’re looking at a watermelon worth its weight. And then, once you’ve done the work of lugging it home, the awkward and bulky fruit may seem hard to navigate with your knife.

Here are some tips to help you pick a ripe watermelon, and how to cut it when you have one.

How to Pick a Good Watermelon

  • Look for the field spot. A ripe watermelon will have a patch, creamy yellow in color, where the melon rested on the ground. If a watermelon has a white patch—or none at all—it hasn’t fully matured.
  • It should be heavy for its size. The juiciest watermelons are densely loaded with water. If a melon feels light, the flesh may be dried out and mealy.
  • Knock, knock! Watermelon whisperers claim to “hear” freshness from the sound of a firm tap on the fruit. A high-pitched thump indicates a fresher specimen.

How to Cut a Watermelon

A watermelon doesn’t ripen further once it’s harvested, so it’s best consumed immediately after purchase. Whole watermelons will keep in the fridge for about a week with no negative consequences for the texture or flavor, while cut pieces are best eaten within three days. When serving watermelon as part of a buffet or outdoors, always keep the cut pieces on ice for a cold and refreshing treat.

Cutting Cubes

Cutting watermelon into cubes

Start by cutting the watermelon in half crosswise with a chef’s knife or long serrated knife. (With a melon that's wider than your knife blade is long, you may need to make several cuts from each side until you can split it fully in half.) Place each melon half on the cutting board with the cut side down. Using a chef’s knife, slice off the rind, leaving no white flesh behind. Once the rind is removed, the watermelon can be cut into small or large cubes, sticks, bâtonnets, or even a julienne for all your snacking needs.

Cutting Wedges

Cutting watermelon into wedges

To cut a watermelon into wedges, start by cutting off the ends and slicing it in half lengthwise, then place each half on a cutting board with the cut side down. Split the watermelon again in half lengthwise, and cut crosswise to your desired width.

What to do with your fancy new melon-chopping skills? Put them to good use with one of our watermelon recipes, obviously.