You don’t have to do any tricky dance moves to cut a pineapple into something that looks like that. How to cut a pineapple in an efficient manner? Carving out a spiral-cut pineapple basically entails cutting out the eyes (hard dark brown spots) in a diagonal pattern of lines that swirls around the fruit. Done that way, you waste less of the tart-sweet flesh and the pretty result is ready for a Tikki party, luau, or, in my case, for snacking and cooking.
Taking an artful approach to the fruit is how my mom taught me to cut a pineapple. She didn’t do it any other way; to this day, she doesn’t know what a pineapple corer is. I doubt she’s ever paid attention to the instructions on the pineapple tag.
Turns out I’m not alone in this spiral-cut pineapple thing. When I posted the cut pineapple photo on social media, a number of people identified it with their Asian roots or a tropical part of Asia they’d visited. It’s not just a Vietnamese thing. For the uninitiated, they were interested in how to cut a pineapple with little waste of its sweet-tart flesh.
One of my friends, Zanne Early Stewart, a former Gourmet magazine editor, mentioned learning to cut pineapple from a Time Life series called Foods of the World, which began in 1968 and ran into the late 1970s. I found the instructions in volume on Southeast Asia, in the chapter on Thailand and Vietnam (!).
Then I remembered this picture from Jean Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef. When I first saw it back in 1999, I was like, holy mackerel, that’s pineapple mastery!
I have no ambition to cut whole pineapple table side because I envision frequent accidents. When I cut up a whole pineapple, all the work is done on the cutting board. I buy whole pineapple at Costco or a grocery store. Most times, they’re green, hard, and unripe so I let them sit for a good week until the skin is somewhat yellow-orange and they give a bit when firmly pressed. That’s when I know it’s likely to be ready.
Some cooks use a serrated bread knife. I prefer a sharp, heavy chef’s knife like one of these.
Called Imperion, the Anolon knife on the left is a recent discovery. Made of Japanese VG-10 steel and crafted in China, the Imperion’s quality blade is surprising sharp and affordable. On a daily basis, I’ve used the utility knife from this set and have barely had to sharpen it. Ditto for the paring knife and big boy above, which is lighter than my Japanese knife on the right, but its heft works perfectly for cutting through pineapple!
Here’s how to cut a whole pineapple
1) Trim the outside: Cut off the ends, then stand the pineapple up and cut downward to trim off the skin. You don’t have to cut off all the eyes. You’ll get to that in the next part.
2) Deal with the eyes: With the pineapple on its side, identify a spiral pattern in the eyes. Then, wield your knife at roughly 45-degree angles to cut little wedges and remove lines of the eyes; make a cut on one side, then the other. When you’re done with one row, rotate the pineapple and repeat. Let the pineapple’s eyes guide the spiral. Sometimes they disappear and you have to start a new line or even merge two of them. It’s okay. You’re not going to enter the pineapple in a fruit carving beauty contest but it’ll still look great when done. This pineapple I had today had funny dark spots so I used the knife tip to dig them out.
3) Core and store: You can now cut the pineapple however you like. I typically quarter it lengthwise then trim the core with an angled cut. Sometimes I chew on the core pieces, which remind me of fresh sugarcane. Then I transfer the pineapple pieces to an airtight container and keep it refrigerated for up to five days. I cut the pineapple before I eat it or use it in cooking. Once cut, pineapple releases its juices, which you don’t want to waste.
Voila! There it is — a beautiful spiral-cut pineapple with most of its wonderful flesh intact. Since you’ll have all that fresh pineapple around soon, try one of these pineapple-y recipes from the archives: