When you cut pears in preparation for use in a recipe, they’ll start turning brown minutes later. Brownish fruit slices are not the most appealing in a fruit salad recipe. So, how do you prevent this discoloration?
To keep cut and sliced pears from turning brown, slow the oxidation process by applying lemon juice on them to denature the enzymes that cause discoloration when exposed to air. Alternatively, heat the pear slices briefly to keep them from browning.
When you understand what causes browning of the pears, you’ll be in a better position to use simple kitchen hacks to slow the process and have fresh and beautiful slices for your different uses.
Why do pears Turn Brown?
Cut pears turn brown because the enzymes phenolase and phenols in their tissue react with oxygen when exposed to air. This process is called oxidation and results in the discoloration (browning) of the pears on the side that’s cut. Brown pears are safe to eat but may not be pleasant.
Fruits contain enzymes that help with the ripening process. Pears, in particular, contain the enzymes phenolase and phenols in their tissue. When you cut the pear in half or slice it, you expose the cells, and the enzyme comes into contact with oxygen.
Phenolase enzyme turns the phenols into o-quinones, or melanin. Melanin is a brown pigment, which is why the moment sliced pears come into contact with oxygen in the air, they turn brown.
See also: How to Ripen Pears
How Do You Keep Cut Pears from Turning Brown?
The simplest way to deal with browning in fruit is by slowing the chemical reaction which causes the discoloration. In the case of pears, you have to inhibit the enzyme Phenolase from turning the phenols into O-quinones.
Here are two ways to keep cut pears from turning brown fast:
Use lemon juice
Lemon juice, or any solution with a pH less than 7 that’s safe for human consumption will be effective at stopping the oxidation process in fruits like pears.
To stop pears from browning using lemon juice, cut or slice your pears into your desired shapes. Then, take a lemon and squirt its juice all over the pears. The moment the citric acid in the lemon juice comes into contact with the pear tissue, it deactivates the enzymes in it and slows the browning.
Pro tip: If you don’t like the strong sour taste of lemon on your pears, make a lemon-water solution using equal parts of each ingredient and dip the slices of pears in it.
Blanch the sliced pears to prevent browning
With blanching, you want to heat your fruit just enough to deactivate the enzymes and then stop the heat to halt the cooking process. Here’s how to do it:
- Slice your pears into the desired pieces.
- Put water in a pot and bring to boil
- Add the pears and let them boil for 40-50 sec to reduce the enzymatic juice.
- Drain the pears and put them in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process
- Finally put them in a straigner to remove excess water.
Alternatively, scald the sliced pears in boiling water for a minute or two before plunging them in ice water to prevent browning and any loss of quality.
Can You Slice Pears ahead of Time?
Yes, you can cut and slice pears ahead of time and maintain their beautiful white color. The important part is to deactivate the enzymes and stop them from being oxidized when exposed to air.
If you’re expecting guests and would like to slice your fruit before time, use the steps below to stop the fruit from discoloring fast and keep them fresh for a couple of hours:
- Cut pears into your desired size
- Take one tablespoon of lemon juice
- Add it to one cup of water
- Dip the cut slices of pear into the lemon-water solution. The acid in the lemon juice will deactivate the enzymes and stop the browning process.
Pro tip: If you do not like using an acidic solution, you can cover the cut pear slices with polythene foil. Covering them limits the amount of oxygen they come into contact with, maintaining their color.
Do Cooked Pears Turn Brown?
When cooked, pears cannot turn brown even if they’re exposed to oxygen because the enzymes are already destroyed (denatured) during the heating process. But, if you slice the pears too long before you start cooking and expose them to air, they’ll turn brown before they even start cooking.
It is best to use a little lemon if you will keep the sliced pears in the open before cooking.
Pears are a common ingredient in recipes such as pear custard pies, baked fruit leather, pear crumble and many others.
If you’re a cooking enthusiast, you know that presentation of the food is everything, and you do not want your pie topping to turn into an unsightly brown color before you present it.
Are Brown Pears Safe to Eat?
The safety of fruit for consumption depends on what turned its color brown in the first place. If you cut the fruit a few hours before and it was fresh during the cutting, then the discoloration does not make it poisonous.
However, you should be careful when eating fruit which was bruised before you cut it. If the bruised part made the inside of the fruit brown, soft and mushy, the fruit is probably gone bad (rotten) and may be unsafe to eat.
Keeping Your Cut Fruit Fresh
Fruits and salads look more appealing when they are fresh during the presentation and when being eaten. It is advisable to use lime juice, lemon juice and even to squeeze the juice fresh lemons onto fruits such as pears the moment you peel and slice them.
The juice maintains their beautiful white color. Additionally, it slows down the oxidation process that leads to the decay of the fruit by making enzymes inactive. This will help keep your cut fruit fresh for a little longer.
Adding lemon juice to a fruit salad gives it a light citric flavor which highlights the taste of all the other ingredients in the salad or food. Therefore, if you want your pears to maintain their freshness and beauty, get into the habit of adding lemon juice to them after cutting.