How to pick a good watermelon according to food experts

How to tap and tell whether you've picked a good watermelon according to food experts

A cut watermelon on top of a watermelon harvest
(Image credit: Charlene Collins / Getty)

Knowing how to pick a watermelon should be simple right? Alas, even with watermelon season in full swing, heaps of them in grocery stores and at your local farmer's markets if they grow well in your area, you may know all too well how easy it is to come home with one that isn't as juicy and flavorful as you'd hoped. And above all, watermelons should be a total joy to eat. Packed full of vitamins and fiber, they're not all sugar, so if you enjoy them in moderation they're a healthy addition to your diet. Even if you overdo it at times... They are super hydrating so it's not the worst guilty pleasure come summertime.

So how do you make sure you pick a good one every time, for the best flavor and texture? It often comes down to where you're buying yours from in the first place, how the watermelon was stored if in transit, and whether you stored it in your best refrigerator at home or on the kitchen counter. 

In all, there are some secrets to picking a really good watermelon, so we asked a handful of food experts to help you choose the tastiest, ripest ones the next time you want to add this fruit to your grocery basket. 

How do you pick a good watermelon from the store? 

If you're shopping for your watermelons at the store, you may be wondering how far they've traveled and under what conditions, and when they were picked. All of these factors can impact the taste of the watermelon you're buying, so you need a bit of a technique to choose the perfect watermelon that's ready to eat. 

Ashley Dolan, Founder of Vegiac (opens in new tab), tells us that 'although many people think that they will be able to choose a ripe and juicy watermelon just by tapping on it, it is not so easy. In fact, there are many who do not know how to choose the perfect watermelon, especially because it is very difficult to judge what its inside is just from the outside appearance.' So, although tapping is one of the methods for finding out whether a watermelon is ripe, there are several other steps. These are:

1. Observe the shape of the watermelon

'Look for a firm and symmetrical watermelon with no scratches. The strange shape of the watermelon could have been created if the plant did not have enough sun or enough water. That's why it can happen that it is not juicy enough.'

A ct up watermelon on a kitchen table

(Image credit: Victoria Pearson / Getty)

2. Pick up the watermelon

'The weight of the watermelon should be an indicator that it has enough liquid in it, and therefore is ripe. Compare the weight of that watermelon with another watermelon of similar size. The one you think is heavier will probably be more mature.'

3. Look for the yellow mark on the underbelly

'Each watermelon has a yellow mark on the underside, which was caused by the watermelon lying on the ground. If this mark is lighter in color or white, it means that the watermelon is not ripe enough and that it was picked too early. The ideal stain color is dark yellow. Ripe watermelons have a dull green color. While the ones that shine are probably not ripe enough.'

4. Tap the rind of the watermelon

'Although the correct use of this technique is very difficult to master, it is very popular. Tap the watermelon. If the sound is deep, it will mean that the watermelon is not ripe.'

How do you know if a watermelon is sweet?

Jason White, the CEO of All About Gardening (opens in new tab), names the spot test as the best indicator of the ripeness and sweetness of a watermelon: 'you want a large, butter-like yellow belly spot': 'the larger and darker the field spot is, the riper and sweeter the watermelon is. Avoid picking ones with a white spot because those are still underripe and will have little to no taste.'

Weight is also a reliable indication of sweetness: 'pick the heavier watermelons among the bunch. Choose one that is heavy for its size because this means that it contains more water, making it juicier and sweeter.'

How can you tell if a watermelon is good and ripe?

Kelsey Sackmann (opens in new tab) is a supermarket-savvy registered dietitian and food blogger who knows a thing or two about choosing a watermelon. She too told us to ignore 'the rumors about how to pick a good watermelon', which include only thumping and listening for a hollow sound, or smelling watermelons. 

As the watermelon picking expert tells us, 'there’s one tried and true method for picking the perfect watermelon, the Three S’s. Next time you’re in the grocery store, just remember these three things: skin, size, spot. 

Skin: 'Look over the watermelon. The skin should be firm, shiny, and free of bruises, cuts or dents.' 

Size:' since it’s 92 per cent water, a good, ripe watermelon should be heavy for its size.' 

Spot: 'make sure it has a creamy, yellow spot on its underside. This is where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. No spot? Put it back, not ripe!'

How can you tell if cut watermelon is tasty or not?

If you're buying watermelon that's already cut and want to make sure that it's tasty, Dolan advises that 'you should pay attention to the color of the seeds and whether the seeds are coming out. If the seeds are white, it means that the watermelon is not ripe, and if the seeds are separating, it means that it has probably been standing for a long time and has lost a lot of liquid.' 

Happy watermelon buying!

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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