Cantaloupe is one of the most enjoyable and versatile fruits that is just as likely to appear on an elegant fruit platter as a simple breakfast or snack. But as with any bigger fruit, cutting it into individual portions can be tricky. We'll walk you through the best ways to do it.
The first step is making sure the cantaloupe you're about to cut into is ripe. Fortunately, it's easy to identify a ripe cantaloupe using three telltale signs: look, smell and feel.
Choosing a Ripe Cantaloupe
A ripe cantaloupe will have a bright, golden hue, which is easy to distinguish from the light green hue of an unripe melon. It will smell sweet and slightly musky, especially from the stem end. It will yield slightly when pressed at the stem end, and it will start to show slight furrows along the meridians, i.e. where you would cut it into wedges.
A cantaloupe will ripen at room temperature, and storing it near fruits that emit ethylene gas, such as apples, avocados, or ripening bananas will accelerate the ripening. Once cut, it will continue to ripen, but at that point, the ripening process is competing with the process of spoilage (as well as deterioration from loss of water), and spoilage will inevitably win the race.
Using the Entire Cantaloupe
The best method for cutting a cantaloupe depends on how you intend to use it. If you're planning to use the entire cantaloupe, you have it the easiest because you can peel the whole thing before cutting it. Peeling a cantaloupe starts the process of spoilage, which is why you wouldn't want to peel it all if you're only using part of it. But if you're going to use the whole cantaloupe right away, this is the way to go.
Peeling the Cantaloupe
To peel a whole cantaloupe, you'll need a sharp chef's knife and a clean, sturdy cutting board. It's a good idea to wash the outside of a cantaloupe with water and a small amount of dish soap before you cut into it. This is because the outside of a cantaloupe can harbor bacteria that cause food poisoning, and if you slice right into it, your knife can drive those bacteria from the outside onto the flesh within. Make sure you thoroughly rinse and dry it after washing.
Start by trimming off the ends to make them flat so that the melon won't roll around on your cutting board. Make sure to remove enough rind so that you can see the bright orange flesh underneath.
Stand the melon on one flat end on your cutting board, start your knife at the top right at the line where the rind meets the flesh, and cut straight downward between the flesh and peel. Follow the curve of the melon and removing a strip of rind along with any green flesh. Repeat all the way around until the melon is completely peeled. If you missed any spots, you can go ahead and clean it up with your knife now.
Cutting the Cantaloupe
Cut the peeled melon in half along the equator and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from both halves. At this point, you can cut your melon into thin slices, wedges, or cubes. For slices, place one half of the melon flat side-down on your cutting board and slice it across the middle, producing a quarter of a melon. Now continue to make thin slices, straight up and down, working your way from the middle towards the end. Then do the same with the other quarter and repeat these steps with the remaining half melon.
To make wedges, position your melon half face-down on your cutting board and cut it into thick, wedges by angling your knife as you work your way across, rather like the positions on a clock. You can cut a cantaloupe into between 8 and 12 wedges (4 to 6 wedges per side), depending on the size of the melon and how thick you want your wedges to be. To make cubes, you simply take these wedges and cut them crossways into cubes.
Using Part of a Cantaloupe
If you're only using part of a cantaloupe, it's best to leave it unpeeled to start. If you're only using half, cut the melon in half across the equator. Leave the seeds in the half you won't be using, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and store it in the fridge.
Before preparing the other half, scoop out the seeds. Flip it over, flat side down on your cutting board, and either peel it using the technique used for peeling a whole cantaloupe or simply cut it into wedges, leaving the rind on. It's simple to remove the rind from the individual wedges. Just slide your knife between the rind and the flesh, starting at one end of the wedge, and carefully guide the blade through to the other end.
Storing Cut Cantaloupe
When it comes to storing cantaloupe, the more cut up it is, the quicker it's going to spoil. A halved cantaloupe with the seeds left in can last up to a week in the fridge if tightly wrapped, but wedges (stored in an airtight container) will last three to five days and cubes more like two to three days.
You'll find is that cut cantaloupe will start to lose moisture and gradually deteriorate. The more cut up they are, the more they're exposed to oxygen and the bacteria that cause food spoilage, and thus the sooner they'll go bad. In general, plan on eating your cut-up cantaloupe within a few days.