Avocados may seem harmless, but if you’ve ever peeled and cut one, you know they can be more than a little troublesome. They’re slippery, they’re oddly shaped, and they have that annoying pit in the middle that rarely slips out as easily as you’d like.
These characteristics have earned the avocado a reputation as one of the most dangerous foods to cut. Just recently, the wife of a colleague here at The New York Times was slicing an avocado when she suffered a cut so deep she had to be taken to the emergency room.
Medical professionals and hospitals in the United States don’t track kitchen injuries by ingredient, but anecdotally, doctors say they see a number of avocado-related cooking injuries annually — enough to notice.
“I see half a dozen every year,” said Dr. Sheel Sharma, a plastic surgeon in New York specializing in hand surgery. “Mostly, they come with a laceration in the palm.”
Depending on the depth of the cut, this laceration can cause significant nerve, ligament, tendon or bone damage that requires surgery (as it did with our colleague’s wife, whose hospital bill was around $20,000).
Many injuries occur when people try to remove the pit. It’s easy for the blade to slip, whether one uses the “wrong” method (holding an avocado half while digging out the pit with the tip of a knife) or the “right” (gently striking the pit with a knife to embed its long edge into the stone). And, even if the pit is removed successfully, injury can still occur when cutting the avocado while holding it in hand.
“You think that the skin is tough and will protect you,” Dr. Sharma said.
It won’t. Remove the avocado flesh with a spoon, and slice on a stable cutting surface.
As Cinco de Mayo approaches, and everyone dusts off their molcajetes to make a batch of guacamole, we thought it would be a good idea to remind our readers how to cut and de-stone an avocado with our step-by-step video. (For a full refresher on knife skills, visit our comprehensive guide.)
If you’re new to or nervous about avocado-cutting, or for an extra layer of protection, place a folded dish towel between your hand and the avocado half before whacking the stone to remove it (Use a dish towel to carefully remove the pit from the blade, or gently smack the edge of the knife handle on the edge of a trash can. It should pop right off.). And always use a sharp knife so it doesn’t slip off the stone. Lastly, if you find that cutting is requiring a lot of effort or pressure, stop right there. The avocado is either not ripe enough, or your knife is dull. Both can lead to injury.
Despite your caution, accidents happen. If you find yourself with a nasty cut, heed this advice from Dr. Lara Devgan, a New York plastic and reconstructive surgeon: “The first thing you want to do is hold pressure on the area that is bleeding,” she said in an email. “If there are any amputated parts, they can be put in a plastic bag and placed on ice. I suggest going to the emergency room or calling your doctor, as it’s important to be evaluated by a hand specialist to make sure you don’t have any injuries to nerves, vessels, tendons or bones.”