How to Cook Pears

5 from 2 votes

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This is a super-simple gorgeous salad recipe that features fresh pears and dried apricots — perfect for a fall or holiday meal.

How to Cook Pears / Katie Workman / / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen

Pears are one of the fall fruits we most look forward to every year. Pears have been cultivated for thousands of years and are grown and loved in countries all over the globe. Eat them like an apple, sure, or slice them up…but there are lots of other things you can do with pears, and we’d all be wise to take advantage of the pear-nanza that is autumn.

Learn below about the different types of pears, how to choose the best pears for cooking and eating, tricks for how to ripen pears, and how to prevent pears from turning brown. Plus, while I have you, I have some delicious pear recipes to suggest, from Pear Tart Tatin to a colorful Pear Salsa, and I’ve included a recipe for a Mixed Greens Salad with Pears and Balsamic Dressing at the end. This is the salad to add to any holiday meal or fall entertaining moment.

Pears on a wooden surface.

What Are the Different Types of Pears?

Pears are divided into two major categories: European and Asian. However, European pears are what we typically see and think of when we think of the pear-shaped fruit, while Asian pears are less sweet, crunchier, and usually more apple-shaped.

Like apples, pears are available in a wonderfully wide array of varieties (up to 3,000 have been recorded!). There are Anjou (the most readily available type of pear in the U.S.), Bosc, Comice, Barlett, Concord, Seckel, Ferrel…the list goes on, and each one has a different flavor and texture.

What Do Pears Look Like?

Pears come in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors. They’re typically not quite as round as apples, but they do have a similar size and weight. They can be green, like the Green Anjou or Concorde varieties; red, like the Red Anjou or Red Bartlett; brown, like the Bosc; or a mix of those colors. Ideal pears have smooth, unblemished skin.

What Do Pears Taste Like?

The flavor of pears varies significantly from variety to variety. Some get quite sweet when ripe, like Concorde, while others, like Forelle, stay a bit more neutral in flavor.

Pears on a wooden surafce.

What Are the Best Pears for Cooking and Eating?

A few varieties are only good to eat when cooked, but most of the varieties commonly available are also great for eating out of hand and using in salads or other uncooked dishes, like salsa. Pears that are very ripe will get quite soft when cooked, so you want to choose them before they get too ripe when baking or cooking them.

Great varieties for cooking are Bosc and Bartlett. Comice and Anjou are also good, though they will soften and fall apart a bit.

Red pears on a curface.

How to Cook With Pears

Pears can be peeled or cut up with the peel left on, but make sure to wash them well just before using. Some peels are smoother, and some are rougher; decide whether the texture of the peel will detract from the dish you are making.

Pears can be poached, sautéed, and baked in crisps, cobblers, crisps, cobblers, pies, tarts, or wrapped in pastry. They can also cooked and pureed and used in both sweet and savory dishes, to sweeten up a parsnip or potato puree, for instance, or in a soup.

Pear Tartin Tatin with two forks on a plate.
Pear Tart Tatin

How to Store and Ripen Pears

Interestingly, pears do not fully ripen on the tree, unlike most other fruits. They are picked when mature but need to sit on the counter for several days to get to peak ripeness.

Allow pears to ripen on the counter, which will take anywhere from 3 to 6 days. Barletts will turn from green to yellow as they ripen, though most other pears will not change color. Once they are ripe, you will want to use them within a few days, or they will start to get too soft — if you need to put them in the fridge at this point to prevent them from getting mushy, you can.

When a pear is ripe, it will hold well for a few days in the fridge. If you have unripe pears and you aren’t yet ready for them to ripen, you can put them in the fridge and take them out a few days before you are ready to use them.

Multicolored pears on a surface.

How to Know When Pears Are Ripe

Other than Barletts, which just get a bit brighter in color, the best way to see if a pear is ripe is to gently press a finger against the neck of the pear. When it yields to the touch, it’s ready to go. USA Pears even has a little saying: “Check the Neck.”

How to Prevent Pears From Turning Brown

When cut, pears turn brown or oxidize fairly quickly. If you are using them in a baked good, cut them right before adding them to the recipe.

If you are adding sliced pears to a cheese platter, for instance, and you know they will need to sit out for a bit, you can brush the cut surfaces of the pear with a bit of water mixed with lemon juice to prevent browning. This will add a little tartness, however.

One pear on a blue surface.


What is the difference between hard and soft pears?

Some pears (like Comice and Bartlett) get soft when they ripen, while others (like Concord and Bosc) remain firm. If a pear variety is meant to be eaten soft, it will not have much flavor when it is unripe. See here to find out if the variety of pear you have is meant to be hard or soft.

When are pears in season?

While different types of pears have different seasonality, late summer through fall is the peak time for pears.

Are pears nutritious?

Pears have a nice fiber content and a decent amount of vitamin C built-in. There are about 100 calories in a medium pear.

5 Pear Recipes

Pear Tart Tatin / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /
5 from 5 votes

Pear Tart Tatin Recipe

If you ever thought tart tatins were tricky, give this one made with store-bought puff pastry a try. A great dessert for a fall dinner party.
View Recipe

Black plates with Romaine, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad on white wood table.
5 from 4 votes

Romaine, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad Recipe

I love the instant elegance and juicy punch pers add to a green salad.
View Recipe

Green bowl of Spicy Pear and Cilantro Salsa and a white bowl of tortilla chips.
5 from 1 vote

Spicy Pear and Cilantro Salsa Recipe

Put this lovely fall salsa out with any kind of chips, from pita chips to tortilla chips.
View Recipe

Endive Salad with Pear and Creamy Herb Dressing / Mia / Katie Workman /
5 from 1 vote

Endive Salad with Pear and Creamy Herb Dressing Recipe

A bracing salad, with a bit of sweetness from the pear — a perfect companion to a rich meal.
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Prosciutto, Asian Pear and Blue Cheese on a wooden tray with thyme-infused honey.
5 from 1 vote

Prosciutto, Asian Pear, and Blue Cheese Crostini Recipe

A few simple ingredients add up to a sophisticated super seasonal appetizer. Make sure your pears are ripe but firm, and slice them just before assembling these crostini.
View Recipe

Mixed Greens Salad with Pears and Balsamic Dressing

You can use whatever lettuce you like in this salad — the attention grabbers are the fresh pear and the dried apricots, and their sweetness plays very nicely with lettuces that are bitter, like frisée or escarole, but also work with milder lettuces like good old green lettuce. Fennel adds a nice refreshing anise-ey note. All I can say about fennel (other than I love it), is that when raw it’s at its very best when sliced as paper-thin as you can manage. Use a mandoline if you have one!


  • Extra-virgin olive oil – An essential in most dressings.
  • Balsamic vinegar – Sweet and tart.
  • Orange juice – Fresh juice will take you far! Squeeze your own oranges.
  • Lemon juice – The same goes for lemons.
  • Dijon mustard – Mustard makes the dressing more peppery and rounds out the flavors.
  • Green lettuce or escarole – If you use escarole, amke sure to use the paler, milder inner leaves.
  • Frisée lettuce – Look for frissee that is perky, not droopy or wilted.
  • Fennel – Quartered, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise.
  • Pear – Quartered, cored, and thinly sliced. To counteract the bitter greens, I like to use a sweeter pear variety for this salad, like a Comice or Concorde pear.
  • Dried apricots – Dice them to add another sweet kick to this salad.

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5 from 2 votes

Mixed Greens Salad with Pears and Balsamic Dressing

This is a super-simple gorgeous salad recipe that features fresh pears and dried apricots — perfect for a fall or holiday meal.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6 People
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  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 small head green lettuce (or escarole)
  • 1 large or 2 small heads frisée lettuce
  • 1 head fennel (quartered, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise)
  • 1 pear (quartered, cored, and thinly sliced)
  • ½ cup diced dried apricots


  • In a large bowl combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  • Slice or tear the green lettuce and frisée into bite sized pieces. Place them in the bowl with the fennel. Toss to combine. Add the pears and apricots and toss again.


The dressing can be made a couple of days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.


Calories: 142.29kcal, Carbohydrates: 19.11g, Protein: 2.54g, Fat: 7.46g, Saturated Fat: 1.02g, Sodium: 75.75mg, Potassium: 602.33mg, Fiber: 5.26g, Sugar: 10.53g, Vitamin A: 7039.1IU, Vitamin C: 22.9mg, Calcium: 87mg, Iron: 1.56mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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