When you are selecting a watermelon, according to “The New Food Lover’s Companion,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst, look for one that is symmetrical without any flat sides. To check whether it is ripe, slap it; you should hear a hollow thump. Its rind should be dull, rather than shiny, and should barely yield to gentle pressure. Avoid fruit with blemishes or soft spots. I go for one that’s heavy for its size.
If you struggle to neatly chop a big watermelon into chunks, try my preferred method. Use a chef’s knife to cut the melon in half horizontally (through its equator). Place the cut sides down. Carve off the rind from top to bottom, following the curve of the fruit. (You can reserve the rind for pickling, remember.) Cut the rind-free halves as thick or thin as you like, then stack a few and chop into pieces.
Here are some recipes from our archives to help you make the most of your next watermelon:
Tomato Watermelon Salad. Tomato and watermelon can be paired a lot of different ways (see below); in a salad with feta is a common one. If you prefer not to have the color of the salad muddied by regular balsamic vinegar, you can try white balsamic, though its flavor won’t be quite as assertive.
Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca. With or without alcohol, this is a refreshing drink. If you’re buying fresh ginger for this recipe, get some extra and store it in pieces in the freezer to have on hand the next time you need it.
Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho. All you have to do for this no-cook soup is chop and blend.
Grilled Watermelon. Add watermelon to the list of fruits you can grill. You can serve this at room temperature or chilled.
Compressed Watermelon Salad. Sounds fancy, but this is a fairly uncomplicated method for concentrating the flavor and color of the fruit. And if you don’t have raw shredded coconut, leave it out or try briefly rehydrating dried unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut.
Summer Watermelon Punch. This is advanced melon-ing, or when you feel like taking on a project. Using the fruit as both the vessel for and main ingredient of a drink will wow your friends.
More from Voraciously: