There are few things better than a sweet, ripe melon in the middle of the hot summer. But, choose the wrong one, and you can be in for a big disappointment.
While it might seem intimidating, breaking down such a big, alien-looking fruit, is actually quite simple and straightforward.
In this article, I’ll go over 3 different ways to cut a cantaloupe. Plus, I’ll explain all you need to know in order to pick the best melon out of the bunch and how to store any extras once they’re cut (if they make it that long).
First, Pick The Right Melon
For starters, you’ll always get the best-tasting melon (and other produce) if you eat them in season. For most of us here in the States, that means summer through early fall.
Then, when you get to the market, there are many telltale signs of a good cantaloupe, you just have to know what to look for. So jot these down before you head out to your local grocery store or farmers market.
A Full Slip
When a cantaloupe is ripe, it will naturally fall off the vine, leaving no stem intact. This is known as a “full slip”. So, if you find a cantaloupe with a jagged or cut piece of stem still attached, it’s a sign that the melon was harvested prematurely.
The skin of most cantaloupe has an appearance like rough, sandy-colored “netting”. Look at the space between and below the “netting” for signs of ripeness. You want that color to be more tan or golden, rather than green.
When you pick up a cantaloupe, it should feel solid and heavy for its size. You can also press your thumb into the blossom end of the fruit and feel for a slight give. The melon shouldn’t be soft or mushy, but it also shouldn’t be rock hard.
Cantaloupe is in the muskmelon family, all of which give off a pleasant, musky, sweet aroma. So, give your cantaloupe a good sniff and avoid those with little or no fragrance.
As a cantaloupe ripens, the seeds inside will sometimes begin to loosen and detach themselves from the fruit. So, pick up a melon and give it a good shake. If you hear seeds rattling around inside, it’s a good indication of a ripe melon. But, this doesn’t work every time, so not every ripe melon will make this sound.
3 Ways To Cut A Cantaloupe Melon
Clean And Prep
No matter how you slice it, you should give your melon a good rinse before making any cuts. Even though you won’t be eating the cantaloupe rind (I hope), it’s always a good idea to rinse away any debris, unseen bacteria, or pesticides.
That way, when you cut into the melon, there’s no chance of transmitting anything into the flesh of the fruit that you’ll be eating.
All you need to do here is give a thorough rinse under running water while rubbing the fruit with your hand or a soft brush.
1. Slices With Rind
Skin-on cantaloupe slices are the fastest and easiest to prepare. This is also the best option if you’ll be eating the melon with your hands since the rind can act as a built-in handle. That makes this a great choice for picnics, road trips, porches, or backyard hangs.
First, place your cleaned melon on its side on a cutting board.
Using your non-dominant hand, hold the melon firmly in place and slice the melon in half. Cutting round objects can always be a little tricky, so go slow and use a sharp knife.
If you want longer slices, cut the melon in half from top to bottom (stem end to blossom end). For shorter pieces, cut them in half from side to side. The end result won’t be much different so don’t worry too much about it.
Next, use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and membranes from both melon halves. Now, while I’ve never tried it myself, I have heard that you can easily roast cantaloupe seeds and use them as a crunchy topping or snack.
Finally, place your cantaloupe halves on your cutting board, cut side down, and make slices or wedges that are as thick or thin as you’d like. If you want the pieces to be a little more manageable, cut the slices in half.
2. Slices Without Rind
Cantaloupe slices without rind are a nice way to prepare the fruit so that you can eat the entire piece without worrying about the rind. The process involves a little more knife skills, but it’s nothing you can’t handle with a sharp knife and a little practice.
First, lay your clean cantaloupe on its side on a cutting board. Hold the melon in place with your non-dominant hand, then cut off one end.
Then, rotate the cantaloupe and cut off the other end. The goal here is to create a flat, stable base for peeling the melon, but you don’t want to remove and waste too much of the fruit.
Now that you’ve cut off the top and bottom, stand the melon upright on one of the flat ends.
Next, take your knife and use a sawing motion to follow the shape of the melon and remove the rind. You want to remove all of the rough, outer skin and the green layer below that while removing as little orange flesh as possible.
After you remove one strip of rind from top to bottom, rotate the melon and repeat until all of the skin and green has been removed.
The rest of the method is just like method #1. Split the melon in half, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Finally, lay the cantaloupe cut side down (like a dome) and make your slices as thick or thin as you’d like.
3. Cubes Or Chunks
Skinless cantaloupe cubes or chunks are the perfect choice if you’ll be adding the melon to a fruit salad, or if you just want bite-size pieces that are easy to eat and store.
The process of making cantaloupe chunks is almost exactly the same as making skinless slices. So, follow method number #2 all the way through peeling, splitting, and deseeding.
At this point, you should have 2 peeled, seedless cantaloupe halves, lying cut side down on your board.
Now, you’ll make your cantaloupe slices. This time, think about what size chunks you want to end up with. These will likely be thicker than your normal slices, probably between 1 and 2 inches thick.
As you make your slices, keep them in place so that they still form a dome. Rotate the dome and make another set of slices perpendicular to the first.
This method will turn an entire (or half) melon into relatively uniform cubes quickly and in as few cuts as possible.
Storing Cut Cantaloupe
Once your cantaloupe is cut, you should store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cantaloupe cubes are easy to store in large plastic delis. But for slices and wedges, you’ll have an easier time using something like a gallon-size zip-top bag.
Once cut, try to eat your melon pieces within 3 days. And if you need more time, cantaloupe actually freezes quite well.
To freeze, place your cut melon in a single layer on a plate or sheet tray lined with parchment, or better yet a Silpat. Place your tray of melon in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. Then, transfer the frozen pieces to a zip-top bag for storage in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Pre-freezing the melon this way will reduce frost and ice crystals in the bag. And, it will keep your cantaloupe in individual pieces and not one giant, frozen chunk.
Tools For The Job
All you’ll need to prep a cantaloupe is a cutting board, a sharp knife, and a spoon.
However, if I’m peeling a melon, I often find that a carving knife is really the best tool for the job. These are almost always long enough to easily slice through even the largest cantaloupes. And, the thin blades aren’t very tall, making the peeling process smooth and easy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Know If A Cantaloupe Is Ready To Be Cut?
A ripe cantaloupe will have a sandy rind that’s not overly green. It should give slightly when pressed, without being soft. And it should be very fragrant when you smell it.
Can You Peel A Whole Cantaloupe?
Yes, you can peel a whole cantaloupe. First, you should cut off the top and bottom to add stability while you peel. Then, use a knife to cut away the rind, following the round shape of the melon.
Is It Possible To Give Cantaloupe An Ornamental Cut?
You can turn a cantaloupe into a star or crown-shaped bowl by making alternating zig-zag cuts around its equator. Insert a paring knife straight into the side of your melon at an angle. Remove the knife and repeat, alternating the angle of the cut each time. Do this around the entire melon, then separate the two halves and remove the seeds.