Professional chef Slade Rushing shares his hacks.
If there’s such a thing as a banana expert, Slade Rushing certainly fits the bill. The four-time James Beard Award finalist and executive chef helms the kitchen at Brennan’s, the historic New Orleans restaurant that invented the Bananas Foster dessert in 1951 and, today, plows through approximately 40,000 pounds (!) of the featured fruit a year.
So when I had a nagging ‘nana question, Rushing, of course, had an answer.
First, some background on my dilemma: I like to put sliced banana in my morning oats, but depending on my hunger level, I don’t always use the whole piece of fruit. On the days when I’m less hungry, I typically stick the remaining banana in the fridge and do my best to seal it by wrapping the peel around it. Yet, by the next day, it’s usually partly browned and mushy. So that led to the question: what’s the best way to store cut bananas so they last longest and taste their best?
Though consuming bananas fresh is always best, says Rushing, there are some simple hacks that will prevent halved or otherwise cut bananas from turning into brown mush. If stored optimally with the tips described below, cut bananas are typically good for up to three days, he says.
Once cut, keep the peel on.
The number one rule of banana storage? “Oxygen is the enemy,” says Rushing. “Anytime you can prevent oxygen from having contact with the banana is good.” That’s because once the fruit is exposed to air, it will quickly begin to brown.
There are two easy ways to combat this. The first: keep the peel on your cut piece of fruit as long as possible. The second: hold off on slicing the banana until you’re ready to consume it.
“A trick we do at private events is we cut the bananas in half and keep the skin on, and then place the part that is exposed sitting down the plate,” says Rushing. The peel protects the majority of the halved banana from oxygen, and placing it face down against the plate guards the exposed part of the fruit from air. “When you’re ready to use bananas, peel them and use them at that moment,” he says.
On top of that, minimizing the number of cuts into the fruit helps preserve its freshness. “In general, try to slice bananas at the moment they are going to be used,” says Rushing. “They are fresher and best that way.”
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Consider a light coating.
If you’re making a fruit salad or another dish that requires cutting and peeling bananas ahead of time, you have several options.
As with other fruits, including avocados, putting acid on your banana slices can slow the oxidation process, explains Rushing. Spritz a light layer of lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, or vinegar atop the fruit. For a sweeter flavor, you can lightly coat sliced bananas in a simple syrup and touch of lemon juice to prevent oxidation, Rushing adds, or lightly toss them in honey. Just be sure the honey is room temperature and thinned with water to ensure easy application, he says.
From there, you can take things one step further by storing the cut, coated fruit in an airtight container. “There are really good storage containers now with tight fitting rubber seals,” says Rushing. “The more you guard against it, the better.”
Rely on the fridge.
As for where to stash your cut, airtight sealed bananas, the fridge is your best bet. The cooler, drier conditions help preserve the fruit longer than if it were at room temperature. This logic applies to whole bananas as well, adds Rushing’s wife, Allison Vines-Rushing, also a professional chef and James Beard Award winner, who regularly uses bananas when feeding their two children. When you buy bananas, they are typically green or greenish-yellow, a telltale sign that they are underripe. If the banana reaches the point of being golden yellow (aka perfectly ripe) and you’re just not ready to eat it yet, stick it in the fridge, she says, and it will maintain that perfect ripeness for several days.
What can you do with overripe bananas?
What if, despite your best efforts, your cut banana quickly goes too brown? You probably don’t want to eat it plain, but don’t toss it. Overripe bananas make great treats, like ice cream, banana bread, and banana muffins, says Vines-Rushing.