For those who don’t eat meat, grilled watermelon is a delicious summertime barbecue alternative. Versatile in the methods by which it’s sliced and cooked, watermelon steak can be marinated, smoked, salted, or basted. But before all that pre-grill magic can occur, in order to make a crowd-pleasing watermelon steak, you first need to identify the perfect watermelon. The process isn’t too difficult, but it’s essential to rendering the bold flavor and fresh taste of your ultimate dish. Here are six tips for picking the perfect melon for watermelon steak.
1) The field spot color
The best indicator of a good watermelon is the field spot. What is a field spot? A field spot is the section of the rind where the watermelon was resting on the ground. You want your melon’s field spot to have a dark yellow, creamy color. The color is critical because if the field spot is bright yellow or white, or you can’t see one at all, the melon is probably under-ripe. Dark, yellow, and creamy are the three attributes you want to find on your melon’s field spot.
2) The dullness factor
While shiny fruits may appear more appetizing and fresh, when it comes to watermelon, a shiny appearance indicates an under-ripe melon. You want to look for a fruit with a dull, dark green color, with a notably non-shiny sheen.
3) Tap, tap. Freshness calling.
An under-the-radar trick for discovering a melon’s ripeness? Tap your fingers on the rind. Your fingers should bounce off the surface—much like hitting a drum. A nice snapping sound, more tenor than deep, signifies that the inside flesh is firm and you have a good fresh melon at hand. While knocking with your knuckles seems to be a trick most people employ, you’ll get more accurate results if you tap it with your finger.
4) Bulk & weight
No one likes schlepping around a heavy melon, but when it comes to finding the perfect melon, look for one that feels heavy for its size. You know the core of your melon is solid when the melon itself is heavy; so in this case, look for the heaviest one in the crowd. That’ll be your golden melon.
Just like people, watermelon comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are round, some are oval. Though either one is fine when deciding which melon to go with, in general, the oblong fruits yield better, more realistic looking steak slices. It’s irregular bumps you need to be on the lookout for. Bumps usually indicate the melon did not receive enough sunshine and water from the time it was planted and harvested. Get a good feel of that melon before making your purchase, and watch out for any bumps!
Some consumers are concerned with spotting on a watermelon, but a pattern of light spots along the rind is actually a good sign. Spots, better known as pollination points, indicate that the fruit was fully pollinated, yielding a sweeter fruit. Some grill masters insist this is the most critical quality indicator of all.
The grilled watermelon steak, no matter how you choose to prepare it, starts with a well-picked piece of fruit.
Lou Terrulli of Baldor Specialty Foods has been one of the foremost produce experts in the industry for the past 40 years, and is on a first name basis with some of the best farmers in the country. He is best known for identifying and curating what the next unique produce item will be and working with farmers to help them bring it to market.