Few fruits are packaged more beautifully by Mother Nature than watermelon. Its hot pink interior punctuated with glossy black seeds contrasted with a saturated deep green exterior makes it a stellar centerpiece showstopper for any buffet or picnic table. There are several easy ways to go about slicing and cubing a whole watermelon for a stunning presentation.
Rinse and prep
A large, heavy watermelon can be an unwieldy fruit to tackle in the kitchen. A long, sharp chef’s knife comes in handy, and make sure your cutting board is secure by placing a large, damp towel underneath to prevent it from slipping. The towel will also collect any juice that drips off of the cutting board onto the counter.
Rinse the outside of the melon with warm water — do not use soap or any cleanser. It’s important to rinse the knife between cuts; when the knife cuts through the melon, it can carry any dirt, residue or chemicals on the outside of the rind into the fruit. It’s best to only cut the least amount of watermelon you intend to eat within three to four days. Over time, the melon will release a lot of its juice and deteriorate.
It is almost always easiest to work with half of a watermelon at a time, so place the melon on its side on your cutting board, and slice it vertically in half; set aside the other melon half. Then, cut off about an inch from the opposite end or until you reach the pink flesh. Turn the melon onto its widest cut-side.
Guide the knife down the sides of the melon between the white part of the rind and the pink flesh. Continue to turn the melon to cut all sides. (Set aside the rind to make pickles or compost later.)
To make watermelon wedges, place the watermelon half, cut-side down, on the cutting board; cut it in half through the stem or blossom end. Repeat, cutting each half in half again, through its stem or blossom end. Depending on the preferred size of wedges, these pieces can be cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick wedges, or the pieces can be cut in half one more time before slicing into wedges.
Cut the watermelon into your desired-sized chunks or slices. (You might want to steal the heart of the watermelon — the prized center piece that’s usually the sweetest.) Place your pieces in an airtight container or zip-tight plastic bag, and refrigerate.
To create buffet-friendly “spikes” or sticks, cut the melon vertically in half. Turn it over onto its cut-side. Cut the melon vertically into 1-inch-thick slices, leaving the melon intact while slicing through it. Turn the melon 90 degrees, and cut it again into 1-inch-thick slices. Carefully transfer the entire half of the melon to a large, flat platter so that the melon half stays intact. Guests can pull out a spike from the rind-end for a refreshing grab-and-go morsel of summer.
For a sophisticated presentation, cut the watermelon lengthwise in half through the blossom and stem ends. Use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop to create uniformly sized spheres, transferring them into a bowl; return the balls to the empty watermelon shell.
If the watermelon “bowl” isn’t steady, before returning the balls to the shell, flip it over and trim off about one-half inch of rind along the bottom to create a flat surface. Take the watermelon bowl to the next level by using a paring knife to carve pointy or scalloped edges.
How to store
You will want to place any uncut leftover watermelon on a flat platter or plate, cut-side down, and cover any exposed surface area with plastic wrap before moving it to the refrigerator; use up any leftovers within a of couple days. Whole watermelon can be stored in the fridge (if you’ve got the room) or at room temperature, but it behooves you to eat it as soon as possible after purchasing to reap maximum health benefits.
If your watermelon loses some juice in its storage container, don’t throw it away. Drink it straight or place it in ice cube trays or a container to freeze and add to with each watermelon enjoyed throughout the summer. Thaw the juice to add to cocktails with vodka, rum or gin, or use in sangria, margaritas, aqua fresca, lemonade or punch.