How To Tell If A Banana Is Ready To Bake With

Everyone has their own specific preference of when a banana is best — nearly green or almost black and everything in between — and every stage has its perks, according to The Spruce Eats. But when it comes to baking, how do you know when is the right time to use your fruit?

Most people have heard that baking banana bread is a great way to use up overripe or forgotten bananas, but what does that really mean? Overripe to some might be just perfect to another person. When you're just planning to eat the fruit by itself, nothing is worse than realizing you've waited too long and your bananas have gone bad. We've all bitten into a brown, speckly banana to be greeted with a super soft, sweet interior. In contrast, many of us have peeled a stiff, green banana only to be met with firm and less flavorful flesh.

It turns out, when it comes to baking, more ripe bananas are softer and can more easily mash up into batters. They also have a sweeter and more concentrated banana flavor that's ideal for sweets. Luckily, it's easy to identify when a banana is ripe enough for baking. 

Go for the heavily speckled bananas

As bananas ripen, they release a chemical called ethylene gas. This causes bananas to develop their freckles, and this gas helps to take the starch in bananas and turn them into sugar, as Dr. Dan Bebber, of the University of Exeter, told BBC. "This gas causes ripening, or softening of fruit by the breakdown of cell walls, conversion of starches to sugars, and the disappearance of acids," he said.

So how do you know when your banana has hit that sweet spot of sugary softness and is ready to bake with? Cook's Illustrated is on the case. According to their method, the more spotted the banana, the more sugar it has. In fact, a freckled banana can have about three times the amount of fructose as a yellow banana. And luckily for us, a perfectly speckly banana with all that extra sugar will yield an even more moist finished product.

Now once a banana is fully black, you might be past the point of no return. Choosing a banana with lots of brown freckles is gonna be your best bet for sweet, soft, banana-y flavor in all your baked goods and banana recipes.