This step-by-step guide shows you the best way to cut a watermelon for salads, smoothies, margaritas, gazpacho and more. Plus, learn how to tell if a watermelon is ripe and find out the best way to store it after it's cut.

Elizabeth Laseter
Updated April 03, 2020
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Sure, you can buy pre-cut watermelon from the grocery store, but why bother? Pick up a whole one and cut it yourself. Freshly cut watermelon is far superior in flavor and texture, plus it's cheaper too. The thing is, cutting a whole watermelon is a lot like cutting a whole pineapple. Where exactly do you start?

In this step-by-step guide, I'll show you the best (and easiest!) way to cut a watermelon. This technique is perfect for cutting watermelon into cubes for salads, popsiclesfruit kebabs and so much more. This method also guarantees the least amount of waste, so you can be sure you're getting the most from your cold and refreshing melon all summer long.

How to Pick a Perfect Watermelon

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

If you've ever lugged a watermelon home from the grocery store or farmers' market, then you know it's a workout. But before you do all of that work, you want to be sure you've chosen a ripe watermelon.

So how do you know when a watermelon is ripe? Similar to pineapples, watermelons have a thick outer skin that can make this task seem difficult, but it's not impossible. There are a few tricks you can try to help you out.

Weight: Watermelon is composed of mostly water, so a ripe fruit will feel much heavier than it looks. What's the easiest way to tell? Simply pick it up!

Color: Look for a yellow spot on the green skin. This marking shows where the watermelon rested on the ground before it was picked-and it's a telltale sign of ripeness.

Feel: Give your watermelon a good knock. Does it sound hollow on the inside? If yes, then you've picked a winner. If no, then it's probably underripe.

If you have the option of buying a seedless watermelon, I suggest doing it. While a seedless watermelon isn't entirely seedless, the small white seeds inside are soft enough to eat without worry. It will be much easier to cut since you won't have to dodge the large black seeds that watermelons typically contain. Seedless watermelon works better in recipes, too.

How to Cut Watermelon

Ready to get started? First, make sure you have a good-quality large serrated knife and a large cutting board. Some say a sharp knife is enough and, while you can technically use a chef's knife, I strongly recommend using a serrated knife. The sawing motion of this knife makes those tougher first cuts through the watermelon's skin a lot easier.

Before we dive in, it would also be helpful to know the difference between lengthwise and crosswise. Lengthwise is pole-to-pole, meaning along the "length" of the food. For example, for a tomato, lengthwise would be the base to the stem. Crosswise is simply the opposite direction or a 90-degree angle to your lengthwise cut.

Step 1: Cut Off the Ends

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter
  • Place the watermelon lengthwise on a cutting board.
  • Slice off a 2-inch chunk from each end and discard.
  • Make straight, even cuts so that you're creating two flat sides for a stable base so you can remove the skin.

Step 2: Remove the Skin

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter
  • Using one of the cut sides as a base, stand the watermelon upright on your cutting board.
  • Secure the watermelon with one hand and your knife with the other.
  • Then, make long, smooth cuts from top to bottom. This will remove the green skin and the underlying rind (the white/light green area between the skin and the flesh).
  • Follow the natural curve of the watermelon with your knife. This ensures you're keeping as much of the flesh as possible.

Don't toss the skin! Peel away the top layer to access the watermelon rind, which has a crunchy texture like a cucumber. But what can you do with it? Watermelon rind is delicious pickled and added to salads, grain bowls and more.

Related: Learn how to pickle anything, including watermelon rind.

Step 3: Trim the Flesh

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

After you remove the skin, trim and discard any remaining white spots so that all you see is pink watermelon flesh. This is also a good opportunity to wipe down your cutting board. You want it to be dry before you move on to the next step.

Step 4: Cut Lengthwise into Boards

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter
  • Next, place the watermelon back on its side.
  • Holding it steady with one hand, make 1-inch-thick lengthwise cuts to create the watermelon "boards."
  • When you've finished, stack the boards neatly on one side of your cutting board.

Here's a good rule of thumb: Cut only as many "boards" as you think you'll need. Watermelon is perishable, and storing it in larger pieces helps it stay fresher longer.

  • Place the uncut piece on a small sheet pan lined with paper towels.
  • Use plastic wrap to store and refrigerate.
  • Change out the paper towels every other day and try to use the remaining watermelon within 5 to 7 days.

Step 5: Cut Lengthwise into Planks

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

Next, take each watermelon board and cut it lengthwise into smaller, 1-inch thick "planks." You can also stack several boards on top of each other to make this task more efficient.

Step 6: Cut Crosswise into Cubes

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter
  • Line up several of the watermelon "planks" on your cutting board
  • Cut planks crosswise into 1-inch cubes.
  • Transfer the cubes to a bowl and repeat until you've cut the remaining watermelon.

Now, pat yourself on the back. You've successfully cut a whole watermelon!

Cutting a watermelon into cubes offers endless ways to use it, but it's not the only method out there:

You could also cut and hollow out a watermelon to make a stunning fruit bowl.

  • Instead of making cubes or cutting watermelon into wedges, you can make watermelon balls with a melon baller.
  • Or, you can make this adorable Shark Watermelon Fruit Bowl to learn the technique.
  • You can also make a crave-worthy Watermelon Fruit Pizza. You can cut the watermelon into triangles, then pile them high with your favorite fruity toppings.

How to Store Watermelon

Photo: Elizabeth Laseter

Watermelon is best consumed right after you cut it, but that's not always possible. If you need to save it for later, that's perfectly fine, but it needs to be stored properly. Here's an easy way to store cut watermelon so that it stays juicy and crisp.

What You'll Need:

  • Cubed watermelon
  • Paper towels
  • Large food-storage container with lid

1. Line a food-storage container with paper towels.

2. Arrange watermelon in a single layer inside the container. Place another layer of paper towels over the watermelon.

3. Repeat with the remaining watermelon, making sure to separate each layer with paper towels.

4. Cover and refrigerate. Consume within 5 to 7 days, making sure to change out the paper towels every other day. Discard any watermelon that start to feel mushy.

How to Use Cut Watermelon

What can you do with your freshly cut watermelon? Watermelon pairs well with other fruits, as well as with salty and briny foods (such as feta cheese and olives) and fresh herbs (like fresh mint and basil). It's also delicious on its own-and if you're lounging by the pool or picnicking in the park, you can pile it onto a platter for a refreshing snack. But if you want to get fancy, I suggest you try these flavor-packed watermelon recipes.

Check out our full collection of Healthy Watermelon Recipes for more delicious ideas.