Simply gently roll your thumb over the tiny nub-stem on top and look inside the hole that it leaves behind. If it's bright green inside it's perfect to cut and use. If it's very dark or very gray it's old. If it's hard to roll off, it is still unripe, so leave it a while longer before cutting it. No more wasting avocados!
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When selecting an avocado look for one that is large all around and larger on one end. The skin should be nearly black. Gently cup the whole avocado and gently squeeze. It should be firm with a slight softness.