A Peach Primer

Here’s everything you need to know about summer’s star stone fruit.
By and

Published Aug. 11, 2023.

The peach is my favorite fruit.

I love the aroma and flavor of the peach—both delicate and distinct. I love checking the peaches on my counter daily during the summer and choosing the perfect one to eat right then and there. I love eating that perfect peach out of hand standing over the kitchen sink. And the texture: I don’t think we have a good word for it in English, but we should. That gentle structure that quietly crunches and releases juices is just unbeatable.

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Types of Peaches

There are a few different ways to categorize peaches. One is based on their pit. 

In clingstone peaches, the flesh holds tightly to the peach pit. Freestone peaches, on the other hand, give up the pit easily. Freestone peaches are ideal when you’re doing anything other than eating out of hand because they are much easier to prep.

Another way to categorize peaches is by whether they are melting flesh or nonmelting flesh (which, yes, sounds like something out of a horror movie). 

Basically, melting fleshers soften much more dramatically during ripening, which generally means they need to be picked earlier in their ripening process in order to survive shipping. 

You can also look at them based on flesh color. 

White-fleshed cultivars are most popular in China, whereas in the US we tend to grow more yellow-fleshed varieties. Red-fleshed varieties also exist but are more of a niche market—at least domestically. 

Is there a big difference between white and yellow? We did a taste test of what’s available stateside and found that white varieties across the board were much lower in acidity. They also tended to soften a lot more during cooking and baking applications. So, they are ideal for eating out of hand if you want less acid and more pure sweetness. 

How to Pit a Peach

There are lots of interesting methods for pitting peaches. The most common method is to slice from stem to tip, open up the peach, and then use a paring knife to scrape around the pit to remove it, but we have an even easier method for freestones: Slicing around the equator of the peach. Here’s how.


1. Slice the peach along the equator.

2. Twist the top off. 

3. Grab the piece of pit that is sticking out of the fruit with your fingers and wiggle it back and forth until it pops out.

How to Peel a Peach

Sometimes recipes will tell you to peel peaches, and sometimes I like to peel peaches I eat out of hand—that way, the fuzzy texture of the skin doesn’t obscure the beautiful flesh. Here are a few methods.

By hand: Some peaches’ skins can be peeled away easily, no tools necessary.

A serrated vegetable peeler: This works best for firmer peaches.

Blanching: We like this method when we need to peel a lot of peaches for cooking. Slice a small x into the tip of the peaches, dunk them into boiling water briefly, and then chill them in an ice bath. This makes the skin much easier to remove. 

Our Favorite Peach Recipes

Peaches can go sweet or savory. And during high season, I think you just have to do both.

One miracle of nature is that peach season and tomato season line right up, so why not take advantage of that natural synergy with a grilled peach, tomato, and burrata salad? The most satisfying part is breaking into the burrata and letting it mingle with the juicy peaches and tomatoes—it’s a pure taste of summer. 


Grilled Peach and Tomato Salad with Burrata and Basil

The right technique coaxes smoky sweetness from ripe peaches, plums, or nectarines.
Get the Recipe

Andrea Geary’s recipe for peach tarte tatin puts the fruit front and center in an absurdly good dessert. This peach version of tatin (in which Andrea makes several genius tweaks to the traditional apple formula to account for the abundant juices peaches shed when cooked) moves this classic treat squarely into summer.


Peach Tarte Tatin

Yes, you can make a juicy, summery, peach-crowned version of the classic upside-down caramelized apple tart. No, you can't simply substitute peaches for apples.
Get the Recipe

But of course, the best way to enjoy a peak season peach is simply out of hand. Here at Cook’s Illustrated, we abide by a technique we call the Bite-Slurp Maneuver. To see it in action, you’ll have to check out the latest episode of What’s Eating Dan? below.



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