Culinary Arts

10 Different Types of Pears: How to Pick Pears and Cook With Pear Varieties

Written by MasterClass

Apr 9, 2019 • 3 min read

The pear: the kind of fruit that’s heavenly when ripe and like a sad, tannic apple when not. A striking 80 percent of pear trees in the United States are grown in the Pacific Northwest, where moist, volcanic soil and temperate summers provide ideal growing conditions. Many major pear varieties are also grown in European countries and parts of Asia.

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What Is a Pear?

A pear is an edible fruit grown from the tree of the same name belonging to the rose family. It’s known for its bell shape—wide on the bottom and tapered up top—thin exterior skin, and soft, juicy flesh. Pears are mostly water, so their biggest nutritional offering is dietary fiber.

How to Pick Ripe Pears

You can tell a pear is ripe when the area around the stem softens. Store unripe pears at room temperature, and apply a little pressure (not enough to potentially bruise, mind you) every few days to check their progress. Overripe pears become slightly mealy, so you want to hit the middle ground if possible.

How to Cook With Pears

Thanks to their firm texture, pears benefit especially well from a good poach (in wine or even brown butter) and most will hold their shape when baked into breads or cakes. Cooking pears down into a buttery spread with heaps of warm spices like cinnamon and star anise is an especially good way to use up ripe pears.

10 Varieties of Pear To Know

There are about 3,000 estimated types of pear grown worldwide. Here’s a few to know:

  1. ASIAN: Asian pears have a crisp texture, almost like a cross between a jicama and an apple, earning it its other moniker, the “apple pear.” It features a rough, light brown skin, and a mild, sweet juice. There are many different Asian pear varieties, though Hosui and Nijisseki tend to be the most popular abroad.
  2. BOSC: Bosc pears have a matte, almost mottled look to their skin, with rougher patches of light brown overlaying the green skin beneath. They’re highly aromatic and hold their shape well when sliced into dishes like a radicchio salad or baked into a pear tart.
  3. COMICE: Somewhere in between the Asian and Bosc pears in tart fruitiness and soft, not-too-grainy texture lies a jewel among European pears: the Comice pear, with its wide, round shape.
  4. BARTLETT: Also known as “Williams Pears”, super soft Bartlett pears are high on the juicy side of the scale. They’re found as both “red Bartlett” and “green Bartlett.” These are the classic “bruised pear in the bottom of the lunchbox” variety you likely remember from childhood—packed with pear flavor but ultrasensitive.
  5. ANJOU: You can find this mild, common variety listed as both “red Anjou” or “green Anjou,” but there’s no marked difference in taste between them. Red Anjou pears have a burnished rusty color and tend to be slightly more elongated than the green variety.
  6. FORELLE: One of the smaller, more snackable varieties of pear, Forelle pears display a good example of what’s called “lenticels,” or pear freckles, which occur in bright red swaths over light green flesh.
  7. CONCORDE: Bright green, with a long, tapered shape, Concorde pears look a bit like the Platonic pear, with maybe a hint of blush around the widest section. They’re particularly sweet through the ripening stage—meaning you’re likely to be happy even if it’s a bit underripe—and have what’s been described as a faint vanilla flavor.
  8. FRENCH BUTTER: A delicate European variety that’s great for, you guessed it, making pear butter. French Butter pears turn a faint gold when ripe and have a creamy, juicy texture.
  9. TAYLOR’S GOLD: Drama: Taylor’s Gold is thought to be a mutant version of the stately Comice, but you needn’t compare the two to appreciate their virtues. This pear, with its light golden-brown russet skin and sweet aromatics, was discovered in New Zealand in the 80s.
  10. SECKEL: Seckel pears are a two- to three-bite kind of pear that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. Thanks to their size and their firm flesh, they’re good candidates for baking or canning wherever a whole pear presentation would be striking: think poires en croute or poached in red wine and topped with whipped cream.