How to Avoid 'Avocado Hand'

Slicing an avocado like this could end up with a trip to the emergency room. (Photo: Yakov Filimonov)

I've been eating sweet potato toast with mashed avocado and poached egg several times a week lately, and my avocado handling has definitely increased. So when I started seeing headlines about something called avocado hand, I imagined touching avocado skins was causing a rash or a fungus or something.

That's not the case, though. The rise in avocado consumption, which is significant enough that it's a major reason avocado prices are increasing, is also causing an increase in emergency room visits. People are slicing their hand instead of slicing the avocado when they're trying to open it.

The number of people stabbing or slicing a hand has gotten out of hand, and now someone from the Royal Society of Medicine in England is suggesting a warning label on avocados, perhaps a "cartoon picture of an avocado with a knife, and a big red cross going through it," according to The Times.

Is it really that common? The Times reports that more than 300 people in New Zealand have sued because of avocado injuries in the past five years. (What I want to know is, who do you sue on something like this? The knife company? The grocery store that sold you the avocado? Your parents for never teaching you knife safety skills? The food blogosphere for making avocado toast a mandatory food if you want to be hip?)

It's also common enough that Jamie Oliver made a video about how to cut an avocado because he says the "biggest and most common reason for a cut across the palm is avocados." There seem to be two times during the avocado cutting process that are most dangerous — when the avocado is being cut in half, and when the stone is being removed.

A common way to remove the stone that chefs use is to hold the avocado half in your hand and flick a sharp knife into the stone so it can be pulled out easily. A miscalculated flick can end up with the blade in the palm of the hand instead of the stone, and Oliver suggests not to do it that way unless you're an advanced chef.

A few important takeaways from the video:

  • Use a sharp knife. A sharp knife is safer than a dull one because you have to apply a lot more pressure with a dull knife.
  • Take your time.
  • Place the avocado on a cutting board before flicking a knife into the stone instead of keeping it in your hand. (I scoop the stone out with a spoon. It's not as flashy, but it works and it's safe.)
  • Use a spoon to scoop out the insides instead of a knife.

The more time the avocado spends in one hand with a knife in the other hand, the more chances you have to end up with avocado hand. So, if you want to maximize your chances of staying out of the ER, use your cutting board as much as possible and swap out the knife for a spoon as soon as the avocado is carefully and slowly sliced open.