How To Pit Olives

The best way to pit olives

There is a right and a wrong way to pit olives. I repeat: There is a right and a wrong way to pit olives. And if you're not going to just snack on these briny morsels, you'll have to learn to do this somewhat dull but essential kitchen task.

You see, not all olives are created equal. Darker varieties such as Ni├žoise and kalamatas are easier to pit, because they are allowed to ripen on the tree, making the flesh softer. Green olives like Castelvetrano or giant Cerignola, on the other hand, are picked before they are ripe, making their flesh denser and harder to peel away.

That being said, there are two methods we swear by: For the darker variety, lay the olives out on a rimmed baking sheet set over a damp kitchen towel (which ensures the sheet won't move). Place a kitchen towel or paper towel over the olives and, using a small saucepan, smash or press down on the olives to flatten them. They'll essentially spit out the pits, so you can just pick them out and throw them away.

Green olives are a little more finicky and are best pitted individually. Here's how it goes: Place the olive on a cutting board. Using a paring knife, slice through the olive to the right of the pit. Continue turning and slicing until you have four thin slivers, which you can then toss with couscous or add to a stew or braise.

Oh, and before you complain that there are olives sold conveniently pitted, remember this: Pitted olives are more exposed to the brine than unpitted olives, which can make them mushy and overly salted. And that's the pits.