When you are poaching pears, you want to take a page out of Goldilocks’ playbook and find pears that are not too hard and not too soft but just right. According to MasterClass, this essentially means they should be “slightly underripe.” You should avoid overripened pears for the simple reason they will “fall apart” when you poach them. Of course, you don’t want pears that are too hard either unless, as Mon Panier Latin notes, you want to spend a lot of time waiting for them to soften up as they simmer in their sugary liquid.
How can you tell if your pears are firm but ripe enough to use? Master Class offers the pro tip of moving your fingers along the “flesh near the stem.” If it is “barely soft” you are in business. What type of pear works best? David Lebovitz suggests using Bosc, Conference, or small Seckel pears. He also notes that Anjou and Winter Nellis are good choices, but recommends staying clear of Comice and Bartlet pears simply because they are too soft.