Purchase pears that are firm, fragrant and free of blemishes or soft spots. To ripen pears, place them in a paper bag at room temperature for several days. When the pears give in slightly to pressure, store in the refrigerator. Pears used for cooking should be a little more firm. Before cooking pears, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the skin, which turns dark and tough when exposed to heat. One pound of pears equals about 3 medium or 3 cups sliced. To prevent pear slices from discoloring, toss with a little lemon juice.