How to Pick the Best Apples Every Single Time

Don’t let a bad one spoil your bunch.
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to autumn snacks, it doesn’t get better than the apple. And I don’t think I’m alone. Apples have so captured the imagination, at least in the U.S. where I’m from, that we talk about the fruit all the darn time. There’s the Big Apple. You can be the apple of someone’s eye or a rotten apple. And if you eat one every day, you just might keep the doctor away—how do you like them apples?

For as much as we talk about apples, I still have no idea how to pick a good one at the supermarket. I always keep the fruit around, because it makes a great quick snack when I’m on my way out the door. Yet, despite my years of apple buying, I somehow manage to bring home at least one bad apple every time I go shopping. What am I doing wrong?

Since I know I’m not the only frequent apple eater out there, I asked Nick Moless, senior produce buyer at Whole Foods Market, for his tips. He says you have to be on the lookout for really subtle clues that you might not otherwise know to look for. Here’s everything he says you should and shouldn’t be keeping an eye out for.

There are tons of apple varieties, but these are the most common.

If you’ve ever been to the farmers’ market during peak apple season (September through October), then you probably know that there are, like, a jillion different apple varieties. But the ones you’ll probably see at the supermarket year round are Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Honeycrisp, says Moless. You might also run into Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, or Braeburn, but he explains that these older popular varieties have taken a bit of a backseat to the newer ones, and they’re starting to appear less frequently. At Whole Foods, he says you can also buy slightly rarer varieties like Envy, Kanzi, Opal, and Rainier Lady Alice apples. And if you want to try even more, be sure to hit up your local farmers’ market ASAP.

Each apple variety is delicious in its own way and best for different uses.

If you’re looking for an apple to snack on, Moless recommends opting for a Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Granny Smith, because they’re harder varieties that maintain their crunch for longer. “These varieties are also good additions to salads or as a topping to a sandwich or wrap,” he explains, “and they’ll hold their texture during cooking or baking. So if you don’t want the apples in your apple pie to turn to mush, choose one of these.

Softer varieties, like Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, or Gala, don’t stay crunchy for long, he says, but that makes them great for turning into apple sauce, apple butter, or any other apple treat where mushy apples are considered a plus.

You have to rely on really subtle clues to pick the good apples from the bad apples.

Though you can often use color to determine whether a fruit or vegetable is good to eat or not, that’s generally not the case with apples, says Moless. Occasionally, if an apple that’s normally red or yellow (like Fuji or Red Delicious) has any green on it, he says that may mean the apple was prematurely picked and will be more tart and starchy than usual. But with apples that are normally green, like Granny Smith, it’s impossible to tell.
Instead, Moless says a better way to distinguish the good from the bad is to look for apples without flat spots, because those are bruises in the making, and without any punctures, because those can lead them to decay faster than they normally would.
As for how to ensure your apples aren’t mealy, Moless says it can be hard to do, because mealy apples can often look almost identical to crisp apples. If you hate mealy apples like I do, he says your best plan of action is to simply avoid apple varieties that are prone to getting mealy, like Gala apples or other, softer varieties. Otherwise, he says that if the apple is firm when you squeeze it and there are no signs of wrinkling on the skin, you should be good to go.

Store your apples in the fridge to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

Apples emit a lot of ethylene, which is the gas that causes fruit to ripen and eventually rot. They produce so much of it, you can actually harness it to ripen other fruits and vegetables, like avocados, by placing them in a paper bag together. The best way to keep all of that ethylene from causing your apple to go off too soon is to keep them in the fridge—this will reduce the amount of gas produced, which will help them last longer.

By Audrey Bruno