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Taste Test: The Best Apple To Take The Heat

Just like potatoes, some apples are much better for baking whole than others. But which kinds are best? NPR's Guy Raz and I decided to do a side-by-side comparison with different kinds of apples to see which ones baked up best — and worst.

Using the same recipe for baked apples, we tried two of each variety — just to be sure the results weren't a fluke.

Generally speaking, we found that mild, crisp eating apples make poor bakers because their delicate flavor and texture are lost during the baking process — not a big surprise. Very crisp, tangy, intensely flavored "cooking" apples tend to be much better for baking, although one well-known cooking apple flunked our test. That was a surprise!

No matter which apple you choose to bake, one important point to remember is that cinnamon and sugar can't revive even the right variety of apple if it's flabby and past its prime. Apples may look festive in a bowl on the counter, but stash them in the refrigerator — preferably around 32 degrees Fahrenheit — if you want to keep them fresh and flavorful. Don't worry — their natural sugar will keep them from freezing.

For our test, we informally rated a number of traits when choosing the winners and losers. In particular, we were looking for apples that, when baked:

  • Held their shape and preferably some color; generally looked appetizing
  • Were very flavorful, smelled fruity and had some zip (acidity)
  • Were succulent and tender but not mushy, or were firm but not tough
  • Had a tender, good-tasting skin (this is only important for those who enjoy eating the entire apple)

Our Winner, Our Loser

Our big winner was the Honeycrisp because it looked attractive and had a very appealing flavor and texture. The big loser — and big surprise — was the Granny Smith. Reputed to be a great cooking apple, it collapsed, turned olive drab and lacked a rounded, "appley" taste and aroma.

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Nancy Baggett