How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

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How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

If you’ve ever been at the grocery store and picked up an apple and thought, “I wish someone told me how to pick the best apples”? I know it really depends on what you are using them for but this post will answer any of those gut-wrenching questions!

Have you ever really thought about that age old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?

Like, have you ever really stopped to think about it?

What about Blackberry, or Snow White or any pig at a luau? I mean, it didn’t really work out so well for them, now did it?

I digress (as usual!)…

In my world, apples are a pretty safe bet to keep me healthy and happy.  For example, whenever I’m starving, my two top fruits to grab are bananas and apples. And, although bananas are epic too, they are higher in starch and sugars (albeit natural ones) so I usually grab an apple first. Also, the added fibre in the skin is a pretty good thing to keep those inner highways moving along well (if you know what I mean!).

Plus, because our local (Ontario) apples store so well, they are available for such a long time. That means they are my go-to when I need to add fruit to my baking (apples are the one fruit I always have in my crisper drawer!).

Like look at this simple-to-make apple cake (you’ll find the recipe here!).  It’s super easy and quick to throw together! You need to try this!!

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

I created this crumble-topped apple spice bread (below) and you can find my recipe here!)

apple bread

I also created these apple pie cookies (aren’t they cute?) for my blog! You can find the recipe here)

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

I literally have so many apple recipes on this site – just type “apple” in the search bar and you will see for yourself!!!

I have also done some reasearch on different varieties of apples avaialbe here in Ontario (and many of these are available in other place as well).  I thought it would be great to have a source to refer to whenever you have questions!

So, here goes….in alphabetical order:

How To Pick The Best Apples (and What They Are Best USed For!!):

Ambrosia: In the 1980’s, this seedling was discovered in British Columbia. It’s a large, red apple that is crisp and juicy with a distinct aroma and a sweet, low-acid flavour. It’s excellent for eating fresh (available: Oct – Mar).

Cortland: This apple is a descendant of the McIntosh and is a mild, sweet tasting fruit with a crisp texture. It’s excellent for pies, salads and fruit plates; it also resists browning after it’s cut! (available: Sept – Apr).

Crispin: A cross between a Golden Delicious and a Japanese Indo, this apple is larger than the average apple with a tart/sweet taste. It’s idea for snacks and delicious in pies and chunky sauces! (available: Oct – May).

Empire: This is a cross between a Macintosh and a Red Delicious. A slightly tart, firm, juicy and crisp apple, it’s idea for snacks and makes great applesauce! (available: Oct – Jul).

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

Fuji: This medium to large-sized apple is firm and greenish-pink in colour with a white flesh. It’s great for eating fresh. (available: mid/late Oct – early Feb).

Gala: This apple is yellow/orange in colour with a red blush. It’s ideal for eating fresh out of hand! (available: early Sept – Feb).

Golden Delicious: Originating in West Virginia, it was introduced into the marketplace in 1916 and is a firm and juicy apple. It keeps it’s shape when baked in pies and makes great applesauce too. (available: Oct – May)

Red Prince: These apples are tangy and sweet with a crispy bite. It’s flavour and texture are enhanced after being cellared in the fall allowing the natural sugars and acids to mature.This apple can be eaten fresh (out of hand), used in a salad as well as in baking (available: Jan – August).

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

HoneyCrisp: A large-sized apple with a distinctive crisp texture, the honeycrisp has an aromatic, juicy and sweet taste. The flesh is cream coloured and it’s best eaten fresh (available: early Sept – Mar).

Idared: This medium to large apple has a round/flat shape, is tart and keeps it’s flavour when used in baking. You can eat it fresh or in baked goods. (available: Oct – Jul).

Jonagold: This large, round-shaped apple has an orange-red blush over faint striping and green-yellow ground colour. These apples are firm with a slightly coarse texture and are great for eating fresh or cooking (available: late Sept – Feb).

McIntosh: Discovered in 1811 by John Macintosh in Dundela, Ontario, the Macintosh is one of the most popular apples. It’s medium sized, irregular/round shape, with green colouring and a splash of red and a white, juicy flesh.  It’s mildly tart, sweetens as it ripens and is excellent for eating fresh, baking in pies and for sauces (available: Sept – May).

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

Northern Spy: Distinguished by it’s bright red stripes and elongated shape, this is a large apple which is crisp and firm. It’s excellent for pies and baking! (available: Oct – May).

Red Delicious: A juicy large fruit with a firm and sweet taste, this apple is characterized by the bumps on the bottom. It’s ideal for eating fresh and in salads but not recommended for  cooking. (available: Oct – Jul).

Spartan: This variety of apple also originated in British Columbia. It’s a medium sized apple with red skin. It’s excellent for eating fresh and makes great apple pie filing (available Oct – Apr).

Now, here is my input:

Many of these apples are interchangeable and, I believe, it is up to you which apple you prefer to use when baking. For example, I hardly use McIntosh for baking because they tend to break down too much for my taste (in pies). However, if you like a pie that is on the softer side (in terms of filling) then I would mix some Macintosh with a more firm apple. If you prefer a hard filling, then only use firm apples. It really is trial and error. For example, some people never, ever use Macintosh when making individual baked apples. But, for that (which I fill with granola, top with a few Kraft caramels and drizzle with maple syrup before baking), I love how they get very soft and almost “applesauce-like” in texture. So it’s totally your call!!

If you need a quick guide on how to pick the best apples without reading through hall of this, check this page out from the Ontario Apple Growers:

Apple Usage Guide

When I received a pile of apples at my last Produce Made Simple event, I had a pile of leftover peels and cores (and, y’all know how much I hate waste!), so I made a batch of apple simple syrup!! It’s fabulous as a cocktail (mixed with sparkling water and a splash of vodka) or even to sweeten a big batch of iced tea! And when you’re worried about how to pick the best apples, the good news is you can use any here!!!

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

Give this shot and let me know what creative ways you use your apples!!!!

I think we’ve covered everything when you need to know how to pick the best apples…now lets get crunching!!!

How to Pick the Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

Apple Syrup

5 from 1 vote


  • Cores and skin of apples from about 6 large apples
  • Water
  • Sugar between 1/2 to 1 cup
  • 1 Cinnamon stick


  • In a large pot, cover the skin, cores, and cinnamon stick with water and bring to a boil; reduce and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Drain the liquid into a large measuring cup and discarding the apple peel and cores (pick out the cinnamon stick and reserve for later.
  • Measure the liquid and add sugar to the ratio 2 cup liquid to 1/2 cup sugar
  • Return the simple syrup to the pot, add back the cinnamon and simmer for 30-40 minutes (the mixture will evaporate some of the water and leave the liquid a bit syrupy.
  • Remove from heat and cool for a few hours. Place in a bottle or canning jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.