There are some things that will always haunt home cooks, like how to keep apples from turning brown.
Nothing is worse than setting out a nice fruit platter and then having brown apples. Or slicing them up for a gorgeous apple pie and watching them discolor before your eyes.
You do not have to stand for this. You can learn how to keep apples from browning!
Why Do Apples Turn Brown?
The reason that sliced apple commonly brown has to do with a particular enzyme in the fruit called phenolase. When you slice into an apple, the enzyme wall is ruptured and creates a chemical reaction with oxygen, a process called oxidation. The longer the oxidation process, the browner your apple will get.
This same process happens with other fruits and vegetables as well such as potatoes, pears, apricots, plums, bananas and more.
Oxidation doesn’t mean that the apple is bad and often doesn’t start to effect the juiciness or flavor until long after the browning starts. But it is unsightly and the browning will not reverse during the cooking process (assuming you are cooking) so you want to prevent this from happening in the first place.
When you buy pre-cut apples that are still a fleshy white, chances are they have been professionally chemically treated and might even have a funny aftertaste or texture.
The good news is that a lightly browned apple is still good to eat.
How do you keep apples from browning?
There are three easy ways that chefs and cooks around the world use. All three are food grade and safe to eat.
- Number one and THE best way to prevent apples from browning is using ascorbic acid powder. Sounds a little ominous, maybe fancy, or like a science experiment, but I bet you have it in your home already. You can use the multivitamin version or buy a product like Fresh Fruit Preserver, which is what many food photographers and stylists use. It is available at the grocery store in the canning aisle.
It is Vitamin C! This is by far my favorite because in a way it fortifies the apple with Vitamin C and it contributes the least amount of flavor, leaving only apple.
It is great for fruit salads and any recipe that calls for straight up apples, like a charcuterie board. Easy enough to do, fill a bowl full of cold ice cold water. Crush or dissolve one vitamin C tablet per 1 1/2 cups of water. Dip your knife or shredder into the water periodically while preparing the apple and place directly into the water when you are finished or until you are ready to use.
Apples will not need to be rinsed before eating and will not have any lingering tastes, but there might be a slight harmless white film.
- The second is a close favorite: lemon juice, or any citrus fruit really. Citric acid in lemon juice will keep apples from turning brown, or oxidizing. The problem is the apple will absorb a slight amount of lemony flavor.
This is perfectly fine if the recipe calls for lemon or needs a little pick me up. For instance, I used lemon juice in my Pumpkin-Apple Pie with Pecan Crust. Use approximately 1-2 tablespoons per 2 cups of cold water.
No need to rinse before serving unless you are trying to curb the citrus flavor. This also works with any other citrus juice- pineapple juice, orange juice and lime juice. It just happens that lemon is the best flavor affinity.
- Salt!!! Salt is probably the most commonly used, however I try to limit my sodium and do not like salty apples. It works, but the taste is off. I use this technique the least and only when I am in a bind.
I do recommend giving them a quick rinse after allowing them to sit otherwise you’ll get too much salt. Use approximately 1 tablespoon per 2 cups cold water.
- My last piece of information is actually a tip, not a trick. There is one apple that is genetically engineered to not brown after being cut, Envy Apples.
I use them to make my Ultimate Cheese Board because no matter how long they sit, they never turn brown! They are slightly bitter and slightly sweet with a crunchy texture. The are available in most grocery stores, I think you’ll like them! These can still be stored in a cup of water to keep them from losing moisture.
Unfortunately, none of my techniques for keeping apples from turning brown will work 100% of the time and you might still get a little brown. If you are serving apples on a salad or fruit platter, chop them up last so they have the least amount of time in the open air.
Store sliced apples in an airtight container or resealable bag. Obviously I would suggest storing whole apples until you are ready to use them. Fresh apples are best anyhow.
If you don’t want to store in water, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, clinging the wrap right up against the flesh of the apple to prevent any air from sneaking in. The least amount of air exposure, the better.
Do you have any advice on how to prevent apples from browning? I’d love to hear it, leave it in the comments section! We have heard a great tip that other carbonated beverages, specifically Sprite (lemon-lime soda) and Ginger Ale also work, but we haven’t personally tested these.
Here are some of my favorite recipes using apples:
- Apple Spiced Pork Tenderloin & Stuffing
- Sweet Roasted Goose
- The Best Baked Apples
- Stuffed Chicken Breast with Apple Gravy
- Cranberry and Apple Farro
- Cranberry Apple Slaw