Originally published in April 2014; updated March 2020.
Grocery shopping wasn’t a regular occurrence for me until I graduated college and joined the “real world.” It was then that I realized that picking out produce can be a little intimidating! What do I look for when choosing this vegetable? How do I know when a certain fruit is ripe? These were all questions running through my head as I navigated the grocery store. Fortunately, learning how to select the perfect apple counted as on-the-job training for me, while tips for selecting other produce items came from the employees at my store, and of course, through trial and error. I’m still learning today but feel much more confident about what to look for when selecting each item in the produce department. In this post, I’m sharing 6 tips for selecting the perfect apple along with a video that shows you what to look for as you check each apple. Follow these simple tips and you’ll end up enjoying a crisp, juicy, and flavorful apple every time you purchase this fruit!
6 Tips for Selecting the Perfect Apple:
- Check the apple’s firmness: Pick up the apple and feel the fruit’s skin. You can even gently press a small area of the skin to make sure it’s firm to the touch. Avoid apples that are noticeably soft, mushy, or indent easily after you press the skin. These aren’t necessarily bad apples but won’t be the best from a fresh eating standpoint. Instead, use softer apples for blending in a smoothie, making into a fresh juice, or when making homemade applesauce.
- Visually examine the apple: As you check firmness, turn the apple completely in your hand to visually check for quality. Some marking on the fruit (like a scuff or specks) comes from nature and doesn’t signal a bad apple. However, apples with bruising or obvious signs of decay aren’t going to provide the best eating experience and should be avoided if you plan to bite or slice into the apple.
- Get to know your apple varieties: With so many apple varieties available today (and more coming out all the time), you’ll want to get to know the characteristics of your favorites, including their color, size, shape, and overall appearance. You’ll quickly learn which apples are best for baking (Golden Delicious apples, Pinata® apples) and which are better for fresh eating (Honeycrisp apples, SweeTango® apples). There are also versatile apples that are great no matter how you plan to enjoy them (like Piñata apples, Pink Lady® apples, and Fuji apples). Selecting an apple that best fits how you’ll use them at home is essential in having a great apple eating experience!
- Glance at the color of the apple: Believe it or not, color is not the best indicator of a great tasting apple, yet it can be helpful when selecting this fruit. For red varietal apples, look for the green background to be covered mostly by red or pink-orange hues. Apples with full color have absorbed lots of sunlight and that leads to great flavors. Lower colored apples have a use at home too. They are the ones you want to cook with since color won’t matter in a finished dish.
- Give your apple a sniff: A fresh, high-quality apple should have a pleasant aroma. This will vary by variety with some apples (like Gala) having a stronger fragrance than others.
- Make sure it’s a Stemilt apple: Ok, I promise that this shameless plug has purpose behind it! Stemilt works hard each day to delight consumers and that means delivering delicious apples to your stores. We hope you’ll look for the ladybug on the sticker of your apples when you shop. The ladybug is a symbol that the apple you are enjoying is from Stemilt’s Washington orchards! Also, if you shop for organic apples, you’ll know your apple is organic by looking for the leading 9 in front of the four-digit PLU code on the apple’s sticker.
What do you look for when selecting apples at the store? Which produce items do you think are most challenging to pick out? Share with us in the comments below!