In this post, Holley from our Kitchen Council shares a fun, at-home experiment that she conducted in order to find the best ways to keep apples from browning in a lunchbox. Apples oxidize, or brown, after some time when they are cut because of the fruit’s flesh being exposed to ambient air which contains both oxygen and water. Certain varieties (like Pink Lady apples) are resistant to browning simply because of higher acid levels that slow oxidation.
Though many kids enjoy a kid-sized apple whole in their lunch, some prefer the apple sliced. See which methods Holley found to work best for keeping apples crisp, white, and fresh for days to make for an easy addition to a lunch box!
As a dietitian, mom, and daily lunchbox packer (I have two children in school), I’m often asked my strategy for keeping apple slices from browning in lunch boxes. As a parent of children that only want crisp, white apples, I realized that unless I planned to send a whole apple (Stemilt’s Lil Snappers are my go-to because they are kid-sized) or the pre-sliced apples from the grocery store, crisp and white apples would have to become an after school snack.
After some investigation and apple slice testing, I’ve found a few new favorite ways to prep, store, and serve apple slices in lunch boxes that will keep them palatable and visually pleasing for up to three days. The key ingredient to keep browning at bay is citric acid, which is found in citrus produce, fruit cleaners, and both dehydrated and crystallized forms.
Below are a variety of non-browning methods I found in reputable blogs and that I’ve heard as old wives tales. I decided to conduct an at-home science experiment-of-sorts with several different methods to see which ones kept the apples crisp, white, and flavorful the best. The tests were conducted using 3 slices of Gala apple per test (one for each day) with each testing group stored in individual air-tight snack-sized baggies in the fridge (unless otherwise noted).
Different Browning Prevention Methods for Apples:
- Control: Slice and store in plastic baggie in refrigerator. (No anti-browning action taken.)
- Salt Water: Mix 1/8 teaspoon salt in 1 cup cold water. Add 3 apples slices and soak for 5 minutes. Rinse. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- Honey: Mix ½ tablespoon honey in 1 cup water. Add 3 apple slices and soak for 5 minutes. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- Fit Organic Fruit and Vegetable Wash: Spray whole apple with Fit Organic Fruit and Vegetable Wash and wipe clean. Slice apple and spray directly onto both cut sides of 3 apple slices. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- Ball® Fruit-Fresh® (sprinkled): Sprinkle Fruit-Fresh on cut sides of 3 apple slices. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- Ball® Fruit-Fresh® (soaked): Mix 1 teaspoon Fruit-Fresh in 1 cup water. Add 3 apple slices and soak for 5 minutes. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- Covered in water: Fill a small plastic storage container with cold water. Add 3 apple slices and cover. Store in refrigerator.
- Pineapple juice: Mix 1 tablespoon pineapple juice in 1 cup water. Add 3 apple slices and soak for 5 minutes. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- True Lemon: Sprinkle True Lemon on cut sides of 3 apple slices. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator. (Note that this was accidentally omitted from the Day 1 image. Slight change between days 1 and 2.)
- Orange Juice: Brush cut sides of 3 apple slices with orange juice. Store in plastic baggie in refrigerator.
- Rubber Band: Slice whole apple into segments then put pieces back together so all sides are touching. Secure with a rubber band to keep tight.
Other ideas that I’ve seen on various websites that I didn’t try:
- Make a “fruit cup” and pack apples with orange slices.
- Mix 1 tablespoon white vinegar in 1 cup water. Soak apples for 5 minutes, rinse and store in a plastic baggie.
- Spray slices with Eat Cleaner Fruit and Veggie Wash Spray and store in a plastic baggie.
- Let the slices brown and sprinkle with cinnamon to disguise.
Top tasters (crisp, fresh apple flavor):
- Pineapple Juice
- Fruit Fresh (sprinkled and soaked)
- Fit Organic
Other tastes: (flavor intensified each day)
- True Lemon—very strong lemon flavor
- Honey—strong honey flavor
- Orange juice—strong orange juice flavor
- Soaked in water—no flavor/very watered down
- Control and Rubber Band—ripe to over-ripe apple flavor
- Salt water—did not taste salty but apple tasted ripe to over-ripe
- Pineapple Juice
- Fruit Fresh (sprinkled and soaked)
- True Lemon
Overall Thoughts on Different Methods to Keep Apples from Browning:
- Control: Overly-ripe, apple flavor
- Salt Water: Slight browning that increased over the days. No salt flavor.
- Honey: Browning increased over the days. Strong honey flavor.
- Fit Organic Fruit and Vegetable Wash: Very slight browning over the 3 days. No change in flavor.
- Ball® Fruit-Fresh® (sprinkled): Very little browning. No change in flavor
- Ball® Fruit-Fresh® (soaked): Very little browning. No change in flavor
- Covered in water: Brown/orange color. Watered down to no flavor at all.
- Pineapple juice: Very little browning. Sweet and pleasant taste.
- True Lemon: Very little browning. Overpowering lemon flavor.
- Orange Juice: Increased browning over days. Strong orange flavor.
- Rubber Band: Increased browning over days. Strong ripe apple flavor.
Do you have a favorite method to keep apples from browning? I allowed my favorite taste testers (my kids) to try the apples each day so many of the flavor comments include their thoughts. I’m anxious to continue to play around with some of the other suggested methods but I’m thankful to finally have a few ways to prep lunch boxes ahead and still have crispy and fresh apple slices 3 days later.