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What are the best apples for pie?

I usually use a combo of red and green delicious, but I'd like to hear what other apple pie afficienados use to make their PERFECT apple pie.

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  1. I make crumbles rather than pies, but if I can't get Bramleys (which go all soft and delicious) I'll use Empire eating apples - they're tangy enough to make interesting cooked apples.

    1. I like to use sweet apples, less sugar. But you know, every apple pie I make is different -- !

      1. I went apple tasting at apple hill in ca. and decided on the Braeburn. It is a crisp and crunchy apple that holds up well to baking.

        1. Depends on what you define as "perfect". For tarte tatin, I'd say Golden Delicious. The Norwegians might say Dayton or Gravenstein.

          1. I prefer Cortlands, big and red and very nice flavor. I also sometimes use Granny Smith, but I think they are a little dry. If I can't get Cortlands I use Braeburns.

            1. Hi all,

              Golden Delicious. They hold up nicely, don't go to mush. Also best for Tarte Tatin - more pectin than other varieties.

              That said, I think every baker has their own favorite! :)


              1. I've seen this question come up countless times over the years, and after much debate, most people agree and say Golden Delicious apples. I agree with the consensus because I like eating Golden Delicious apples out of hand and they hold up very well after cooking. The end result is always apple pie and not apple sauce pie. These apples remain pretty well intact as long as they're not mealy.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Cheese Boy

                  I think the Golden Delicious apples we get in the UK but not be the same as in the US, because I've always thought the 'delicious' of the title was terribly ironic. They're always fluffy and tasteless here. That's why I'd go with the Empire if I was using an eating apple, they're always very crisp, almost ridiculously juicy and very flavoursome. I thought they were a US apple variety, but maybe they're not?

                  1. re: Cheese Boy

                    Count me out on Golden Delicious. Just don't think they work best in apple pie. Tartes maybe, but not a flavorful, juicy pie. But I am also of the school of use what you like.

                  2. Has anyone tried Pink Lady, a new (to me) variety? I haven't, but their taste suggests they might work well in a pie.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Joebob

                      Pink Ladies are good apples for eating, I've not tried cooking with them though. I wonder if maybe they're a little too sweet? They are tasty but not particularly tangy, which I always think is good in a pie.

                    2. My personal preference: Granny Smiths. I like the tartness.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: Uncle Bob

                          Me three, any tart variety I prefer to sweet ones like Golden Delicious.

                      1. I like to mix a couple of varieties, and I usually include a couple of MacIntosh apples to give the pie some smoothness since it tends to get saucy.

                        1. Bramley Seedling for pie. Always Bramley Seedling.

                          Granny Smith when I want them to hold shape for, say, tarte tatin.

                          Personally, I would not give houseroom to Delicious which, IMO, are tasteless and have a horrible woolly texture

                          1. I usually use a combo of granny smith and whatever looks good at the grocery store/farmer's market. I figure more apples means more depth of flavor means more delicious pie. I typically use six apples in my pies, so I go with 4 green and two red.

                            1. As the saying goes, Spys for pies.

                              I also like to use Granny Smiths.

                              Mind you, my last apple crisp using Empires was quite tasty.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: prima

                                Northern Spy is the preferred apple here in Canada, but they usually aren't available until November! My dad always used to say, they had to be nipped by frost first, before they were at their best!
                                I made two pies today with Granny Smith apples which were on the reduced price rack in the store. They were amazing!
                                My question: Cinnamon or not?
                                DH says YES, my sisters say NO spices!

                                1. re: Oldie49

                                  I also say yes to cinnamon, and add a little fresh squeezed lemon juice if I'm using sweeter apples. Sometimes I'll add a little ginger or cardamom.

                                  One of my friends uses nutmeg but no cinnamon.

                                  1. re: Oldie49

                                    Gotta have cinnamon, nutmeg and clove- one of the very few places I will use cloves, and darn little of them, but gotta be there.

                                    1. re: Oldie49

                                      I agree with the Northern Spy recommendation! Of course, the best apple pie has a mix of apples to get all the goodness from different apple varieties. :)

                                    1. re: oldunc

                                      I like to mix apples, but I agree with Newtown Pippins. Getting more and more difficult to find because of the Granny Smith. The Newtown Pippin is a far superior apple, both for cooking and eating out of hand.

                                    2. I am a granny smith fan for pies! As others have stated re: their preferred apple - they hold their shape and do not turn to mush.

                                      As for cinnamon, a yes for me. Before I add the apples, I toss them in a little of cinnamon.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hto44

                                        Can't find Pippins, Northern Spy here in CT, which is why my fallback right now is Courtland.

                                        Last night I made pork tenderloin and decided at the last minute to put together some applesauce. I only had Honeycrisps in the house, my current favorite eating apple, so I decided to try them. They made a nice flavored sauce. They very much keep their shape too. Not sure how they would be in a pie... maybe I will try them sometime.

                                        In my pie, I use cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a couple dabs of butter. They key I think is to not overuse spices. Let them enhance but not dominate the apple flavor.

                                      2. I like a combo of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. I don't care much of Red Delicious. I think they have no taste, but this is just my opinion. I am really looking forward to Honeycrisp season. I love them.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: vafarmwife

                                          Red delicious, even good ones, are intended only for eating raw.

                                        2. Our church puts on an "Apple Festival" every fall. We purchase many bushels of apples for sale and also to distribute to our legion of bakers for the home-made apple pie booth. We plan on making 150 pies this year, and they always sell out quickly. We purchase our apples from a farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts., which has been growing apples since 1705! They rate their apples for various uses and the following are listed as "excellent" for pies.

                                          Gravenstein (available late August)
                                          Cortland (av. mid. Sept)
                                          Opalescence (av. early Oct.)
                                          Ida Red (av. mid-Oct.)
                                          Jonagold (av. mid- Oct.)
                                          Golden Delicious (av. mid-Oct.)
                                          Suncrisp (av. mid-Oct.)

                                          I've baked with all of these and agree with the ratings--it just depends on what's available. I personally like to bake with a mixture of sweet and tart apple varieties when possible. Note that there are some other good pie-apples like Granny Smiths that aren't on this list because the farm doesn't grow them.

                                          No surprise: the apple chart rates the Red Delicious as "poor" for pies.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Goblin

                                            My sister lives in that area of MA; I've been to that farm, quite the place.

                                            My go to is a combo of Grannys, Golden Delicious and Empires, when the Empires are in season. since NY is the apple state, where the Empire apple was developed, I feel the need to include them. Macs and Cortlands I use for sauce. I can get Gravensteins, Braeburns or Jonagolds during apple season here, they're all quite good for baking as well. I've tried Galas in pie also, they quite sweet and acceptable for baking, especially in combo with a more tart apple.

                                            Here's the epicurious.com "visual guide to apples"; just the most common varieties are discussed, but I disagree with their assessment of the Red Delicious:


                                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                                              Bushwickgirl, that is a great visual chart from Epicurious. I loved the illustrations as well as the commentary. Just curious--what's your disagreement with in the summary of Red Delicious?
                                              Anyway, thanks for the chart.

                                              (From the site:) "Red Delicious:

                                              "Characteristics: This is the most popular apple variety in the U.S. It's top heavy and has a creamy white interior. While juicy, the Red Delicious is a soft apple and won't cook well, so it's best to eat them raw. They're also ideal snacks for the lunchbox."

                                              1. re: Goblin

                                                My argument is the use of the word "popular" as I think at this point this apple is not; certainly the most widely available year round, but basically the apple has been cultivated to death and is in decline in popularity. Crop harvest in Washington state has shrunk considerably since the late '90's to a low of 37% in early 2003; this apple was 3/4 of the total WA produce harvest in the '80's.

                                                Creamy interior = soft mushy interior to me, especially when they're been wintered over. I'd take a Mac or Cortland for eating out of hand any day.

                                                FWIW, here's a bit from Wiki regarding Red Delicious:

                                                "The Red Delicious is a clone of apple cultigen, now comprising more than 50 cultivars, that was recognized in Madison County, Iowa, United States, in 1880. As new cultivars with improved color and earlier harvestability have replaced the original cultivar in commercial orchards, the taste and texture of the harvested commodity have deteriorated, and many customers have begun to reject the Red Delicious at the food market.[1] Roger Yepsen notes some of the Red's less desirable qualities. "The skin is thick and bitter and has to be chewed vigorously... this apple ranks close to the bottom when cooked... sold year round, so shop with skepticism. Delicious retains its cheerful good looks long after its flavor has departed."[2]"

                                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                  Thank you for the detailed answer, which is fascinating to me because I agree with the Wiki analysis completely. Over the past 10-15 years at least I've wondered why the Red Delicious seemed to be the default apple for snack boxes, school lunches, and especially for teachers! ;-) Its thick, chewy , somewhat bitter skin and lack of flavor inside always turned me off. NOT the ideal lunchbox snack, IMHO.
                                                  Thanks for sending along the explanation.

                                                  1. re: Goblin

                                                    While I'm not a fan of the Ontario-grown Red Delicious apples that are local for me, the Harry & David Red Delicious apples I've sometimes been lucky enough to receive at Christmas are amazing. Much, much tastier and juicier than any of my local Red Delicious, and tastier than most apples I've tried out-of-hand.

                                                    1. re: prima

                                                      The growers bred out the taste of red delicious to get the perfect shape. We once got into an argument with a red/yellow delicious grower--it was about the time that New Zealand apples started to be imported. We told him he had to change his crop, because no one was interested in red delicious anymore. I think he's doing organic truck gardening now

                                          2. I too prefer spies for pies. I'll take a Jonathon or a Macintosh, though, or a mix of them. After reading people's preferences for golden, I wonder how a jonagold would do...

                                            1. When I was growing up , we had a variety of apple called a Summer Rambo and then some kind of apple we called scrub apples. Momma would use the Summer Rambos in pie and we made cider from the scrub apples.

                                              1. I like Jonathans the best. I like that they keep their shape and of course for the taste. One of the best pies I made was from the drops from a orchard of obscure apples including 15 different kinds

                                                1. I'll add my name to the Granny Smith camp. It holds up well to cooking and I like the tartness in a pie. In the past, I've had great results mixing them with Spartans (much softer and somewhat sweeter), but I haven't come across Spartans since leaving BC.

                                                  1. Years ago I used to buy a variety of apple at a Maryland farm market that I have never seen anywhere else so, debating whether to post it, googled it just now to see if it is widely available. Turns out to have such an interesting history I decided to share it. The variety is "Rambo". Best flavor and consistency for baking I have ever come across, but very short-season (Iate summer). Not a good keeper so not produced commercially (but maybe a good tree to plant in one's yard?). According to Wikipedia the apple came from France in Colonial times, was originally Rambeau, and gave its name to the Rambo movies because a movie executive's wife had just come home with some when he was looking for a name for his new movie hero. (But if you can't get Rambos, just add grated orange rind to any old blah apple---this will do wonders for flavor.)

                                                      1. I use a mix of Granny Smith, Macoun and Macintosh. The three flavors and textures produces a really delicious and texturally interesting pie.