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Apple tips: How to pick the best of the barrel

From a quick, healthy snack, to a pork roast side dish, to a classic apple pie–it’s not hard to put your crop of apples to good use. We’ve put together our best tips, and a breakdown of varieties and how to use them, so you can enjoy an apple or two a day.

When is apple season?

While apples are commonplace in our grocery stores throughout the year, there’s nothing like plucking your favorite variety fresh from a local orchard. If you’re wondering when apples are in season, we have a month-by-month breakout for you. Depending on where you live, the season could start a little earlier or later depending on the how the weather affected local apple crops this year.

August: August marks the beginning of apple season when tart varieties perfect for apple sauce are in season.

September: Apple season peaks in September and includes some of the best and most popular varieties, like Honeycrisp, Sweet Gala, Cortland, Empire and McIntosh.

October: October apples are perfect for baking. From the classic Granny Smith to Fuji and Ida Red apples, you can create the perfect blend of sweet and tart apples for a delicious fall apple pie.

November–late March: You can still get apples in the winter months, but you’ll have to hit up your local grocery store. Most apples you’ll find then were harvested in October and held over because they taste better as they age while also filling the ever-present need for apples in stores.

April-July: You will find apples lingering in stores until spring, but until July your options will be fairly limited.

Popular varieties

Picking the variety of apple that’s right for you is mainly driven by flavor preference, time of year, and how you plan on using your apples. According to the U.S. Apple Association, more than 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States alone. Some of the top favorite varieties are:

Sweet and Crisp



Golden and Red Delicious


Sweet-Tart and Crisp




Cripps Pink

Slightly Tart and Tender





Tart and Crisp

Granny Smith


Top 5 tips for picking & preserving apples

When you’re faced with hundreds of apples to choose fresh off the tree or in your grocery store, it can be hard to know how to select the best apple. We’ve rounded up our top five tips for apple picking and storing.

  1. Choose an apple that’s free of blemishes and bruises and feels firm when you grip it
  2. Pay attention to the skin of the apple – dullness may indicate it’s past its prime
  3. Wash and dry your apples as soon as you bring them home
  4. Store cleaned apples in your refrigerator to preserve freshness for weeks
  5. Firmer varieties can be frozen – peel, cut and core them first so they’re ready for cooking

How to prepare

The options are endless for what you can do with your freshly picked apples and are only limited only by your imagination! We’ve rounded up some of the most popular uses and our Test Kitchen weighed-in on their recommended varieties for each.

Snacking & Salads

Varieties: Differs by taste
Whether you’re having apples slices for a snack, dipping them in caramel for a sweet treat, or adding them to a salad, which variety you use is up to you. Try picking up a variety of apples this fall to find new favorites.


Varieties: Tart and Crisp , like Granny Smith, or Sweet and Crisp
A traditional apple pie calls for Granny Smith apples, and that’s because these firm fruits can withstand baking heat. Plus, the tart flavor strikes a nice balance with the sugar and cinnamon used in pies. But you can also make a filling that’s a blend of sweet and tart by mixing two to three different varieties.


Varieties: Slightly Tart and Tender, like McIntosh
Homemade apple sauce and apple butters are a great way to use up a bushel-full of apples. You’ll want to use tender varieties that will cook down well, eliminating the need to puree or blend.


Varieties: Sweet and Crisp, like Golden Delicious
Similar to pies, the key to baking with apples is using a crisp variety that can hold up its shape. Another benefit of using firm varieties is that the skin on these turns a nice brown after baking.

Juices & Drinks

Varieties: Differs by taste
Depending on what apples you have on hand, you can add a little sweetness to your vegetable juice, or make a fresh, tart apple martini.

Top Apple Kitchen Tools

Aside from an apple corer, there are a few handy tools to have in the kitchen after an outing to the orchards. Below are some of our favorites that can make prepping your apples a snap and cooking effortless.

Prep tools: Spiralizers, Juicers, Food Processors

Cooking tools: Slow Cookers, Deep Fryers

Want more? Learn how to peel, core and chop apples in our tutorial, How To peel, core & chop apples.

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