Test Kitchen tips: Apples 101 ... and 52 recipes

(Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)

So.... which apples are best for eating, and which ones are best for cooking and baking?

Click here for 52 apple recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen!

Food editor Russ Parsons explored the often perplexing apple question in a column he did on heirloom apples just a few autumns ago:

The world of apples is supposedly divided cleanly in two: cookers and eaters. But does that mean you can’t eat a cooker? Or cook an eater? And what makes a “cooking” apple anyway?Generally, the apples that cook or bake best are those that are notably tart (because you’re going to add sugar anyway) and that hold together through cooking.In my experience, the best apples for cooking are Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Jonathan. But I’ve also had good luck with Gala, Braeburn, Pink Lady and Fuji. As for the older varieties, there are so many, you’re best off asking the farmer.


Continue reading below for a recipe for award-winning apple pie pictured at the left, and for links to the 52 recipes pictured in our recipe and photo gallery.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you’d like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at


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Apple pie

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes plus chilling time

Servings: 8 to 10

Prepared pie crust

3 to 4 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced into large chunks, eighths or tenths.

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 egg, beaten (to use as an egg wash)

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Starting around the outside edge, line the pie crust with apple chunks. Move in concentric circles inward. When you’ve got the bottom layer covered, mound the rest on top. Go for density without overcrowding.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and lemon zest. Sprinkle the sugar/spice mixture evenly over the top of the apples, then sprinkle over the brown sugar. (Don’t worry, it’ll all migrate downward.) Cut the butter into tiny chunks and scatter it around, randomly but evenly over the top of the sugar.

4. Put the top crust on, crimp, then cut steam holes and glaze with an egg wash. Chill the pie for 20 minutes or so before baking.

5. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and bake until the juices are bubbling but the fruit still feels firm (use a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife to reach through a venthole to pierce a piece of apple), an additional 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the pie to a cooling rack.

6. Cool the pie to room temperature before serving. A few hours is fine, even overnight is good. The flavors will blend and mellow, and the juices will have time to solidify.

Each of 10 servings: 364 calories; 4 grams protein; 54 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 16 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 61 mg cholesterol; 31 grams sugar; 187 mg sodium.