The Apple Pie Experiment

The Very Best Apple Pie You Can Make: What Apple Variety is the Greatest?

Apple pie; the dessert that made it on the “All American” list, alongside baseball and hot-dogs. I would argue that apple pie is the best of all three patriotic symbols. But what really makes a good apple pie? Or, more than that, what takes it from “good” to “great”? The apples, of course! We took a stab in the kitchen, to see which apple variety makes for the best pie.

We used the same pie recipe each time; relying on minimal amounts of sugar (1/4 cup) and cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon) to give us an unhindered taste of the apples themselves. The only variable was the apple used. What we found surprised us!

These are our results:

Cameo Apple:
I love this pie! The apples leave a little tart tingly feeling on my tongue despite the fact that they are quite sweet. I’m so impressed with the texture! There are big pieces of apple that stay together when pricked and lifted with a fork. There’s something to chew. Flavor is well-balanced, slightly sweet, but pretty perfect. It has a robust, pleasant flavor without being overpowering. When asked to rate the pie on a perfection scale of one to ten, one of our testers said “a very ten”.

Fuji Apple: 
Fugi apples were a little too sweet for our liking, when used as the filler apple in a pie. They didn’t soften, either; while they did hold their shape, they were too hard and crunchy. The taste is rich, deep, and robust, though some of our tasters picked up on a sour, almost bitter aftertaste. It almost tasted as if sparkling apple juice had been added, which it had not been. Kind of strange and out of place. Not the best pie apple.

Golden Delicious:

This apple was a little too blah to really jump out at us. The apples held together, but the taste was a little too sweet and very bland. Not an appetizing apple pie to sit down to.

Granny Smith:

Despite this apple’s famous name as a great baking apple, we were really kind of disappointed with the results. The taste was described as lemony, similar to rhubarb, and just plain weird. The apples were also quite acidic. They held their shape okay, but were too mushy when we actually ate the pie. None of us cared for this pie.  

Pink Lady:

One of our tasters described the flavor of this apple in a pie as “brilliant”. Very tart, but with a vibrant, delicious flavor; almost like sweet cranberries. Everyone loved this pie, and enjoyed every bite of it. The pieces held together nicely and had a good texture. Definitely a wonderful apple pie choice!

Jonagold Apples: 

This pie was rated by some of us as too sweet and others as too tart, and by one person as relatively well balanced, so it’s difficult to explain it to you without contradicting at least one of our judges. The flavor was bold, however, and the texture was much easier to pin down: All of us agreed that the apples would be better if a bit firmer, but their texture was still above average. A pretty good apple to bake a pie with.

Empire Apples:

The Empire apple held its shape very well. We were surprised at that, since it’s a hybrid of Red Delicious and MacIntosh, neither of which have good texture when baked. Some testers found it had a well rounded, smooth flavor, while others found it somewhat sharp, bitter, and astringent.  It was nice, but not great.

In conclusion…

So, while all of us expected the Granny Smith to be the star of the show, Cameo and Pink Lady really stomped it. That completely surprised us; after all, you always hear about Granny Smiths being the baking apple. But, at least where apple pies are concerned, we disagree. ;)

I hope this has been helpful to you in your own pie-making ventures, and may the next pie be the best you’ve ever had. Bon Apetite!