If you find yourself hungry for an apple, but only have cooking apples in the fruit bowl, you may well be wondering if you can eat these cooking apples raw.
Are they safe to eat without cooking or should they always be baked as part of a crumble, crisp, pie, or tart?
You can eat cooking apples raw, but their tartness and firm flesh make them not as enjoyable as eating apples. If you eat too much of them, they may also give you stomach ache or indigestion due to the high levels of malic acid they contain.
As someone who loves apples of all sorts, I decided to find out what the differences are between cooking apples and eating varieties and how best to use them. Read on to see what I discovered.
What Is The Difference Between Cooking Apples And Eating Apples?
Eating apples (also called dessert apples) are normally consumed raw while cooking apples (also called culinary apples) are mostly baked or stewed. Cooking apples are often bigger than the dessert kind and are usually firmer with tarter taste.
Why is this? Simply because the main difference is that eating apples are a lot sweeter due to higher sugar content and less malic acid.
As an example, a Fuji apple has around a third more sugar than a Granny Smith!
Some common cooking apples are Granny Smith in the US and Bramley in the UK. The UK has many varieties of dedicated cooking apples which are very sour and unpleasant when raw – elsewhere in the world there are more “all-rounders”.
Eating apple examples are such varieties as Gala, Red Delicious, Pink Lady, and Braeburn.
When cooked, most varieties of cooking apples have solid flesh that does not break down too much and so keeps its shape. This is better for desserts that need chunks of apple rather than apple sauce.
Another noticeable difference between the two types is that apples intended just for cooking tend to have thicker, tougher skin than most eating varieties.
Is It Safe To Eat Raw Cooking Apples?
Raw cooking apples are generally safe but best avoided for those with sensitive stomachs as the high acidity can lead to stomach aches. Often people find them unpleasant as they usually have a very tart taste with unyielding flesh.
This is particularly true if eating a true cooking apple rather than an all-rounder, which can be very sour.
These retain their flavor and texture while cooking and still look like apple slices rather than puree after baking them in the oven for a tasty apple pie or crumble.
The high levels of malic acid in cooking apples may give you heartburn or indigestion or even lead to an upset stomach if you eat too much. For that reason, if you suffer from that sort of thing, it’s probably best to go for a sweeter eating apple.
You may also find that unless you really like the sour taste, eating them raw as a snack is not going to be high on your lunch list. However, adding a few slices to a salad definitely adds a zingy twist that many will find very appetizing.
Can You Eat The Skin Of Cooking Apples?
The skin of cooking apples is usually quite thick and tough compared to eating varieties which may make it unpalatable for many, particularly if you’re eating it raw.
Many recipes for pies, crisps, crumbles, etc. call for the apple to be peeled before cooking as even when cooked, it can sometimes still be a little tough. Overall, the skin is edible though.
Nutritionists have found that apple skins contain a lot of nutrients including one group that is of great benefit to us, polyphenols. These natural plant chemicals are a great source of antioxidants and the apple skin contains around two and a half times as many as in the flesh on its own.
So if you’re tucking into raw apples, either of the cooking or eating variety, it’s best to leave the skin on for nutrition. Just make sure you wash the fruit thoroughly and discard any skin or flesh that’s damaged or bruised.
And if you’re cooking your apples, try leaving the peel on for a more rustic outcome for once. You may prefer it that way and it will be healthier for you.
Is A Granny Smith A Cooking Apple?
Granny Smiths are crisp with a very tart taste making them a truly all-purpose cooking apple. Cook them alone or pair them with sweeter apples for great-tasting pies, crumbles, or crisps.
In the United States, Granny Smith is the most popular variety of cooking apple, similar to Australia where it originated. Although the Granny Smith can be seen as an all-rounder as you can eat it raw too.
In the UK the Bramley apple is by far the most popular cooking apple but Granny Smith apples are also common in the UK and Europe.
The Granny Smith gets its name from the lady who discovered this particular cultivar in 1868, Maria Ann Smith. Having emigrated to Australia in 1839 she purchased a small orchard in New South Wales around 1855.
Maria had eight children and became known locally as “Granny” Smith in her later years. The new species discovered in their orchard was fondly named after her.
The apple can be picked from March and stored till November making it ideal for long-term storage. In the right conditions, it will last as long as a year without much degradation!
Other popular cooking apple varieties in the United States include:
Jonathans – quite tart with a slightly spicy flavor. Holds its shape well when baked and is also great eaten raw in salads.
Rome – usually glossy red with a rounded shape. Thick skin and firm flesh make this an ideal culinary apple although is not as tart as some other cooking apples.
How To Identify Cooking Apples
If you’ve got a mixed pile of apples in your fruit bowl that you bought at the store, how do you tell which ones are best for eating and which for cooking?
Of course, the best way is to taste one as we know that most cooking varieties usually have a very tart, sour flavor. Another simple rule of thumb is that culinary apples are usually bigger with a thicker skin so you can usually tell just from looking at them.
You could also try searching for the visual apple guide that can help you identify most types of apples.
I hope I’ve answered all your questions about whether you can eat cooking apples raw, it’s certainly been fun researching more about them!
I think the main thing to take away is that as long as you wash your apples and discard any damaged bits before eating them you will be fine.
Yes, cooking apples usually have a very tart or sour taste but if you don’t mind that then there’s no reason you can’t munch on one as a snack.
Just don’t eat too many in one go, especially if you’re not used to eating them raw as you may end up with indigestion or even an upset stomach. That should soon pass though and most people don’t suffer any bad symptoms.
For me, I would rather use my cooking apples as the filling for a pie or crumble. With so many health benefits, make sure you include apples in your diet however you like eating them!