Do You Have To Peel Apples To Cook Them? (Which Are Best)


The smell of apples cooking, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, makes us long for fall and treats like apple pie, apple crisp, or just some simple stewed apples. But peeling, coring, and slicing apples are a lot of effort. Do you have to peel apples to cook them and which ones are best peeled or unpeeled?

It is not always necessary to peel apples to cook them. Thin-skinned varieties soften during cooking, add texture and increase nutritional value. If the apples are tough-skinned, peel them to avoid stringy bits of skin. Always wash apples, core them and discard the seeds.

Essentially it comes down to personal preference – peeled apples give a smooth finish destined for fine dining while unpeeled apples have a more rustic texture. Just give them a wash as they might have a wax coating and other dirt.

Deciding whether or not to peel apples before cooking them is not only a matter of effort – in this case, being lazy is the more nutritious option. Let’s look at whether you should peel apples for cooking.

What Happens If You Don’t Peel Apples To Cook Them?

The effects of not peeling apples before cooking depends on the kind of apple you’re using:

  • If you’re using a thin-skinned variety like Gala or Golden Delicious, the peel will soften during cooking. You will hardly notice it or even enjoy the slightly rough texture in the final dish. You will also have a nutritional boost.
  • When using a thicker-skinned apple such as Granny Smith, this is more noticeable. You may find bits of peel get stuck in your teeth and throat when eating.

It also depends on the recipe being followed. Some dishes are more suited to peeling apples than others. A smooth apple sauce is best made with peeled apples. But something like an apple cobbler that already has lots of texture won’t make too much difference if left unpeeled.

Remember if you peel the apples, they will start to turn brown unless cooked. Some varieties go brown faster than others.

Which Are Better, Peeled Or Unpeeled Apples?

Unpeeled apples are better for you in terms of nutrition, but peeled apples make a smoother, more silky textured final result.

There are benefits and disadvantages to both peeled and unpeeled apples. If you want to leave your apples unpeeled, consider the pros and cons of peeling and unpeeling:

Nutrition

The best reason for leaving your apples unpeeled is nutritional – most of the apple’s nutrients are in the skin. Apples are full of health benefits – they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Peeling the apple means losing around 75% of the antioxidants, 50% of the fiber, 40% of the vitamin A, and 25% of the potassium. 

Eating apples with their skins on can help to fight cancer, increase weight loss, and help to balance cholesterol and blood sugar.

Effort

Another benefit of peeling apples is that it is time-consuming.

Peeling apples is a chore and takes a lot of effort. Everyone has a busy schedule, so leaving out this step is a huge advantage.

However, you will still need to wash the apples thoroughly and remove the core and seeds.

Texture

Unpeeled apples will give your dish a rougher, lumpier texture. You can process apple sauce to make the consistency smoother, but you may feel the skin in an apple pie.

You can also get peels stuck in your teeth and throat, where they become a choking hazard.

Peeled apples make for a far more luxurious, tender consistency, with the apples breaking down into luscious jamminess. 

One way to add the peels to give a little texture and nutrition but still have toothsome apple pieces is to blitz some peels with peeled apple and add the purée to your pie.

Waste 

If you buy a pound of apples, you will lose some of the apples’ weight when you peel them.

Unless you use the peels for composting or making apple sauce, discarding the peels is a waste.

Best Apples To Use Unpeeled 

Using unpeeled apples is most successful if you choose a variety of apples with naturally thin skin that will soften and cook away.

The best apples to use unpeeled in pies, crumbles, and crisps are Gala, Jazz, Braeburn, and Jonagold.

If you’re making apple sauce you can use the softest apples which aren’t ideal for pies: Red Delicious, Cortland, Rome, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious. These apples become sludgy when baked in a pie. 

If you decide that peeling your apples is the way to go, you can use any apples for baking and cooking. For example, Granny Smith apples, the default for pies, are best peeled as they have thick skin. You’ll also need to peel Honeycrisps and Winesap apples.

For cooking with softer apples, check out my post on making pies and crumbles with them.

Can You Leave The Skin On Apples For Apple Pie?

If ever there was a recipe that evoked strong emotions, it’s apple pie. The peel and no-peel camps cannot agree on how to prepare the apples; however, it remains standard in most recipes to peel your apples for apple pie. 

Why You Should Peel Apples For Apple Pie

Most recipes recommend peeling your apples when making pie because the skins prevent the apple from absorbing moisture and flavor. Peeling helps it break down and meld with the other apple pieces and spices.

The cell walls explode as the peeled apples bake, releasing all the fluffy starch and sugars. Having skin on hampers this process and leaves stringy peels that spoil the texture.

However, you don’t want your pie apples to cook away into a sauce. That’s why we make pies with firm, tart apples with high acid levels, as they retain their cohesiveness even when baked. Granny Smith apples are the perfect combination of firmness and tartness.

Apple pie purists argue that apples with soft enough skins to avoid peeling are usually sweeter, contain more sugar, and will cook away into mush. To add sweetness, you can add a couple of Golden Delicious apples to your pie, but don’t make a whole pie with this variety.

Why You Don’t Have To Peel Apples For Apple Pie

You can leave the peel on apples for apple pie, so long as you choose thin-skinned apples and make a couple of adjustments to your prep:

  • Wash the apples thoroughly and gently scrub the peel.
  • Cut out any bad spots.
  • Cut the apples into tiny pieces so there aren’t large pieces of peel to choke on. 
  • Par cook the apples to start the softening process. Or slice the apples and soak them in cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Let them soak then drain and bake as usual.

What To Make With Unpeeled Apples

There are many delicious recipes that don’t require you to peel the apples as long as you don’t mind the extra texture. These include:

  • Apple cobbler
  • Apple crisp
  • Apple pie
  • Apple cake
  • Stewed Apples
  • Baked Apples
  • Apple sauce
  • Apple butter
  • Apple cider

Read some more ideas in my post 10 Tasty Things To Eat With Stewed Apples (With Recipes).

If you find the peel is unpleasant in apple sauce or butter, put the cooked apples in the blender and blitz until smooth.

What Is The Easiest Way To Peel Apples?

The decision to peel apples for a recipe means a lot of effort and time, but don’t let it put you off making apple sauce or pie. So long as you have the right tools, peeling apples isn’t a chore. 

There is no need to attach a peeler to a drill or any such hacks. Here are three easy ways to peel apples.

Peeling Apples With A Vegetable Peeler

One of the most effective tools for peeling and coring apples is the humble vegetable peeler. Use either a straight or Y-shaped peeler. Here’s how you use a peeler:

  • Peel the top and bottom of the apple, creating a flat base.
  • Hold the apple flat against a cutting board or firmly in your hand. 
  • Using flat, smooth strokes, remove the peel downwards toward the board or away from you.
  • Use a paring knife to tidy up any missed peel and remove the core and seeds.

Peeling Apples With A Paring Knife

  • Hold the apple firmly in your hand.
  • Press the knife’s blade against the skin at the stem end.
  • With a smooth, steady stroke, turn the apple against the knife, moving clockwise.
  • The apple peel should come off in a long ribbon.
  • Tidy up bits of peel and remove the core and seeds with the paring knife.

Peeling Apples With A Mechanical Peeler

Apple peeling and coring machines are effective but require your supervision and time. Unless you are working with vast quantities of apples, there’s no need to invest in this equipment.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now know whether you need to peel apples for cooking.

It is not always necessary to peel apples unless you have tough-skinned apples like Granny Smith. To avoid peeling apples, use thin-skinned varieties, cut them into small pieces, and par-cook them.

Retaining the peel adds texture and nutrition, so it’s a good idea. Give it a try and see if you like it – in the end it comes down to personal preference.

Tom

Hey, I'm Tom. I set up Boss The Kitchen to start answering the thousands of questions people have while cooking. For me, the kitchen is my happy place and I hope to help other people with the knowledge I've gained along the way.

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