The Best Way to Keep Apples from Turning Brown
The answer may surprise you.
When a cut apple is exposed to oxygen, the flesh will turn brown (or oxidize) quickly. This natural process doesn’t affect the flavor of the apple, unless they have been sitting out for a very long time. That said, you still want sliced apples to look as fresh and crisp as possible, whether you’re packing them for school lunches, tossing them into salads, or serving them as part of a cheese board.
We tested three popular methods of preventing oxidization to find out which one works best.
According to Serious Eats, a soak in salt water is the best way to stave off browning, and according to their testers, it doesn’t affect the flavor. We mixed ¼ teaspoon kosher salt with 1 cup tap water.
Some folks (including Scientific American!) say a mixture of sugar or honey and water will slow the browning process. We mixed 1 teaspoon honey with 1 cup tap water.
The old standby—a little fresh lemon juice mixed with water—is my go-to method. But is it the best? We mixed ½ teaspoon lemon juice with 1 cup tap water.
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The salt water works! We tried all three methods, letting the apple slices soak for one hour. After the time was up, the apples soaked in honey water had browned the most. They were not quite as brown as the slices left out at room temperature, but they had changed in color slightly.
The lemon water-soaked apples came in second place. They were less brown than the honey-soaked ones and still attractive enough to serve. I recommend rinsing the slices and patting them dry before eating, otherwise the lemon flavor will come through too much.
The clear winner was the salt water-soaked apple slices. The flesh remained creamy white and didn’t brown at all. Like the lemon juice-soaked apples, you definitely need to rinse them and pat them dry because they will taste salty otherwise. From now on, that's what I'll be doing with my cut apples