But only eating apples in whole form keeps them from fulfilling their pie-filling, cheese-plate-piling, and peanut-butter-diving potential. The bummer, however, is that when sliced, apples begin to oxidize rapidly and turn an unappetizing brownish color. This results from a chain of biochemical reactions known as “enzymatic browning.” When the slices are exposed to oxygen, an enzyme known as polyphenol oxidase reacts with amino acids in the fruit, producing brown-colored melanins and a softer-than-normal flesh. Though a slightly browned apple certainly won't harm you, the discoloration and mealy texture may rob you of your appetite.
Curious how to keep apples from turning brown? To get to the bottom of the problem, we tested five methods—from rinsing apples slices in a saltwater solution and using lemon juice to soaking them in soda—to uncover the best way to keep the fruit in fresh, crisp shape. Read on to find the one clear winner that worker better than all others.
How to keep apples from turning brown
1. The most effective method: Soaking apples in a saltwater solution
By far the best of the bunch, this method requires only two common household ingredients: salt and water. In a bowl, mix half a teaspoon of kosher salt per cup of water. Stir to combine and dissolve. Next, submerge your pre-cut apple slices in the brining liquid for roughly ten minutes. Once complete, thoroughly drain and store the apples in a clean airtight, resealable container. Thanks to the saltwater solution that creates a semi-permeable barrier on the surface of the slices, the oxidation process slows down. This helps maintain the coloring of your portions bright and vibrant for several hours. Note: If you’re worried about a salty aftertaste, give the apples a quick rinse under cool, filtered water before enjoying.
2. Coat slices with citrus
Perhaps the most commonly used sliced apple hack calls for citrus juice from fruits like lemons, limes, or oranges to help reduce oxidation. These acidic foods contain high ascorbic acid levels (thanks to the vitamin C), which react with oxygen on the surface first. This helps prevent the discoloration-inducing enzyme, known as polyphenol oxidase, from interacting with oxygen, which helps keep the apple slices from turning brown.
To try this trick, combine about a tablespoon of freshly squeezed citrus juice in a cup of cool water and soak the apples for three to five minutes. Drain and serve. Though this hack has remained tried and true, we found that soaking apples in a saltwater solution proved more effective in keeping apples from browning for longer.
3. Rinse apples in citrus-flavored soda
This may sound unconventional, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. We found that soaking apple slices in citrus-flavored soda for just about five minutes can help avoid a bit of the inevitable browning. Made with citric acid derived from lemon juice, sodas like Sprite or 7UP possess oxidation-slowing benefits due to the highly acidic, low pH levels. However, we found that this diluted version (aka soda) was not as effective as saltwater or higher acid levels found in the citrus juice method. Not to mention the fact that the added sugar from the high-fructose corn syrup in soda might counteract the some of the benefits of eating an apple.
4. Add a layer of natural sweetener
For a slightly sweeter option, soaking apples in a solution of honey and water can also slow down the browning process. To do so, combine two tablespoons of honey in a cup of cool water and stir. Soak apples for five minutes and rinse before consuming. This natural sweetener contains a peptide compound that stops the activation of polyphenol oxidase, thus preventing excessive browning on the surface of the apple slices. If you like a little extra sweetness, this method was effective for a few hours (and would pair well with tart apple varieties like Granny Smith or Pink Lady).
5. Submerge them in water
Find yourself in a pinch with none of the previously mentioned ingredients on hand? You can also keep your apples fresher longer using plain old water. When it comes to apples, the main objective for preventing browning is eliminating exposure to oxygen that causes the chemical reaction. To do so, fully submerge apples in clean, filtered water, and keep them refrigerated. This will help keep apples from browning for several hours. If you find that they begin to float to the surface, use a small lid or paper towel to help weigh them down into the liquid.
Use your apples to make this delicious baked apple and caramel dessert:
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