Do Apples Go Bad?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, says the proverb. But what if you’ve found this great sale and bought way more apples than you can use within a week or so? Do apples go bad?

Or maybe a friend or family member who owns a small orchard have gifted you a big batch of organic apples. Who would say no to that? So naturally, you’re super happy to have them around. But, at the same time, you’re worried that you won’t be able to eat or use them in baking and cooking before they go bad. So now you’re searching for ways to store apples for longer. And since you’ve always just kept them on the counter, you’re considering other options, like refrigerating them or maybe even freezing if that makes sense.

Either way, if you’d like to learn a thing or two about apples, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of apples. If that sounds interesting, continue reading.

An apple
Image used under Creative Commons from adrianbartel

How to Store Apples

When it comes to storing fresh apples, there are two options. You can either store them at room temperature, or in the fridge, and both are valid options depending on the circumstances.

If you’re planning on eating or using the apples within a week or so, storing them in the pantry or in the kitchen is alright. Just make sure they’re in a cold and dry place, away from any sources of heat. Generally, the colder the spot the better, as apples ripen much faster at room temperature than in cool temperatures. If you brought the apples in a plastic bag, open up the bag or poke a few holes before putting it into storage.

For long-term storage of apples, the fridge is the way to go. Put the apples in the produce drawer, or anywhere else in the fridge, as long as its away from strong odors.

Alternatively, if you have much more apples than you could fit in the fridge, try to find another cold spot where they could sit. Maybe it’s an unheated basement or a garage, where the temperature is only a few degrees higher than in the fridge. Such a spot is a great place to store apples too. Cover the box with the fruits with a clean damp cloth. That will help prevent shriveling.

If you can’t make either of the options work, you can always make canned applesauce. It lasts quite some time and would be a nice level up from buying commercial applesauce.

When it comes to storing cut apples, you should transfer them into the fridge in an airtight container. The pieces will brown due to oxidation, but you can prevent that by submerging the pieces in water and adding one teaspoon of lemon juice per one cup of water. The acid in lemon juice will slow down the browning process. And if you don’t have lemon juice, but have apple juice fortified with vitamin C, you can use it instead of the lemon juice. That has an added bonus of the fruit retaining more of its taste.

Apples in a basket
Image used under Creative Commons from Jaro Larnos

How Long Do Apples Last

Whole apples usually last about a week, maybe up to two weeks, in the pantry before their skin starts to wrinkle and they turn mushy. If you store them in the fridge, they keep for 4 to 6 weeks, sometimes up to 2 months before the quality starts to degrade.

When it comes to cut apples, they retain quality for about 3 to 5 days. If you thought about cutting apples for the whole week on a Sunday evening, that might not be the best idea. It’d be better if you planned 2 shorter sessions, one on Sunday and the other in the middle of the week.

Fresh apples1 – 2 weeks4 – 6 weeks
Cut apples3 – 5 days

Please note the periods above are only estimates.

How To Tell If Apples Have Gone Bad

Fresh apples have a bright, fruity aroma, shiny skin, and firm flesh. When buying apples in the supermarket, be sure to choose only those with zero bruises or mushy spots. Those with bruises, holes, or blemishes probably won’t keep that well.

If you’re storing a bunch of apples together, it’s good to give them a check every week or so. During that check, you should choose those of bad quality, and either use them or toss them out. This way the bacteria won’t spread to the healthy ones.

If the apple has taken on a mushy texture and juice is oozing off, discard it. Same thing if you are seeing signs of mold growth, or big brown spots.

If the skin is wrinkled and the texture grainy, but otherwise everything is okay, the apple is still okay to eat. But that apple won’t taste that great on its own. Thus it’s probably better to grate it and add to a salad.

When it comes to apple slices, you should expect them to brown. But if anything else about the fruit changes, get rid of it. Same thing of any apple slices that you refrigerate for over a week.