6 Ways To Stop Fruit From Browning

by on September 17, 2012 · 14 comments                       

Cutting & arranging apples appealingly is a waste of time if the fruit browns and the kids won’t eat it!

Why do apples brown?

Apples are rich in iron. When you cut into an apple, its cells are damaged. Exposing those damaged cells to the air allows the oxygen to react with the iron and an enzyme called polyphenol, causing iron oxide to form. Essentially, the apple rusts! The “rust” is harmless, but doesn’t look very appealing, and my kids insist brown apples don’t taste as good.

Tip: The sharper the blade, the less cellular damage it does. An apple cut with a dull or serrated knife will brown more than one cut with a sharp knife. Those handy apple coring tools
may conveniently make wedges, but they don’t make as clean a cut. I like a sharp paring knife best!

How Do You Keep Apples From Browning?

Last year when I started packing fun lunches for my kids and blogging about them, this was probably the question I was asked most often. I had never given it much thought; I’d always just dipped them in cold water & lemon juice, and this worked, but sometimes my kids complained that their apples tasted too lemony. I wondered if there was a better way, so I asked my facebook fans what they did to keep apples from browning. I got a lot of great suggestions from them, as well as from a few of my favourite blogs.

Six Tips for Preventing Apples From Browning

  1. Slice the fruit in water. There’s no need to stop the oxidization process if it never starts! I’ve never tried this – my sink is very small.
  2. Brush or dip sliced apples in lemon juice. Lemon juice, lemonade, orange juice, even apple juice – any fruit juice containing citric acid will slow the enzymatic reaction. The downside to this is the apples may taste a little like the juice used.
  3. Soak cut fruit in ginger ale. Michelle of Muffin Tin Mom uses this method to keep her apple slices looking good without affecting the flavor. Any soda with citric acid would work; Sprite was another suggestion I came across. This method does add extra sugar however.
  4. Soak the slices in salt water. Not too much though, and not for too long. Monica of The Yummy Life suggests soaking in a mixture of 1/2  teaspoon of salt per quart of water, for about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with ascorbic acid powder. What’s that? Vitamin C! You can get ascorbic acid/Vitamin C powder from health food stores. Trader Joe’s makes Vitamin C crystals which can be dissolved in water. I use an ascorbic-acid based product called Fruit Fresh, found with the canning products in many grocery & department stores.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around a sliced apple put back together. Melissa of Another Lunch shows how to do this. The rubber band secures the apple slices tightly together so they aren’t exposed to the air. This is a great trick if you’re packing a whole apple, but won’t help if you’re packing just a few slices or need to fit them in a container.
  7. And then there’s always, well, don’t do anything. Maybe your kids won’t care as much as you think they will. More about that from What Lisa Cooks.

Which Method Works Best?

Some of the suggestions for what to dip apples in were very similar – they all had citric acid in common. I wondered if one kind of juice or soda worked better than another, so I put them to the test with a little not-very-scientific apple browning experiment.

The above picture clearly shows the apple dipped in Fruit Fresh fared better than the rest after sitting out for 8 hours, so that’s what I’ve used ever since. It’s main ingredient is ascorbic acid powder (vitamin C). The lemon juice & water was a close second, but it does add a lemony flavour. I didn’t try the salt water solution. Keep in mind that my apple slices had much more oxygen exposure than apples packed in a lunch would. Sealing them in a container protects them from the air and helps slow browning!

But wait! Is there something else to try?

Lisa Marsh explores how the sharpness of the cutting tool may have something to do with it…

Does a sharp knife keep fruit from browning?

Cristi Messersmith is a busy military wife, and mum to 5 picky sproutlets, 1 with autism. In her spare time she enjoys… oh, who are we kidding, she doesn’t have any spare time! Her blog, BentOnBetterLunches, chronicles her efforts to provide her family with nutritious, affordable, fun trash-free lunches for school and work. Find Cristi on Facebook and Twitter.



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1 jenn September 17, 2012 at 6:21 am

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! (Hmm, actually that would make a great science fair experiment.)
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2 Becky September 17, 2012 at 7:07 am

i typically use pineapple juice. it probably has the same results as the other juices you used or lemon, but is definitely better tasting. I’ve also found that i don’t really have to “soak” mine when i use that, just a light toss and it’s good to go!

3 Rachel @ Following In My Shoes September 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I do pineapple juice too…
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4 Corey @ Family Fresh Meals September 17, 2012 at 7:14 am

Great tips! I have only used one of these before and can’t wait to try out that Fruit Fresh!
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5 Kelly @ The Nourishing Home September 17, 2012 at 7:49 am

Have you tried pure pineapple juice to stop browning. It works as well as lemon juice and at least for me, better than orange juice and it tastes GREAT! Lots of blessings, Kelly
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6 Kelly Lester September 17, 2012 at 8:11 am

Ohhh! That’s a good one too Kelly. Thanks. I’ll def have to try that!

7 Amanda September 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I usually soak mine in juice but my Mom bought me some Fruit Fresh to try and I haven’t opened it yet! There are various methods on the label which do you think is best for a few apples slices — do you sprinkle it on the fruit and toss it or do you add it to water and toss it about in the solution?

8 Cristi April 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I do both. If I am putting apples in everyone’s lunch I dissolve some in a bowl of cold water and dip all the pieces, but if I am only doing a few I sprinkle powder, to use less.
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9 Cassie Webster September 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I use pineapple juice. I give the kids chunky pineapples one day and save the juice for apples. Works everytime AND it’s sweet! :)

10 Jenni Price September 18, 2012 at 10:07 pm

This was really helpful! Thanks!
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11 Keith Stratton March 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I have to admit I like the salt water method, if you don’t use too much it shouldn’t affect the taste. Personally I had one time were the apple tasted slightly salty and I loved it! Others didn’t so I try to make sure not to use too much salt now :)
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12 Mikayla April 2, 2013 at 2:48 am

I did something like this for a science experiment at school at it actually took 2 weeks for the apples to go brown when they were put in sugar water (boiled and cooled)!!!! Lemon juice lasted just under a week…

13 Ceara May 22, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thanks for these methods! They were really helpful for my Science Expo.

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