Do Apples Need to be Refrigerated?

by Charlie

When apples are displayed in stores, they are kept at a lower temperature than the surroundings. They are usually either on chilled shelves or in chilled bins, or they are on shelves that are sprayed with cold water mist to keep them at a lower temperature. This keeps the apples in a state of higher freshness for a longer period. 

Do apples need to be refrigerated? No, not necessarily but refrigerating apples will prolong their shelf life and freshness. Apples will become overripe and eventually spoil if left on the counter or tabletop at room temperature. Oftentimes, apples presented or stored on the table or counter will progress to spoliation in approximately a week. If stored properly in the refrigerator, regular store-bought apples can last months.

While you should always plan on storing your apples in their own space in the fridge, there are exceptions to this rule. One being if you bought only a few apples and plan on eating them all within a few days to a week at the absolute most.

Another instance where you may not need them stored in the refrigerator is if you have plans to use them in cooking or baking before they will have a chance to spoil outside the fridge.

If you’re worried because you don’t have enough fridge space for the apples you normally consume, you may be able to split the storage of the apples. For instance, store what you can eat in a week on the counter, and the rest in the refrigerator. An alternative is to only purchase what you can store in your fridge without overflow.

The point is to stop throwing out apples before you have a chance to enjoy them!

We’re going to help you figure out how to store and use your apples wisely, so that you can enjoy their freshness and crispness at any time, without wondering if they are still going to be good.

How to Properly Store Apples in the Fridge

We’ve mentioned that to store apples the longest, not only do you need to keep them in the fridge, but they need to be stored properly while being refrigerated. Sure, you can toss them in the fridge and hope they do alright, or you can check out these tips to help you get the most out of your apple storage.

Buy with Storage in Mind

This is something that is often overlooked, but like most fruits, apples continue to ripen once picked and set out for sale. This means you are not looking for apples that are good to eat now, you’re looking for apples that are going to be good when you want them in the future. Look for firmer apples, and stay away from waxiness. Above all, avoid any surface blemishes or soft spots, these will magnify and worsen as the apple ripens.

This extends to the apple variety as well. Smaller apples with thicker skin are known to last longer in storage than larger apples with thinner skin. There is also anecdotal evidence that apples with tart flavors store longer than apples with sweeter flavor profiles, so there may be some wisdom in that as well.

Don’t Store Your Apples with Other Fruits and Vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables release a gas called ethylene as they ripen and age. This gas can also trigger ripening or spoiling in other produce. Apples are notable big producers of ethylene gas as they ripen, and if they are stored with other fruits or vegetables, it can cause issues.

Some vegetables, like brassicas broccoli and cauliflower, or asparagus, carrots, and even potatoes are very susceptible to damage caused by exposure to the levels of ethylene gas that apples give off. The same can be said for several fruits as well, grapes, berries, melon, nectarines, peaches, and more. If stored with ripening apples, they can all begin to over-ripen and age rapidly, leading to spoilage.

Storing apples separately will prevent this gas from building up in the concentrations needed to have adverse effects on other produce. But the reverse is also true, if you have an underripe pear, for example, it can be hastened to deliciousness by storing it with apples for a brief period, allowing the ethylene to force the pear to ripen and become softer and juicier.

Store Apples in the Fridge

This has been mentioned, but let’s get specific. You aren’t just going to stick a bowl of apples awkwardly in the middle of your fridge. Who does that? No. You’re going to be intelligent about it since you know they need to be kept away from ethylene-sensitive items. You need a place that is cool, but also has low fluctuation in humidity if possible. 

This means the crisper drawer is going to be your prime option for apple storage in your fridge. This effect can be magnified if using the crisper drawer in a spare fridge, garage fridge, or beer fridge, that does not get opened and browsed as often as the main fridge. This helps to keep the temps low and consistent, as well as keeps the humidity constant and the light exposure low.

Ideal storage conditions for nearly anything, but crisp and delicious apples, especially – 35 degrees down to a frosty 31 degrees Fahrenheit is an optimal storage temperature for apples.

Keep the Moisture Just Right

While the misters at the grocery store help keep the apples and other produce cool and hydrated, you probably don’t have a similar setup at home. Let’s talk about a couple of ways you might be able to help the apples retain their moisture and crispness.

The first way is to moisten a few paper towels, and use those to cover or wrap the apples for storage, which will allow the apples to continue to have access to moisture to keep them fresher, longer. This also allows them to access the moisture without being overly wet and still allowing for airflow.

You can even wrap each apple in its paper towel and place it in a perforated plastic bag to both hydrates it and protect it during long term storage in the refrigerator.

A second option is to use the plastic produce bags that they have in the produce section to trap the humidity around the apples. While it locks in the moisture, it also keeps in the ethylene gas, which will make them spoil faster. You can poke holes in the bag to combat this, but in general, the technique is not the most consistent or reliable.

Handle With Care

This goes for anyone handing any type of fruit. Be a bit gentler. As an apple is injured, it releases more ethylene gas, which causes the apples around them to go bad at a much faster rate than expected. So, handle your apples like you would handle a few dozen eggs. 

While you may see some other folks carelessly toss the bag of apples onto the conveyor from their cart, you will know better. Setting the apples gently down wherever they need to be can pay dividends in the length of time you can successfully store an apple in your refrigerator.

How to Store Apples You Have Already Cut

The browning is the main hurdle that people want to overcome usually. This is happening because oxygen is interacting with the fruit and a resulting enzyme turns it brown. Brushing the slices or chunks with lemon juice slows the process significantly, and wrapping the slices tightly in either foil or plastic wrap, then storing them in an airtight container in the fridge can keep them in a snack ready state for days.

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