More than 7,500 apple varieties are grown worldwide, with the United States being home to 2,500 of those, according to the Urban Extension of the University of Illinois. With so many apples, a complete listing of all types would be impossible, but by grouping them into the types used for cooking based upon their physical properties and flavors, the task becomes easier.
Apples grown for hard cider must have high amounts of juice, tannins and acid to create the ideal environment for fermentation. American-grown cider apples, such as the spicy Jonathan, are typically all-purpose apples used for cider, but most apples exclusively for cider are grown in Europe, according to "The Science of Good Food." Even with the juiciest of apples, you will still need 36 of them to make a gallon of cider, notes the Urban Extension of the University of Illinois.
To qualify as a cooking apple, the variety must have a firm texture, tart taste, low pH around 3 and sugar level averaging 12 percent, notes David Joachim in "The Science of Good Food." Unlike apples for juicing or eating out of hand, cooking apples tend to have a drier flesh, which enables them to stay intact during cooking. The best apples for cooking include the bright green and tangy Granny Smith, red Rome Beauty and the heirloom Pippin types.
Apples for eating raw have the highest amount of sugar, with enough tartness to balance the flavor. Since these apples contain 15 percent sugar, they are also referred to as dessert apples, according to "The Science of Good Food." Eating apples include the popular Red Delicious noted for its sweet flavor and the New Zealand imported Gala.
All-purpose apples share the sweet flavor of eating apples with the firm texture of cooking apples, and they can be used in either application. The age of all-purpose apples plays a role in how the fruit should be used and how it tastes. Younger all-purpose apples have a firm flesh and tart flavor, making them ideal for cooking early in the harvest season, but as these apples age, they mellow in flavor, producing a better snacking product, according to "The Science of Good Food." For these multitasking apples, look for Golden Delicious, Cortland and Winesap.