- Apple pie is the quintessential American pastry.
- I ate the apple pies at McDonald’s,Burger King, Arby’s,Popeyes, and Checkers to find out which was best.
- I compared them on a scale of 1 to 5, judging freshness, crust, filling, and overall taste.
- Checkers’ cinnamon apple pies were cheapest at two for a dollar, and they were also the tastiest.
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There’s no place like home, and nothing like homemade apple pie fresh out the oven.
But if Grandma’s on vacation and you can’t bake, the next-best thing is jaunting over to the nearest fast-food restaurant for a quick sugar-and-butter fix.
As a Chinese American, I never had homemade apple pie growing up (cue the world’s smallest violin). But McDonald’s elliptically-inclined pockets of sugary goo were a staple of road trips and after-school binges.
Everything changed in 2018, when McDonald’s radically changed its apple pie’s look and recipe and left me, a hopeless baker, alone in the world without my fave pomme pastry pal.
The hunt for a new baked bestie was on.
I went to McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Popeyes, and Checkers in search of the best apple pie the fast-food world has to offer. I judged the pastries on a 1-5 scale in four metrics: freshness, crust, filling, and overall taste.
Here’s how they stack up:
BURGER KING — DUTCH APPLE PIE, $US2.09. Burger King’s pie is the only pie-shaped pie.
FRESHNESS — 1. Barely lukewarm, the pie lacked any of the hot-out-the-oven goodness its shape evokes. CRUST — 2. Soft, soggy, no crisp whatsoever. If it had been properly baked, I suspect it would have resembled real pie crust. Instead, it was mushy, gritty, and tasted like flour. Bleh.
FILLING — 3. Yes, there are real apples and cinnamon inside, but the goopy filling tasted very artificial. OVERALL TASTE — 2. It was too sweet and tasted like a scented candle, and it had an off-putting mushy texture.
MCDONALD’S — APPLE PIE, $US1.49. Behold, the next generation: Generation X-latticed crust on McDonald’s apple pie.
FRESHNESS — 4. Warm and crisp, but tasted reheated. CRUST — 4. Sugar-coated and buttery, the sturdy crust resembled real pie crust but fell just short of the flaky crisp I wanted.
FILLING — 4. McDonald’s pie filling stood out for the tartness of its crunchy apple bits. However, the sticky goop that encased them was less appetizing. OVERALL TASTE — 4. It’s trying to be real apple pie, but it doesn’t quite make it there, and is just a little disappointing on all fronts.
ARBY’S — APPLE TURNOVER, $US1.69. The turnover lives like a coffee shop denizen, in the pastry case. When ordered, it is removed from its home and cast into a fiery-hot industrial oven.
FRESHNESS — 4. If I hadn’t seen it sitting in the pastry case, I’d have thought it was fresh-baked. It was hot to the core without a hint of staleness. CRUST — 5. Crispy, flaky, and lightly drizzled with frosting.
FILLING — 3. Molten, generous, but a little too sweet for my taste. It did have an artificial taste and texture, and lacked apple chunks. OVERALL TASTE — 4. Although Arby’s does a buttery, flaky, and sweet turnover, the lack of tartness revealed its artificial core.
POPEYES — CINNAMON APPLE PIE, $US1.99. Popeyes maybe cares a little less about presentation than some of the competition.
FRESHNESS — 5. These were made-to-order and oh-so hot and crispy. CRUST — 5. Crunchy, flaky, and coated in cinnamon sugar.
FILLING — 4. There were real apple chunks and it didn’t taste all that artificial. It wasn’t too sweet but there wasn’t much tartness either. There was also less filling than I would have liked. OVERALL TASTE — 4. Delicious and well-balanced, this almost tastes like the real thing. However, its hot-pocket shape reminds us that it is not.
CHECKERS — CINNAMON APPLE PIE, TWO FOR $US1.00. These petite pockets were just how I like everything in life: cute and cheap.
FRESHNESS — 5. These were fresh out the oven or the deep fryer. Or both. They were hotter than Hamilton or high-top sneakers. CRUST — 5. Supremely crispy with a thick coating of cinnamon sugar.
FILLING — 5. The apple chunks aren’t as tart and crisp and real as McD’s, but it’s a nice light filling and the first that doesn’t have a goopy artificial texture and taste. OVERALL TASTE — 5. Every bite was perfect, or at least close enough to count.
Final ranking from worst to best: Burger King, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Popeyes, Checkers. Checkers hasn’t been on my radar much, and its other desserts didn’t really impress. But when it came to apple pie, Checkers rallied and landed the top spot.
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