What Makes a Great Fruit Bowl?

Easily packed for school lunches or picnics, fruit cups are a big hit with kids of all ages. Featuring a wide variety of fruit in bite-size pieces, they are a nice way to provide recommended daily fruit servings—especially for picky eaters. Our chefs define high-quality fruit cups as having a bright, vibrant fruit color with few broken pieces. Fruit pieces should generally be the same size, and they should appear freshly sliced from the cutting board. An intense aroma should be noticeable in all fruit cups, except for mandarin orange cups which are not expected to be as intense. The aroma character should resemble ripe fruit and it should exhibit some complexity. For mixed fruit cups (including cherry and tropical mixed fruit), aromas from all the different fruits should be distinct and discernible. There should be no off notes. Fruit cups are in taste balance when sweetness is the predominant basic taste. There should also be lower levels of sourness that are strong enough to prevent the fruit cups from being cloyingly sweet. If there is any bitterness, it should be minimal. The aroma’s fresh, ripe and fruity notes should carry through to the flavor. In cherry mixed fruit cups, the cherry flavor should be dominant, while the other fruits remain noticeable. The cherry flavor character should be similar to that of a maraschino cherry without any notes of almond extract. For mixed fruit cups, the fruit flavors should be simple and ripe with discernible individual fruit flavors. All fruit cups should deliver strong fruit intensity and a neutral-flavored light syrup. There should be no extraneous flavors, such as almond extract. The fruit texture should be plump and toothsome with a slight pop as you bite and chew. Fruit pieces should not be soft, mushy or fall apart easily. The fruits should have a quick dissolve, although a slightly longer dissolve is appropriate in pineapple fruit cups. Any pineapple pieces should be fibrous without getting tough. For all fruit cups, the aftertaste should have only fruit notes. An aftertaste that is purely sweet or sour is inappropriate.

Tasting terms

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • sweet

    One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar. Example: Honey, ripe fruits and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.

  • sour

    One of the basic tastes; often considered sharp, tart and acidic. Example: Lemon juice, vinegar and fermented foods often have a strong sour component.

  • chew

    The texture of a food as it is being chewed, as opposed to the texture of the first bite. Example: High-quality beef jerky should be tender but have a long chew.

  • aftertaste

    The taste remaining in the mouth after eating or drinking; sometimes associated with unpleasant flavors or bitterness. Example: Some diet sweeteners contain notes of bitterness.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • off notes

    Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food’s packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or stale flavors from freezer burn in a frozen entrée are types of off notes.

  • character

    The combined aromas and flavors of a particular food or ingredient. The character of a food is considered simple when it is one-dimensional, but it is complex when it has many discernible ingredients. Example: Mole sauce has several ingredients that blend to give the sauce a complex character. Granulated sugar has a very simple character.