Texture is as important as flavor when it comes to which types of apples to use for pie. As my colleague Aaron Hutcherson says, “For starters, you don’t want an apple that’s soft or mealy, because it might break down too much and turn into something resembling the texture of baby food. (For example: McIntosh apples are great for eating out of hand, but they don’t hold up well when it comes to baking.) And then there are others that are either lacking in the flavor department completely or simply one-dimensional. (Red Delicious, we’re looking at you.)”
For texture, lean in on the crunchy apples listed above, plus a few more farmers market finds, such as Cameo, Northern Spy, Stayman and Winesap. Also take flavor into account. Because apple pie fillings tend to skew sweet already, many bakers prefer to lean on tart or sweet-tart varieties. Tart Granny Smith is a go-to for this reason, and you should consider Goldrush, Paula Red and Northern Spy for the same reasons. Jonagold, Ginger Gold and Empire are sweet-tart apples worthy of pie, too. Another point in favor of tart or sweet-tart apples is that it’s easier to add a little more sugar to the filling if needed than it is to bring down the sweetness of more sugary apples.
For an all-around, reliable pick, you won’t go wrong with Golden Delicious, which I think are among the best grocery store apples.
Another option is to mix and match several varieties in one pie, so that you get a blend of flavors and textures, as in Zesty Apple Pie.