We’ve sipped vinegar from the bottle, sampled mayos straight from the jar, and chowed down sauceless whole-wheat pastas. So for this issue’s Tasting Panel, we decided to reward ourselves with something sweet—chocolate ice cream. It’s summer after all, and chocolate ice cream is a great thing to have in the freezer to make milk shakes or ice cream sandwiches, or just to savor on its own.
But with all the brands available, which are worth stashing? To find out, we asked 12 Fine Cooking staffers to participate in a blind tasting of five widely available brands of chocolate ice cream. While flavors varied, when it came to texture, the ice creams clearly fell into two categories: creamy and dense or light and airy, depending on how much air was pumped into them during churning (more air makes fluffier ice cream). What was less clear was which style our tasters preferred. Some were partial to the denser ice creams, while others liked the airier ones better. That’s why both are in the top three. Read on for a rundown of the results.
Ben & Jerry’s
$4.19 (16 oz.)
This ice cream got high scores for its perfectly smooth, dense, creamy texture (“reminds me of gelato,” wrote one taster) and its intensely rich, well-balanced bittersweet chocolate flavor.
1. Ciao bella
$4.99 (16 oz.)
“Now we’re talking,” said one panelist about this dark and creamy ice cream. (It’s called gelato, but its ingredients are similar to those in the other ice creams we sampled. See the panel below.) Tasters liked its smooth, rich mouth-feel as well as its bittersweet flavor with hints of nuts, although a few noticed a slightly acidic note.