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May 9, 2011 06:29 PM

The Taste Test Thread

I love doing taste tests (science minor in college). Recently I mentioned that I had bought 5 different brands of salad dressing in order to perform a taste test. Another ChowHound suggested we create a new thread to post the results. So here we are....

I find the easiest taste tests happen whenever I'm getting ready to use up the last of one brand, and take a moment to open a box/bottle/package of the new brand and do a quick taste comparison. Unfortunately I never wrote anything down, just made a note to buy the preferred brand. From now on I will make quick notes for The Taste Test Thread!

If you have a brand of something that you've come to prefer above others, please share it here. Details like what you prefer it to, or descriptive flavor profiles would be a bonus, but basically if you have a brand of something you think is superior, please share.

Below are the results of the recent Sesame Ginger salad dressing taste test, followed by a comparison between Corned Beef and Cabbage cooked in a slow cooker vs. a pressure cooker.

Do you have any recommendations to share?

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  1. Hi alkapal, great question! I happened to share the taste test, including photos, with my ginger-loving niece so I'm including visual aids in my "report" for you ;)

    I chose Sun Harvest Sesame Ginger as my fave because I love ginger and this dressing is alive with ginger. Also, I like to add shredded carrots and a pinch of garlic to it and recreate our favorite Sushi bar's house dressing. The bold flavors of the Sun Harvest don't get overwhelmed by my fine-tuning.

    Second choice was Annie's Naturals, a well rounded blend of savory soy, nutty sesame, ginger and a sweet hint of honey. Almost identical to the Sun Harvest but not quite as gingery. Strong and very well balanced.

    The San-J Tamari Ginger was safe, very neutral, with all the right flavors melding nicely but nothing too bright or exciting. (Good for a "Beginning Intro to Asian Dressings and Marinades".)

    The Bragg's Organic Ginger and Sesame dressing was way too vinegary. And the Ken's Steak House Asian Sesame was very sweet and gloppy.

    The winner, the Sun Harvest Sesame Ginger, is unfortunately a house brand for Henry's Farmer's Market health food chain in Texas and throughout Southern California. But the runner up Annie's Naturals, with the addition of a pinch of pureed or finely grated ginger is a fine stand in. Either choice, when dressing a salad of fresh greens, diced leftover chicken, slivered almonds, mandarin orange slices and some finely chopped scallions or chives = That Great Asian Chicken Salad we pay $12 for in the restaurants. Stir a smidge of peanut butter into the dressing or sprinkle some chopped peanuts onto the mix and you'll start looking for the fortune cookies that came with your salad!

    These are just the Sesame Ginger dressings I found available where I live. If anyone has other recommendations or suggestions please share because I'm always looking to find the best, the easiest, and the tastiest when it comes to cooking. Which is why...I'm a ChowHound!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ski_gpsy

      Have you tried the Newman's Own? It's really good.

    2. After a marathon weekend of home shopping with Wolfgang Puck, I decided to divide the corned beef dinner I was making and cook half of it in a pressure cooker, and the other half in my new VersaCooker (aka roaster/slow cooker).

      All ingredients being equal, I followed the instructions for both appliances. In the end I had to add another 20 minutes to the pressure cooker corned beef and it never did achieve the fall-apart-with-a-fork tenderness that the slow cooker beef had, but it was tender and juicy in it's own right. The potatoes in the slow cooker showed the saturation of the juices throughout, while the pressure cooker potatoes were fork tender but not as flavorful. Otherwise, both methods produced juicy, tender flavorful beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

      Given the time, I would choose to do the corned beef in a slow cooker. But with only a couple hours to make a yummy meat and potatoes dinner I would definitely do the pressure cooker again.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ski_gpsy

        i saw that versacooker, but it seemed a little expensive at @ $145 ++, right?

        1. re: alkapal

          Wolfgang's VersaCooker is regularly $149.90 plus $13 shipping = $163 plus tax. It's on sale right now for $119 plus $13s/h. On that particular HSN Wolfgang weekend the shipping was free - so only $119 plus tax.

          I went ahead and bought the VersaCooker, even tho I LOVE my Hamilton Beach Stay Or Go slow cooker with the latching lid for "spill-resistant travel" (I use it for transporting stuff I didn't even cook in it, like soups, chilis, Coq Au Vin, everything!). Whether it's in the car or motorhome, going to a potluck or family get together, I think that the latching lid is one of the greatest cooking innovations since the CrockPot). And I LOVE slow cooker cooking. In fact when I'm trying to find something to make for dinner my first choice is always a one pot meal. What I don't like are those slow cooker recipes where you have to sear or brown the meat in a skillet and/or saute vegetables before putting everything in the slow cooker, therefore making it a multi-pot cleanup. With the VersaCooker's metal insert and cooking temps ranging up to 400degrees, you can sear the meat, saute the veggies and then simply reduce the heat and slow cook for hours, all in one pot. Now if Wolf would just add travel latches to the VersaCooker it would be the perfect all-in-one-pot cooker in my opinion!

          1. re: ski_gpsy

            you might want to put that in your rating comment on hsn.

      2. Hey! I thought of another one. I love PBS's America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country cooking shows, especially when they have a taste test segment. Recently I was finishing a bottle of Heinz ketchup and opened a new bottle of the ATK recommended Hunts ketchup for a quick taste test and sure 'nuff, I liked it better than the Heinz, which I have used for decades. I found the Hunts to be smoother, with better balance between the sweet and the vinegary, slightly less sweet, with a nice hit of discernible spices. So Hunts ketchup = my new fave!

        9 Replies
        1. re: ski_gpsy

          you and some others find hunt's to be less sweet, but the last time i tasted both around the same time, i thought hunt's was sweeter.

          1. re: alkapal

            I also think that Hunt's tastes sweeter than Heinz!

            1. re: ski_gpsy

              Try Heinz Ketchup made in Canada if you are like me glucose fructose or high fructose corn syrup is very different from sugar and people taste senses are all different.

              1. re: ski_gpsy

                Heinz now makes an organic ketchup that has no HFCS and it tastes like what I remember it tasting like growing up. I only buy that now (have always been a Heinz ketchup gal, myself).

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I believe both Heinz and Hunts make a no hfcs ketchup. I know I've tried Hunts and it was quite good.

                  1. re: ski_gpsy

                    Simply Heinz is much like the origional, too.

                    1. re: ski_gpsy

                      You may be interested in this taste test which involved both Heinz and Hunt's brands:


                    2. "FRESH" salsa in the refrigerated produce case.

                      taste test between those with and without *agave nectar*: NO to agave nectar. why do they mess up an otherwise decent dipping salsa with that sweetener?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alkapal

                        Honestly? They sweeten up the "fresh" salsa? For shame- even if it IS totally organic blue agave syrup.

                      2. Okay, here goes. In a blind test 3 out of 3 of us preferred Nathan's hotdogs over Hebrew National. Both were skinless types.

                        Here in Canada we did another hotdog test of brands that could be found in the grocery store with a couple ringers. We found Juicy Jumbos All Beef were the winners. Others included Franks, Chicago 58 and Baldwin's.
                        Later that same summer a group of us hounds got together and sampled a bunch of different types with those same Nathan's coming up the winner with the JJ's the best of what's available in Canada in a regular store.



                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Davwud

                          I also love doing taste tests. I started off years ago comparing beers, but now I do hot dogs often making my wife and son (my daughter doesn't eat red meat) participate. I've done these so many times that I can guess the brand blindfolded. The funny thing is that sometimes I pick one brand over another even though I picked the other one the last time. And I knew the identities of each both times. The reason I guess is that sometimes you are in the mood for something different. I like to say that there are different flavors and different dogs for every mood. If that makes sense.

                          1. re: hotdoglover

                            You're probably right. There are a few "Buffalo Wild Wing" type places up here and if I go to one, I'll often order something different. Still a wing but I'm up for something different.