Low-Fat Cheddar Cheese
Here in the test kitchen, we normally turn our noses up at any cheese labeled nonfat, low-fat, reduced fat, or light. But in developing lighter recipes for our magazines and books, we realized we were going to have to give them an honest try. We rounded up all the products available to us to determine if there was a significant difference between them. Fat content ranged from fat-free to 75 percent light, 50 percent light, and 2 percent reduced fat. In addition, the cheeses were available pre-shredded, pre-sliced, and in blocks.
We tasted all of these options on their own with crackers and in batches of our Everyday Macaroni and Cheese. Tasters unanimously agreed that the pre-shredded and pre-sliced cheeses were out, along with the fat-free cheese, which was rubbery and overly sweet. The 2 percent reduced-fat cheese gained high marks, but at 6 grams of fat per 1-ounce serving, it was unfortunately still a little high in fat for our purposes. The 75 percent light cheddar (only 2.5 grams of fat per serving) produced mac and cheese that was grainy with a bitter aftertaste.
The 50 percent light cheddar, on the other hand, worked well. With just 4.5 grams of fat and 70 calories per ounce (as well as no unpronounceable ingredients) we were happy. Though it doesn’t quite stack up against fine aged cheddar when eaten on a cracker, tasters liked the creaminess and cheesy flavor that it lent to our mac and cheese.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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