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November/December 2015

Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

We tasted five white, and nine multigrain gluten-free sandwich breads to see if we could find a supermarket brand worth buying.

How We Tested

When you’re avoiding gluten, it’s tough to give up toast and sandwiches—and if a recipe calls for bread slices or crumbs, you’re really out of luck. That’s where gluten-free supermarket bread can step in. While fresh loaves are scarce, the freezer section of most supermarkets is usually packed with many gluten-free options for both white and multigrain or whole-grain breads. A few years ago, we tasted eight brands of white sandwich bread and found only one to recommend. This time around, we wanted to revisit the world of white sandwich breads and also try to find out if any of the multigrain/whole-grain options would fare any better.

GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS

Among the new brands of white sandwich bread, two were subpar in every application. Even toasting and buttering them could not make these samples palatable. The other three breads were acceptable, though tasters still had quibbles with texture or flavor. Our previous winner (Udi’s Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread), which has been reformulated since our last tasting, dropped to second place. On the multigrain front, we were pleasantly surprised by the positive response from tasters; two brands received high praise and were deemed “actually really good!” while three more fell into our Recommended with Reservations category.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

At first glance you might assume the multigrain breads fared so much better because they had an abundance of hearty grains and fiber. But in most instances, these breads looked like their gluten-free white bread counterparts (with the exception of those with a smattering of seeds or grains that were visible in the crust or floating within the mostly white interiors). To be labeled “multigrain,” breads only have to contain more than one type of grain—and that can be in the form of refined flours, which lack the fibrous bran and nutrient-rich germ. In fact, our favorite “multigrain” gluten-free bread, Glutino Gluten Free Multigrain Bread, contains no fiber or protein at all, a sign that it contains no whole grains. By contrast, the second-place bread, Three Bakers 7 Ancient Grains Whole Grain Bread, Gluten-Free contains 4 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber in a 100-gram serving (equivalent to about 3 slices). These two breads are our favorites from both tastings; despite being labeled as multigrain and whole-grain, in our opinion these breads are so much like white bread that they are interchangeable whether you are simply making a sandwich or using them as part of a recipe such as when making bread crumbs or a breakfast casserole.

BROWN RICE IS NICE

What was clear across both tastings was that brown rice flour, with its flavorful germ and fibrous bran, made better breads. Among the white sandwich breads, our top three breads all used brown rice flour, while the bottom-ranking breads used white rice flour, which has no fiber to help create structure, and far less flavor. All the multigrain breads we tested used brown rice flour.

WORTH ITS SALT AND FAT

Another common theme was that salt goes a long way toward enhancing flavor. Our top-ranked white sandwich bread had the second-highest level of salt; our winning multigrain bread also had plenty of salt, while the lowest-ranked breads had the least sodium. The amount of fat in these breads also mattered: more fat means more flavor (and with these gluten-free breads, it helped create an interior crumb that was fluffy and moist). Glutino Gluten Free Multigrain Bread, the winner, has 12 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, or 3.5 grams per slice.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Gluten-free breads labeled multigrain or whole-grain are a better bet than white breads. For gluten-free bread with the best flavor and texture, we recommend you reach for the breads ranked the highest in our multigrain sandwich bread tasting.

Methodology

Our tasting panel tasted each white sandwich bread sample three times: plain, then toasted with butter, and finally baked with eggs in our recipe for strata. The multigrain samples were tasted plain, as well as toasted with butter. The scores from the tastings were averaged to determine overall rankings.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.