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July/August 2016

Almond Butter

The best almond butter contains more than just ground almonds.

How We Tested

In recent years, almond butter has emerged as a popular alternative to peanut butter. But which supermarket product is best? To find out, we rounded up the four top-selling national products (as reported by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm) and had 21 test cooks and editors taste them plain and in cherry-almond smoothies.

You can buy almond butters that are made solely from almonds that have been roasted and ground, but no products in that unadulterated style sell well enough to have made our lineup. The four top-selling products we tasted all add a solid fat (palm oil or hydrogenated vegetable oil) to help create the homogeneous, spreadable consistency that many consumers like. As for flavor, we greatly preferred almond butters that added sugar and especially salt—and the more, the better. The lone almond butter with no added salt or sugar was deemed bland, whereas the almond butter with the most salt (which was also tied for having the most sugar) came out on top.

Textural differences proved equally important. Three of the four almond butters were labeled “creamy,” but in reality, only the two winners were totally smooth. Although manufacturers wouldn’t reveal their processing methods, the coarser consistency of the less-preferred products was likely the result of grinding the almonds with their skins on. Because almond skins are high in fiber, they’re harder to process into complete smoothness. By contrast, the two winning products were made with blanched and skinned almonds and were truly smooth.

Our favorite, Jif Creamy Almond Butter, had a “mild,” “clean” almond flavor that was punched up with plenty of salt and sugar. Made from blanched roasted almonds, it had a perfectly even, creamy consistency and was the cheapest product we tasted.

Methodology

We tasted four nationally available supermarket almond butters in two blind tastings, plain and in cherry-almond smoothies. Scores were averaged, and products appear in order of preference. Nutritional information was taken from product packaging. Products appear in order of preference. (All nutritional information is per 2-tablespoon serving.)

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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.