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February/March 2018

Crumbled Feta

Is Crumbled Feta Worth Buying?

How We Tested

Crumbling a block of feta cheese for a salad, pasta, or pizza can be messy, making packaged crumbled feta a tempting substitute. But how does it measure up? To find out, we tasted four of the most widely available crumbled fetas, priced from $0.50 to $1.13 per ounce, and compared them with our winning block feta, made by Real Greek Feta ($0.87 per ounce). A panel of tasters assessed each product plain, folded into couscous salad, and baked in spanakopita.

Fat and Sodium Influence Flavor

Overall, tasters preferred our winning block feta. Like other Greek fetas, it’s made with funkier sheep’s milk, and we liked that extra complexity. The only crumbled fetas available are produced domestically and made with milder cow’s milk. Despite the lack of fancy imports when it comes to crumbled feta, we found a few decent options. The best had lots of fat—6 grams per ounce—and a relatively moderate sodium level of 330 milligrams per ounce. Tasters called our favorite “savory” and “briny”—“mild-mannered” overall but “pretty good.”

Crumble Size Matters

But lots of fat and moderate sodium didn’t guarantee success; what separated a decent crumbled feta from a bad one mostly came down to the degree to which they were crumbled. Bigger crumbles were better, making the feta more prominent in dishes; smaller crumbles seemed to disappear. Of the four products we tried, two had large, consistent crumbles; the third had some larger crumbles with some smaller ones mixed in; and the fourth had a few larger crumbles surrounded by lots of very small, sand-like crumbles.

All four fetas we tasted used an anticaking agent to keep their crumbles from clumping. Our second-place feta was tossed in potato starch; its crumbles were slightly wet when eaten plain but just fine once we combined them with other ingredients. The other three included cellulose, an ingredient that’s commonly used to keep shredded cheese separate, among other applications.

In our top-rated crumbled feta, which has larger crumbles, the cellulose was barely detectable; in our two lowest-ranking products, with mostly small crumbles, it was much more noticeable—egregiously so in the last‑place product, which had the smallest crumbles of all. Tasters singled out this product as exceptionally dry, even when tossed in a dressing. Manufacturers wouldn’t share their anticaking‑agent‑to-cheese ratios; however, cheese and food technologist Dean Sommer of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Dairy Research confirmed that the drier products likely use too much cellulose or, because they have smaller crumbles, there wasn’t enough cheese in each crumble to balance out the cellulose’s drying effect.

In the end, the best of the bunch was Athenos Crumbled Feta Cheese ($1.00 per ounce), which had a clean, milky, briny flavor and large crumbles that stood out nicely in our recipes. We prefer our winning block feta, but when convenience is paramount, Athenos is a good option.

Methodology

We tasted four crumbled feta cheeses, priced from $0.50 to $1.13 per ounce, three ways: plain, in couscous salad, and baked in spanakopita. We also compared them with our winning block feta cheese, made by Real Greek Feta, which costs $0.87 per ounce. We took fat and sodium amounts from packages and calculated values for 1 ounce of cheese. We preferred the block cheese by Real Greek Feta overall but found a few good crumbled options. Scores were averaged, and the cheeses appear in order of preference.

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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.