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June/July 2010

Whole Kosher Dill Pickles

Supermarkets carry a dizzying array of kosher dill pickles, putting us in a pretty pickle every time we stroll the condiments aisle: how to choose the best one?

How We Tested

Supermarkets carry a dizzying array of kosher dill pickles, putting us in a pretty pickle every time we stroll the condiments aisle: how to choose the best one? We decided to hold a blind tasting of five national brands to find out.

Before we sat down at the table to taste them, we did some homework. It surprised us to learn that despite the name, kosher dill pickles needn’t be produced according to Jewish kosher law. Applied to dill pickles, the designation “kosher” merely indicates the presence of garlic and this style’s otherwise sour, salty profile. We also learned that kosher dills come either “processed” or “fresh.” Processed are made by brining whole cucumbers in large tanks, where they ferment for weeks or months. During the last stage of fermentation, dill weed is added. The pickles are then rinsed and sealed in shelf-stable jars with vinegar and additional seasonings. Fresh pickles are produced by placing cucumbers directly into jars, filling the jars with seasoned brine, and refrigerating them. Once the pickles have absorbed the seasonings—usually a matter of just a few weeks—they are ready to sell. These pickles, which are sold refrigerated, have a shorter shelf life than processed pickles.

We tasted five national brands, both processed and fresh, looking for the perfect combination of salty, sour, garlicky, and crunchy. With the right snappy crunch and authentic garlicky dill-pickle flavor, the two fresh pickle brands in our lineup trounced the competition. By contrast, the processed pickles were limp and had not a whiff of garlic. When we read the ingredient lists, we saw why: There was neither hide nor hair of it. We did, however, find yellow #5, a synthetic food dye not found in fresh pickles.

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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.