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October/November 2013

Blue Cheese Dressing

Was it too much to ask for a blue cheese dressing that was thick, creamy, and actually tasted like blue cheese?

How We Tested

Nothing dresses up a wedge of iceberg or offsets the spicy heat of Buffalo wings quite like blue cheese dressing. There are dozens of supermarket options, but we narrowed the field to seven top-selling national products from a list compiled by Chicago-based market research firm IRi. (When a company made more than one version, we chose its best seller.) We sampled the dressings with celery sticks and with Buffalo wings.

What flavor did our tasters demand from blue cheese dressing? The unmistakable sharp, salty, sour, and pungent flavor of blue cheese, naturally. Some of the dressings had plenty of rich, creamy dairy flavor but barely tasted of this distinctive cheese; these dressings, we noticed, listed buttermilk ahead of blue cheese on the label, meaning that they contained more buttermilk than cheese. Blue cheese is veined with Penicillium roquefortii, a bluish-green mold that ferments over a period of months to produce methyl ketones and free fatty acids, the compounds that create typical blue cheese taste. All the dressings contained blue cheese, but our favorite had the most, listing it three times (in slightly different forms) on its ingredient list.

As for texture, the thicker the dressing the better—runny and thin isn’t for dipping. And we preferred sizable, creamy chunks of cheese to negligible flecks. What we didn’t expect was that a shelf-stable bottle would best refrigerated products, its distinct blue cheese flavor and thick texture making it the all-around favorite.

In fact, we liked most of the shelf-stable dressings, recommending all but one. It failed because it was too sweet. With 4 grams of sugar per serving, it had the highest sugar content of all the dressings in our lineup. The sugar was listed third on its ingredient list, ahead of even the blue cheese; the rest of the dressings had 1 gram of sugar or less. The other product we can’t recommend had almost no blue cheese flavor.

Since oil is listed first on the ingredient list in every one of these dressings, naturally the type of oil also affected our rankings. All the products we liked use soybean oil. The two products we didn’t like were made with canola oil. Canola is much more highly unsaturated than soybean oil and oxidizes more rapidly, potentially creating background rancid flavors in less than six months. It can turn bad especially quickly in a clear container, which is how all the dressings are packaged, even when the bottle is still sealed. Our favorite product also adds preservatives and partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which makes it even less likely to oxidize. It’s the only dressing in our lineup with nucleotides (disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate). Wondering what they are? They intensify our tastebuds’ perception of flavor. Our top choice was well engineered for maximum flavor and texture. It’s a convenient choice next time we watch a game with a platter of Buffalo wings.

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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.