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Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste Test

We organized a panel of cookie lovers and conducted a blind tasting of 10 contenders for best cheap chocolate chip cookie. Our selections sell for less than $3 a package; per-ounce prices range from 10 cents to 37 cents.

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In addition to packaged cookies, we threw in a Betty Crocker mix, which falls somewhere in between store-bought and home-baked in terms of labor intensiveness. Although the tasters all agreed that nothing compares to homemade (many cited grandmothers' recipes as unrivaled), we did find some winners in supermarket aisles.

Trader Joe's Charmingly Chewy ($2.50 for a 9-ounce box) earned top honors in our taste test, and Famous Amos Chocolate Chip (starting at $1.98 for a 12.4-ounce box) appealed to panelists who prefer a crunchier texture. Chips Ahoy occupies the second tier with its original and chewy chocolate chip cookies (starting at $2.50 for a 13.72- or 14-ounce package, respectively). Two of the cheapest cookies -- Keebler Soft Batch (starting at $1.98 for a 15-ounce package) and Target's Market Pantry Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (starting at $1.57 for a 15-ounce package) -- emerged with the lowest ratings.

Chocolate chip cookies are often doctored up (adulterated, some might argue) with extra ingredients such as nuts and an assortment of chocolate types. For instance, our tasting included Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Nantucket cookies with chunks of dark chocolate (starting at $2.88 for a 7.75-ounce bag). Still, cookies with regular old semisweet chocolate chips are perennial favorites. The basic ingredients in the chocolate chip cookies at the frugal end of the market don't vary much from one brand to another. The cookies contain flour, sugar, shortening, eggs, leavening, chocolate chips, and flavor enhancers. Sweeteners include cane juice, date paste, molasses, and high fructose corn syrup. High-end and homemade varieties often incorporate both brown and granulated sugar, as well as butter.

Product Cheapism Ranking Price Package Size Price Per Ounce
Trader Joe’s Charmingly Chewy 1 $2.50 9 ounces 28 cents
Famous Amos Chocolate Chip 2 $1.98 12.4 ounces 16 cents
Betty Crocker Mix 3 $1.98 17.5 ounces 11 cents
Nabisco Chips Ahoy Chewy 4 $2.50 14 ounces 18 cents
Nabisco Chips Ahoy Original 5 $2.50 13.72 ounces 18 cents
Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Nantucket 6 $2.88 7.75 ounces 37 cents
Keebler Chips Deluxe Original 7 $2.50 12.6 ounces 20 cents
Entenmann’s Original Recipe 8 $2.99 12 ounces 25 cents
Market Pantry Chewy 9 $1.57 15 ounces 10 cents
Keebler Soft Batch 10 $1.98 15 ounces 13 cents

It must be acknowledged that baking chocolate chip cookies is far cheaper than buying the commercial offerings. The recipe on the back of Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels yields five dozen cookies; the store-bought packages we sampled contain far fewer. The total cost for a bag of chocolate chips and two sticks of butter was equivalent to the price of one package of Chips Ahoy at the same supermarket (we didn't figure in the cost of flour, eggs, sugar, and vanilla because most households keep those basics on hand). The dough-making process took us seven minutes (including time spent locating a lost bottle of vanilla) from start to finish using a hand mixer. Baking proceeds rapidly, especially with multiple cookie sheets. And the finished product is superior: chewy and crunchy at the same time, with slightly melted chips and a taste tinged with butter.

Still, cookie baking can be time-consuming and messy. Although it's cheaper in the long run for people who serve cookies regularly, you have to stockpile all the ingredients, which may expire before they're used up. For convenience, many people turn to prepackaged cookies. A tip from our tasters: Stick store-bought cookies in the microwave for five seconds or so to let the chocolate get a little melty, gooey, and more delicious. It's probably the best way to replicate fresh-from-the-oven home-baked goodness.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Reviews

We asked panelists to judge the chocolate chip cookies in our tasting based on several criteria: appearance, sweetness, chips, texture, taste, and aftertaste. Ultimately their ratings came down to texture and overall taste, with a few comments about the chips. Based on the limited number of chocolate chip cookie reviews we found online, it seems as though consumers are of like mind with our judges.

Texture.

In the perennial debate between chewy versus crispy, we found a pretty even split among our participants and in consumer reviews, so we sampled both types of chocolate chip cookie. For consumers who like crispy cookies, Famous Amos is the real deal. Many panelists said the taste was just like they remembered from childhood. The bite-size cookies make a satisfying snack, either plain or with milk. The judges didn't find them too crumbly or dry. They also enjoyed the classic cookie smell and crunch of Nabisco Chips Ahoy Original. Consumer reviews posted at Viewpoints similarly admire the texture of this cookie, although many say it begs to be dunked in milk and a few consider it too dry to eat as is.

The comparatively moist texture of Trader Joe's Charmingly Chewy also pleased our tasting panel. Testers found the cookies addictive, perfectly supple, and especially satisfying when microwaved for a few seconds. Several likened them favorably to underdone homemade cookies, although one described the texture as marshmallow-like. The Huffington Post awarded this cookie third place in a 17-product tasting, citing its "chewiness." The Chips Ahoy Chewy variety was also well-liked by our panel. Some tasters enjoyed the "chewy cookie dough texture," but others found it a bit too "mushy" or "spongy." With other soft cookies, such as Target's Market Pantry product, we heard and read complaints about oiliness or greasiness. The Target cookies left a greasy residue on the napkins used in the tasting.

Taste.

While the ideal texture for a chocolate chip cookie may be a subject of debate among aficionados, most would agree that taste is either good or bad. On this score, our panelists were not overly impressed with the sample of packaged goodies. Store-bought cookies tend to have artificial ingredients and flavors, and it's hard, if not impossible, to make them taste truly "buttery." One taster summed things up by saying, "You just know you're having a cookie -- they're all kind of unremarkable."

Still, our panelists had some definite opinions about the taste of the cookies put before them. They complained that the Keebler samples -- Soft Batch and Chips Deluxe Original (starting at $2.50 for a 12.6-ounce box) -- were bland and seemed stale. Entenmann's Original Recipe Chocolate Chip Cookies (starting at $2.99 for a 12-ounce box) similarly didn't seem fresh and were criticized for being too sweet. "They just taste fake," commented one tester.

On the positive side of the spectrum, many tasters noted that the Famous Amos cookies weren't cloying and seemed snack-like rather than decadent. Several said Trader Joe's Charmingly Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies tasted "almost homemade" and much more "natural" than the others in the sample. Chips Ahoy Chewy got a boost from one admirer who said the cookies tasted "buttery" and reviews on the Walmart website that call them habit-formingly good.

Chocolate Chips.

The concentration of chocolate chips didn't loom large in tasters' minds, or in the consumer reviews we read, but we did hear some reactions from panelists that swayed the overall ranking. Both Keebler varieties had just a few chips in each cookie, which disappointed the tasters, and the Market Pantry and Entenmann's samples took flak for flavorless chocolate chips. On the other hand, the rich dark-chocolate chunks in the Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Nantucket cookies drew ardent accolades (they have double the chocolate chips of the regular Nantucket variety). Famous Amos also packs lots of chocolate chips into each bite. The Betty Crocker mix (starting at $1.98 for a 17.5-ounce bag) came with dried chocolate chips in the bag, which yielded surprisingly scrumptious chocolate flavor.

Review continues below


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