Taste Test: Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

CELEBRATING NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DAY

Legend has it that, in 1938, at the Toll House Inn restaurant in Massachusetts, chef-owner Ruth Graves Wakefield dropped a chopped up Nestlé bar into a batch of cookie dough and invented an American classic. Since then, companies have imitated Wakefield's Toll House cookies in factories, mass-producing packaged versions to sell in grocery stores around the country. With National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day coming up on May 15, Cheapism.com conducted a blind taste test with a panel of cookie lovers, who ranked 10 store-bought chocolate chip cookies. All the samples cost less than $3 a package (10 cents to 37 cents per ounce) at nationwide grocery chains.

10. KEEBLER SOFT BATCH ($1.98/15-OUNCE PACKAGE)

Several tasters expressed nostalgia for Keebler cookies, but the product didn't live up to childhood memories. These cookies tasted bland, artificial, and unpleasantly doughy, and just a few paltry chocolate chips graced each one. A couple of panelists used the term "stale" to describe the cookies, although the package was new and factory-sealed. The judges' consensus: The elves let us down on this one.

9. MARKET PANTRY CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES ($1.57/15-OUNCE PACKAGE)

Several tasters expressed nostalgia for Keebler cookies, but the product didn't live up to childhood memories. These cookies tasted bland, artificial, and unpleasantly doughy, and just a few paltry chocolate chips graced each one. A couple of panelists used the term "stale" to describe the cookies, although the package was new and factory-sealed. The judges' consensus: The elves let us down on this one.

8. ENTENMANN'S ORIGINAL RECIPE ($2.99/12-OUNCE BOX)

Entenmann's Original Recipe chocolate chip cookies straddle a line between crispy and chewy, with browned edges and soft middles. Although the texture was promising, most testers described the taste as artificial. They said the cookies had a strange chemical quality, "like clay or glue." One avid baker on the panel suggested the recipe had too much sugar and too little butter. The chocolate flavor was also seriously lacking. Other brands will likely do a better job satisfying a cookie craving.

7. KEEBLER CHIPS DELUXE ORIGINAL ($2.50/12.6-OUNCE PACKAGE)

This Keebler classic disappointed our panel of tasters. The cookies were so hard that they had already crumbled inside the package and broke apart in tasters' hands. One described them as "grainy" and most found them dry and decidedly bland. The chocolate chips were tiny and sparse. Dipping the cookies in milk made this tough, crunchy product a little more palatable.

6. PEPPERIDGE FARM DOUBLE CHOCOLATE NANTUCKET ($2.88/7.75-OUNCE BAG)

These crumbly, crunchy cookies hold tons of dark chocolate chips, making them a good choice for anyone who enjoys the chocolate bits more than the plain cookie parts. The Pepperidge Farm brand is a bit pricier than the others, at 37 cents per ounce, and some panelists considered the cookies a little too dry. All three packages purchased for the tasting had broken cookies inside. Still, more than half the tasters enjoyed the decadence of the dark chocolate, and overall the panel gave these cookies positive reviews. (They were especially yummy when microwaved for five seconds or so, leaving all those chocolate bits slightly melted and gooey.)
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5. NABISCO CHIPS AHOY ORIGINAL ($2.50/13.72-OUNCE PACKAGE)

Chips Ahoy is one of the best-selling cookie brands in the U.S. These cookies are thinner and crispier than the competition, two qualities that some tasters preferred. On the whole the panel concluded that this cookie was "a bit dry" and "not at all like homemade" but "smells great" and has a "classic" taste. Although the crunch was a hit with about half the group, those in the chewy-cookie camp asserted that the crunchy texture was excessive and the aftertaste slightly unpleasant. Most agreed that this cookie is an ideal candidate for dunking in cold milk.

4. NABISCO CHIPS AHOY CHEWY ($2.50/14-OUNCE PACKAGE)

Chewy-cookie fans on the panel preferred this soft-baked version of Chips Ahoy over the original variety. The cookies feature a good amount of semisweet chocolate and a pleasant texture, though some testers were turned off by what they described as "mushiness" or sponginess and an artificial aftertaste. Still, most found the cookies pleasantly moist and addictive; one remarked, "Now, these, I could eat the whole pack." Another suggested crumbling them into vanilla ice cream to approximate chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

3. BETTY CROCKER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MIX ($1.98/17.5-OUNCE BAG)

These take a little work, but tasters concluded it's worth it: The mix produced moist, buttery, delicious cookies warm from the oven. They kept well overnight in plastic containers and were just as enjoyable cooled. The package calls for one stick of softened butter, one egg, and 11 minutes of baking for three dozen cookies. Chocolate chips are included in the mix (and chocoholics can always add more). This provides a middle ground for consumers who want homemade taste and texture but don't keep baking ingredients on hand or have time to mix and chill traditional dough.

2. FAMOUS AMOS CHOCOLATE CHIP ($1.98/12.4-OUNCE BOX)

These tiny cookies are another nostalgic favorite from childhood, and for the most part they matched panelists' happy memories. Famous Amos packs lots of chocolate chips into each bite. Despite the crunchiness of these cookies, the packages held no broken pieces. The cookies were not greasy and didn't feel too heavy, tasters said -- more like a satisfying snack than a dessert. They were tasty dunked in milk but didn't scream out for it, unlike some of their crispy brethren.

1. TRADER JOE'S CHARMINGLY CHEWY ($2.50/9-OUNCE BOX)

Across the board, panelists raved about these cookies from the popular specialty grocer. They're close to bite-size, and no taster managed to eat just one. The flavor and texture won over even crunchy-cookie partisans, who thought these chewy cookies seemed fresher and tasted more natural than the others. The ratio of chocolate to cookie was "perfect" in the minds of several panelists. These cookies come highly recommended right out of the box or heated in the microwave for a few seconds.