#1: 365 (Whole Foods)
"Please don't hurt me." That's what I was thinking when I emailed the rest of the office to warn them that I was holding a ginger snap taste test this week. What's so bad about a ginger snap taste test? Nothing...unless your office just held a mega cookie swap and has been feeding off a pile of leftover cookies for a week*, the consequences of which are that your whole office is sick of cookies and responds to the mention of cookies with sad faces and/or shrieking. Cry us the most gigantic river ever, please.
* If you're wondering, "Couldn't you have just stopped eating the cookies?" the answer is no. We are weak in the face of cookies. Situations like this were common: "Oh no" [reaches out for cookie] "what am I doing" [takes a bite of cookie] "I don't even" [keeps eating cookie] "want this."
But everyone pulled through without much complaint or hurling objects at my person. Success!
Here are the results of our labor.
We tasted eight major brands of ginger snaps, whittled down from a list of about 30. We cut out gluten-free versions, ultra-thin cookies, and regional brands, then went with the biggest brands we could find in New York City (stores noted below). The only exception is Archway, who gave us samples for the taste test. If we missed your favorite brand, let us know!
- Market Pantry (Target)
- Mi-Del (Whole Foods)
- Murray (Target)
- Nabisco (Pathmark)
- Stauffer's (K Mart)
- Trader Joe's (Trader Joe's)
- 365 (Whole Foods)
Tasters were asked to rate the cookies in overall quality, ginger flavor, sweetness, and crunchiness on a scale of one to ten. We looked for strong ginger flavor, balanced sweetness, and a pleasing, not too hard yet crunchy texture.
Unsurprisingly, strong ginger flavor was the main contributor to higher ratings, and there were clear winners and losers. Most of the cookies had appealingly crunchy textures, but good texture couldn't save cookies with bad or mild flavors, which rated the lowest. Most of the cookies also had a medium level of sweetness; too high would overpower the ginger, and too low would taste bland. All the brands are made with molasses, but only two brands are flavored with spices, which seemed to help boost their ratings.
The Winner: 365 (Whole Foods) (7.1/10)
365 earned the highest rating for ginger flavor in addition to being the best cookie overall. Tasters praised its touch of salt that the other cookies lacked, its strong, slow burning ginger flavor, and good crunch. Some tasters also liked the granules of crystallized ginger on top, which none of the other brands had.
#2: Stauffer's (6.5/10)
Besides scoring second overall, Stauffer's also scored second for ginger flavor. Tasters were mixed about the non-ginger flavors, though; some thought they overpowered the ginger and tasted too much like allspice, while some liked the spices. Stauffer's stands out for having the most spices of all the brands tasted: cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, and red pepper. None of the other brands include spices, except Archway, which contains cinnamon.
#3: Mi-Del (6/10)
Mi-Del scored third for ginger and second for crunch, and it was among the sweeter cookies. Tasters didn't feel compelled to say much about it, besides that it was fine and tasty. Overall, a pretty balanced cookie.
#4: Archway (5.8/10)
Archway scored first place for sweetness and sixth for gingery flavor, which was most tasters' problem with it: too sweet and molasses-y, not enough ginger. It has a nice crunchy texture, though.
#5: Trader Joe's (5.7)
Trader Joe's earned the most ire out of all the brands for its very un-snappy texture. Some of the comments: "These remind me of stale Nilla Wafers," "godawful texture," "Nilla Wafer? WTF," "oily in the mouth," and "texturally confusing/confused." The cookies were on the softer, semi-chewy side. Did we get a bad batch? Some people liked the texture, but for most it was just wrong. On the flipside, it was praised for its good ginger flavor. This is the only brand that lists more than one kind of ginger in its ingredients: crystallized ginger, ginger purée, and ground ginger.
#6: Murray (5.2/10)
Murray came in last for ginger flavor. Many tasters commented on the lack of ginger flavor, although they didn't necessarily dislike the cookie. Its light, crunchy texture gave it some points.
#7: Nabisco (4.4/10)
Tasters' biggest problem with this cookie was the texture, describing it as "really hard, good construction material," "empty cardboard crunch," and "tough." It also stands out visually for its smooth texture, whereas every other cookie has craggy tops. It placed in the middle for ginger flavor.
#8: Market Pantry (Target) (4.3)
Market Pantry came in last for tasting burnt in addition to lacking ginger flavor. A few tasters praised the brittle, crunchy texture, but it wasn't enough to make up for the weird flavor.
Our Tasting Methodology: All taste tests are conducted completely blind and without discussion. Tasters taste samples in random order. For example, taster A may taste sample 1 first, while taster B will taste sample 6 first. This is to prevent palate fatigue from unfairly giving any one sample an advantage. Tasters are asked to fill out tasting sheets ranking the samples for various criteria that vary from sample to sample. All data is tabulated and results are calculated with no editorial input in order to give us the most impartial representation of actual results possible.
About the author: Robyn Lee is the editor of A Hamburger Today and takes many of the photos for Serious Eats. She'll also doodle cute stuff when necessary. Read more from Robyn at her personal food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.