We put three supermarket pineapple products to the test, sampling them both plain and in baked goods.
Published Apr. 1, 2014.
Buying a can of pineapple is a convenient way to eat the fruit without tangling with its spiky green fronds and eye-riddled peel. We use the crushed version in recipes that don’t require whole rings or large chunks. But we had a question: If it’s just fresh fruit, cut up and canned, are there noticeable differences from product to product? On supermarket shelves, we found three national products packed in pineapple juice (which we prefer to sugary syrup). We tasted each crushed pineapple in two blind taste tests, sampling them plain and baked in a cake.
Our verdict: Brand matters. We can recommend two products with small, even chunks that tasted “almost like fresh” and gave the cake textural interest. The third product had a texture like that of “baby food.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the size of crushed pineapple, requiring “finely cut or finely shredded or grated or diced”; the definition apparently leaves lots of wiggle room.
There are more than 100 varieties of pineapple, so we checked in with the manufacturers of the products that we tasted and learned that the two we liked use Smooth Cayenne pineapples, while the product we disliked uses Queen Victorias. Both varieties are said to have excellent flavor when eaten fresh, but the Smooth Cayennes are prized for canning because they hold their shape well when processed—exactly what our tasters noticed.
Our top two products were also “perfectly sweet,” with “fuller,” “intense” flavor, while the bottom-ranking product tasted “flat.” Nutrition labels revealed that the losing product had 2 to 3 fewer grams of naturally derived sugar per 1/2-cup serving. Experts we spoke with said that variety, processing, harvesting time, and postharvest storage and handling all affect flavor, as well.
In the end, our winner, the least expensive product in our lineup, was lightly sweet yet tart, with recognizable pineapple chunks—just right for our baking and cooking needs.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.