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The Best Chocolate Ice Cream

Ice cream flavors abound, but chocolate remains a perennial favorite. We wanted to find out which chocolate ice cream reigns supreme.

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Published Aug. 1, 2017. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 11: A Trip to Tarheel Country

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What You Need To Know

There’s little more satisfying than a scoop (or two) of chocolate ice cream—but which one should you buy? Since our former winner from Ben & Jerry’s is no longer being sold in supermarkets, and because in 2016 Nestlé reformulated two of the ice creams included in that tasting—Edy’s Chocolate Ice Cream and Edy’s Slow Churned Chocolate, we decided it was time to retest. To find the best chocolate ice cream, we gathered seven nationally available products and asked 21 tasters to sample them plain and in mini ice cream cones.

As we were tabulating our results, it became clear that texture was as important as flavor to our tasting panel, so we reached out to industry experts to better understand what influences an ice cream’s texture. The first factor we looked at was air, which is churned into ice cream to increase volume (the churning itself helps reduce ice crystals—and the manufacturer’s bottom line).

The amount of air added is called “overrun,” and it’s expressed as a percentage: 100 percent overrun means there are equal volumes of liquid/solid ingredients and air (or, to put it another way, that the original ingredients are “inflated” with air to double their original volume). Federal regulations don’t address overrun percentages for products to be labeled ice creams, but they do stipulate that 1 gallon of ice cream must weigh 4½ pounds. With everything else being equal, high overrun translates into light, airy, mass market–style ice cream, and low overrun makes dense, premium-style ice cream. But clearly everything else is not equal, as our winner had the second-highest overrun in our lineup, at 103 percent, yet was perceived as “creamy” and “silky” in texture. What’s going on inside ice cream factories?

It turns out that manufacturers employ certain methods to offset the fluffy, light texture that is naturally the result of high overrun. Our winning ice cream, for example, uses corn syrup (instead of sugar) as its primary sweetener. Corn syrup, our experts explained, is thicker and less sweet than sugar; its viscosity contributes a smooth, creamy texture and great body, all without making the ice cream taste too sweet. Our winner wasn’t as dense as low-overrun premium ice cream, but it had a great “velvety” texture that wasn’t overly airy. Another high-overrun ice cream uses buttermilk, tapioca starch, and pectin to help mask the airiness of its whopping 112-percent overrun. Dr. H. Douglas Goff, a professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, explained, “These ingredients would all add viscosity and body to the ice cream, also referred to as ‘mouthfeel’ or ‘chew resistance.’ They...

Everything We Tested

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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