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Does the brand of berry matter and what makes one brand different from another?
Published June 1, 2009. Appears in Cook's Country June/July 2009
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What You Need To Know
Some of our recipes call for frozen strawberries, but does the brand of berry matter? We thawed and sampled three national brands, both plain and cooked in pie. Tasted plain, each brand had a surprisingly different flavor (one even tasted “pickled”), while textures ranged from mushy to firm and sizes from small to exceptionally large. The flavor variations were less pronounced but didn’t disappear when the berries were used in pie.
What made them different? All three brands were Individually Quick Frozen (a system of rapidly freezing individual items to retain flavor, shape, and nutritional value), and none added sugar. While IQF increases the shelf life of the fruit, freezing can also damage it. As the berry thaws, sulfide ions are released, increasing the possibility of off-flavors. Two brands had these off-flavors, which tasters noticed in both raw and cooked berries. To be certain that this wasn’t the result of supermarket handling or other outside factors, we tested multiple bags over time; our results were the same. Tasters preferred the only brand with no off-flavors. They were also the plumpest, juiciest berries, with good strawberry flavor and “balanced sweetness.”
Everything We Tested
Tasted on their own, these strawberries had the “strongest berry flavor, deepest red color, and plumpest texture.” They had the right balance of tartness and the “sweetness didn’t override the berry taste.” The berries were the largest and firmest of the three brands we tasted. And the pie made with this brand had the truest, brightest strawberry flavor.
Tasters described these berries as “woody” and “moldy,” with a “bitter, grassy aftertaste.” Their tartness overpowered any strawberry flavor, and the puckery, acidic punch left tasters wishing for a spoonful of sugar. Even in the pie, these berries were too tart, and some found their flavor plasticky.
Tasters disliked this brand’s “metallic,” “tinny,” and even “pickled” taste and found these berries the tartest of the bunch. The sugar muted most of the sour flavors when we baked the berries in the pie.
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