Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Comparison Part Deux

My first, and thus far only, product comparison cum taste test was for peanut butter, which I did, like, a hundred years ago. That analysis resulted in Skippy Natural easily beating all of the other sweetened peanut butters. Since then, Jif has also launched a natural version of their peanut butter, but after trying it, my previous conclusion stands: Skippy Natural is the best sweetened PB available on the market.

In retrospect, I regret not having included natural peanut butters. My rationale was that, since sweetened versions make up the vast majority of sales, an analysis that focused on them would be more useful to buyers. Since then, though, I have given natural versions a fair shake, and let me tell you... once I tasted the rich, delicious, peanutty goodness of natural butters, I will never, ever, EVER go back.

Obviously, that makes the winner of this comparison a forgone conclusion; Skippy is most certainly not taking home any prizes. But does that mean that all natural butters are better than Skippy? Read on!

Yes. Yes, it does. You must admit, I can never be accused of circumlocution. Skippy is inferior to essentially every brand of natural peanut butter on the market. But within the natural brands, there is a great deal of difference.

I tried to find multiple natural, unsweetened peanut butters, but the market is pretty thin.1 For example, aside from Skippy Natural, Wal-Mart carries Smucker's and nothing else.2 Target, with a higher SES target demographic, carries a wider selection, but the majority of their offerings are still sweetened and buffered with some sort of oil. Real, natural peanut butter is, for some reason, just above a niche market. This is sad, because I think that if more people allowed it to become part of their diet, they would wonder how they ever did without.

And speaking of without, further ado. On to the ratings.

Smucker's Natural: 95
Delicious in every way I could expect a peanut butter to be. It's rich, with little bite, and fabulously mellow roll-off into a rich, roasty aftertaste. It tastes the best, but, strangely, I don't usually buy it. Why? Wouldn't you like to know!

Teddy: 88
Teddy has a more acidic bite in the primary taste. It's not as mellow as Smucker's and the roll-off isn't as smooth. It does have a subtle sweetness that Smucker's does not, which is pleasant. Ironically, I buy this more often than Smucker's. Why would I do something so silly? A cool trick to prevent a requisite mix of the peanut butter with every serving is to stick it in the refrigerator, which stops the oils from separating. This also increases the viscosity of the butter, which is helpful with natural PB as when it is warm it has a tendency to ooze out of sandwiches.

Teddy remains soft and spreadable when it is cold. Smucker's, oddly, acquires the consistency of cement after a couple of days in the fridge. This is only fixed with a warming period and a little re-mix. I find this annoying enough to avoid Smucker's and buy Teddy. Smucker's Chunky is not afflicted with this problem, but sometimes I just want creamy, dammit.

Woodstock Farms: 87
This small organic brand lacks the nutty texture of Smucker's and Teddy and is much more comparable to traditional butters like Jif and Skippy. It is very smooth and thus blankets the palate more, but this actually had the counter-intuitive effect of attenuating the flavor. It has a distinct sweetness to it and is brighter than Smucker's, but without the acidic bite of Teddy. Its smell is very weak compared to the rich, peanut flavor that explodes from a jar of Teddy or Smucker's. As far as flavor goes, I like this about as much as Teddy. But that nutty, somewhat crunchy texture of Teddy and Smucker's is far more appealing to me.

Smucker's Organic: 82
Almost like a cross between Teddy and Smucker's, it has a significantly weaker flavor than either. It has no bite, but it is also missing all of the mellow roast of Smucker's Natural. Quite a disappointment. While that bite from Teddy is unpleasant, it has a richer peanut flavor, making it better. Smuck-Org, as I shall now call it, also suffers from the same problem as Smuck-Nat in that it turns into carbonite when chilled. Letting it warm, re-mixing, then cooling alleviates the problem for a day or two, then it becomes carbonite again.

Skippy Natural: 60
Once having the rich, smooth sweetness of natural peanut butters, Skippy is positively cloying and simple. The taste is hollow and has an almost metallic tinge to it. Because of the addition of palm oil as a stabilizer, the butter has an oily yet tasteless quality to it. Real peanut butter is oily, but the peanut oil tastes like peanuts. I could never go back to this peanut butter. If your kids absolutely can't do without sugar in their PB, this is certainly the best variety to buy. But trust me, keep some deliciously-delicious natural PB for yourself.


1: There is a wider variety of peanut butters available online, including variants from Smucker's such as Adams and Laura Scudder's, and smaller companies like Krema. The problem is that most of the time, you cannot purchase a single jar online. You can only buy a pack of three or more. If you do not like the peanut butter, you must either grin and bear it, give it away to friends, or throw the peanut butter away.

2: I didn't include any almond butter, pecan butter, or peanut butter that has been blended with something, since that isn't peanut butter.

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