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Tasting: Chocolate Chips

Not so long ago, most markets had one -- and only one -- brand of chocolate chips, Nestlé Toll House Morsels. Seventy-five years later, dozens of chips are available in numerous flavors (raspberry, peanut butter, butterscotch) and shapes (mini, regular, and chunks). Are any of these chips better than the original? We tasted nine popular brands of semisweet chips, plain and in a chocolate chip cookie, to find out.

Chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter than bar chocolate. The lower fat content means that chips don’t melt as readily, which is a good thing -- they hold their shape better. Among the brands tested, the fat content hovered in a narrow range of 27 to 30 percent, and we found that the fat percentage did not correlate with tasters’ preferences. Our tasters did pick up big differences in creaminess, awarding extra points to brands that were especially smooth melters. Smoothness is more a function of conching (the beating process used to turn unsweetened baking chocolate into eating chocolate) than cocoa butter content.

Chocolate chips contain more sugar than bar chocolate -- in some cases, too much, according to our tasters. In general, the sweetest chips landed at the bottom of the rankings. Overall, tasters said the most important factor separating decent chips from great chips was chocolate flavor. Our top-rated chips were praised for their "intense” chocolate flavor; tasters complained about the “unremarkable” chocolate flavor in several low-rated brands.

So what’s the chip of choice? According to our tasters, two relative newcomers. Guittard Classic Chips and Nestlé Toll House Chunks won points for their good chocolate flavor and moderate sweetness. The original Toll House morsels finished in a respectable third place. Brands are listed below in order preference.

Top Picks

Guittard Classic Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate Chips

$2.79 for 12-ounce bag

Tasters loved the “buttery,” “mellow chocolate flavor” and “lovely silky texture” of these chips, which were deemed “not too sweet, not too bitter.” Though widely available throughout most of the country, availability in the Northeast is limited. See www.guittard.com for mail-order sources.

Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks

$2.50 for 11.5-ounce bag

Though their unorthodox “rough-cut,” “square” shape divided tasters, the “good chocolate flavor” and “nice blend of chocolate and sweet” helped these chips share top honors.

 

Runners-Up

Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

$2.50 for 12-ounce bag

These familiar chips were praised for their “intense” chocolate flavor and “great creaminess,” though some found them “almost too sweet,” “like marshmallows.”

Guittard Super Cookie Chips

$2.79 for 10-ounce bag

Fans of these "big" chips praised the "good bitter/sweet balance" and "great chocolate flavor," though others found them "a little bland" and "more like milk chocolate."

Bakers's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks $2.85 for 12-ounce bag

"These aren't chips," complained one taster of these "solid" chunks that nonetheless won some fans with their "good balance" and "smooth" texture.

Hersheys's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips $2.29 for 12-ounce bag

These chips have a "rich, distinct flavor" that several detractors found "not very chocolaty" and "too sweet."

Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips $2.69 for 12-ounce bag

Many tasters liked the "rich flavor" of these chips, but some panned the "saccharine sweetness" that made them taste like a "caramel confection."

Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips $2.29 for 12-ounce bag

These new "dark" chips from Hershey's were criticized as "too sweet," with "unremarkable" chocolate flavor. A few tasters called them "pretty good."

Mrs. Field's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips $2.59 for 12-ounce bag

While some praised the "strong flavor" and "nice creaminess" of these chips, several tasters noted an odd "nutty" flavor. Most tasters deemed them "too sweet."

FACT: 17% of American children are overweight.

FACT: A single 12-ounce can of soda has as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

FACT: In the past 30 years, the occurrence of overweight in children has doubled and it is now estimated that one in five children in the US is overweight.

Our Favorite Links

Center for Informed Food Choices

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better Campaign

The Center for Science in the Public Interest

The Public Health Advocacy Institute

The Massachusetts Public Health Association

Government of the People

Harvard School of Public Health--Nutrition Source

Centers for Disease Control--Healthy Youth

Our Favorite Books

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy by Walter Willett

Food Politics by Marion Nestle

What to Eat by Marion Nestle

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Chew On This by Eric Schlosser

Appetite For Profit by Michele Simon

 

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