As the weather heats up, one food item seems to jump into everyone’s mind: ice cream. Everywhere from the truck that rolls down your block playing its familiar jingle to your favorite local ice cream parlor to the frozen food aisle at the grocery store offers the frozen treat, and for good reason. According to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), more than 1.5 billion gallons of ice cream and similar frozen foods were produced in the U.S. in 2011 alone!
When we think of ice cream, our first thought tends to go straight to the most old-fashioned and classic flavor: vanilla. According to the IDFA, vanilla is the most popular flavor, and even those who prefer chocolate are generally also fans of classic vanilla ice cream. Not only is the flavor good on its own, but it also holds up the best to just about any topping imaginable, and is also the base flavor for most of the chunky or swirled ice creams that are out there.
However, not all vanilla ice creams are created equal. In order to find out which ice cream is really on top, we went to our local supermarket and scooped up all the major brands we could find. We even dropped into Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and bought tubs of their house-brand ice cream as well.
Our panel of tasters tried each ice cream in a blind taste test and ranked them from 1 to 9 (with 1 being their favorite and 9 being their least favorite), taking detailed notes about the texture, density, vanilla flavor, smell, color, and overall enjoyment level. We also took into consideration products labeled gelato, because even though it might be considered a "super-premium" product due to its higher density, it’s still a form of ice cream. There were plenty of surprises in the bunch: color tended to not make much of a difference, nor did the presence of flecks of vanilla in the finished product. And the highest-end ice cream out there also proved to be a major disappointment.
Read on for the ultimate vanilla ice cream taste test, and next time you decide to drop by the supermarket for a tub, your decision might just be a little more well-informed.