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Magazines and Chicken Broth
May 24th, 2005

I've been on a bit of a magazine buying kick lately. I've picked up the most recent issues of Cook's Illustrated, Cooking Light, Food & Wine, Saveur, Eating Well, and Fine Cooking. I had a subscription to Food & Wine a few years back, but got bored of it after a while and now I'm looking around to see what's out there. Saveur and Cook's Illustrated I enjoy for their articles while Eating Well and Fine Cooking have the most recipes that appeal to me. Cooking Light is just terrible, lot's of ads and fluff.

There was an article in the May/June issue of Cook's Illustrated that caught my eye. The authors arranged a tasting of supermarket chicken broths and ranked their choices. What captured my attention was the fact that the spendy organic free range broth that I use came out ranked dead last. I was taken aback and started thinking about why I use this brand. Had I ever actually tasted it in its natural state? Was I just getting suckered by the words 'organic' and 'free range'?

The winner of the Cook's Illustrated tasteoff was Swanson Certified Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. The runner up was Better Than Bouillon, and Swanson's captured third place as well with their 'Natural Goodness' Chicken Broth. I already have some of the Better Than Bouillon which is a concentrated paste that you can use in place of bouillon cubes. It's not bad, but it mainly tastes like salt. So when I was shopping last week I picked up one of each of the Swanson's. The organic kind costs about $.60 more per carton (they're both packaged in the resealable paper containers called 'aseptic packaging'). The Natural Goodness brand has an offputting smell right out of the box, but I have to admit it tastes pretty good. The Organic kind isn't as strong tasting, it mostly tastes like salt.

The tester's notes for my (formerly) favorite brand, Pacific Organic, included "Watery", "chemical", "dirty", and "like an entire vegetable drawer gone bad." I don't think it's that bad, but I probably will change the brand I use. And I'll think a bit more about what informs my buying decisions.

The rest of the list:
Recommended (1 - 3 listed above)
4. Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken broth
Recommended with Reservations
5. College Inn Light & Fat Free
6. Orrington Farms Chicken Flavored Soup Base and Food Seasoning (bouillon cubes)
Not Recommeded
7. Trader Joe's Free Range Chicken Broth
8. Kitchen Basics Natural Chicken Stock
9. Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth

There were a few more they deemed so bad they didn't even make the not recommended list - mostly stuff in a can like Health Valley and Campbell's, but a couple more cartons of organic broth hit this list as well, Nature's Promise, and Shariann's.

The author's explain the fact that larger manufacturers were beating the smaller companies in terms of taste by citing the vigilant quality control necessary to keep the broth from oxidizing. Apparently even a few hours of exposure to the air will cause the fats in the broth to oxidize and the broth to taste slightly rancid. They posit that the smaller companies just don't have the resources to deal with this problem which is why, in their words, "the worst offenders in terms of rancidity were products made by smaller companies."

That's a bummer for those of us who would prefer to buy from smaller companies than giants like Swanson.


Comments

The idea of tasting chicken broth repels me? Did you heat it up at least? Dip crackers? yech...

Kymm, on the recipe archive page can you post links to some of the food blogs you like? I don't cook at all now, but reading your stuff has given me a taste for food-writing, and when I cruise over here and you haven't written anything new, I'll have to settle for a cook-by-proxy with someone else.

-posted by Hetal on May 30th, 2005
Thanks for the summary, turns out we have a Swansons (non-organic) broth lying around. Will probably pick up another.

-posted by asdfgh on Jul 11th, 2006
© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com