Published January 1, 2005. From Cook's Illustrated.
The producer promises exactly the same results as the original—does it deliver?
The J. M. Smucker Company, manufacturer of Crisco, released its new product, Zero Grams Trans Fat Crisco, in spring 2004, promising that it would produce exactly the same results as the original Crisco when used in any recipe. To make the original product, Smucker puts soybean and cottonseed oils through a process of partial hydrogenation. The partially hydrogenated fat that's created in the process is, as you say, the source of the unhealthy trans fat in Crisco. The new product is made from nonhydrogenated sunflower and soybean oils and from cottonseed oil that has been through a process of complete hydrogenation. When an oil is completely, or fully, hydrogenated, it becomes a saturated fat-considered better for you than trans fat but not as healthy as unsaturated fat, which is found in many unadulterated vegetable oils.
To see how this new product performs, we prepared our pie crust, biscuit, and fried chicken recipes with both the original and the new Crisco. The pie crusts and biscuits made with each type of Crisco browned equally well, as did both batches of fried chicken. In fact, we couldn't tell the difference between the chicken fried in the original and new Crisco. The chicken tasted the same, and the skin was equally crisp.
In the case of the pie crust and biscuits, we could not discern a different taste, but there was a slight difference in texture. The pie crust made with the original product was a bit more tender, while the crust made with the new product was a bit more stiff and crackerlike. Likewise, the biscuits made with the original Crisco were slightly more tender and also a little more fluffy than their Zero Grams Trans Fat counterparts. Because the overall differences were so slight, we would not hesitate to try the new Crisco in any recipe that calls for vegetable shortening.