Zero Trans Fat Vegetable Shortening

Published January 2005

How we tested

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.

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The Results


Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*