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Rolled Oats

Published February 2017

How we tested

We prefer rolled oats for baked goods, since their thin, flat shape gives cookies, bars, and toppings just the right amount of chew. In addition, they make good oatmeal relatively quickly. To find the best rolled oats, we rounded up five contenders and sampled each product as oatmeal (prepared according to package instructions) and in our recipe for Chewy Oatmeal Cookies (where we weighed the oats to ensure consistency).

In the oatmeal test, three products were nutty and hearty, but two were borderline unpalatable: one was too clumpy and dry, and the other was a gluey mass of goop. Worse, some tasters noticed a metallic, chemical taste in the gluey oats. Products that were mushy or parched in oatmeal made cookies that were a tad dense or dry. We were perplexed, too, by the appearance of cookies made with one “extra-thick” product; they spread into flat disks with crispy edges.

To find out why, we took a closer look at the oats. There wasn’t a noticeable difference when we examined the raw extra-thick oats next to standard rolled oats, but when we painstakingly counted out 100 oats from each product and weighed them on a lab-grade scale, it turned out that the extra-thick oats had about 1,114 oats per ounce, while our preferred products had an average of about 1,200 oats per ounce. That may not seem like a huge difference, but when you consider that there are 9 ounces of oats in our standard cookie recipe, that adds up to more than 700 fewer oats to soak up liquid and provide structure—it’s no wonder that cookies made with the extra-thick oats spread so thin.

Our new winner, Bob’s Red Mill Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, makes perfectly formed cookies and hearty, creamy oatmeal in about 10 minutes. 

Methodology

Twenty-one America’s Test Kitchen staffers tasted five samples of rolled oats in two blind tastings—as oatmeal (cooked according to each package’s directions) and in our recipe for Classic Chewy Oatmeal Cookies. A team of editors also evaluated our top three products in Cowboy Cookies. We weighed 100 oats from each product and used the weight to calculate number of oats per ounce. Results from the tastings were averaged, and products appear in order of preference.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

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.)*
Recommended

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.)*