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Ready-to-Bake Biscuits

Published January 2019

How we tested

Centuries ago, biscuits closely resembled crackers, which made them easy for travelers, sailors, and soldiers to pack and transport. Modern-day biscuits are fluffier and softer, thanks to leaveners and more fat, but people still care about convenience, as evidenced by the popularity of packaged ready-to-bake biscuits.

Our winning premade refrigerated biscuits were discontinued, so it was time to retest. We tasted four widely available biscuits, and this time we included one product that came frozen in addition to three that were refrigerated.

Biscuits can be broadly categorized as either laminated (created using a process in which buttery pastry dough is folded repeatedly to create defined, flaky layers) or tender (softer and more uniform in consistency). Our lineup included three laminated biscuits and one tender-style offering. The latter was bread-like throughout, with no noticeable distinction between interior and exterior, and tasters lamented the lack of flakiness. Another biscuit was also downgraded because, though it had layers, they weren’t well-defined and were chewy, not flaky. We preferred laminated-style biscuits that had great textural contrast, with distinct layers that “pulled apart easily.”

Tasters noted flavor differences, too. Our winner had a “neutral butter” flavor, while our runner-up tasted “almost fruity.” Both had the same ingredients and nutritional information, so the differences likely were due to each one’s natural flavor—lab-created chemical formulations made from natural ingredients such as plants. Tasters also generally preferred biscuits with more sugar and sodium.

Our winner, Immaculate Baking Organic Flaky Biscuits ($3.99 for 16 ounces), had the “best flavor of the bunch.” Though we still think homemade biscuits are worth the effort, these are an excellent alternative if you’re pressed for time.

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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.)*