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Egg Noodles

By Cook's Illustrated Published October 2013

How we tested

Egg noodles are the starchy soul of many of our favorite comfort foods. For beef stroganoff, goulash, tuna noodle casserole, and chicken noodle soup, we use them to anchor gravy, transport sauce, and add bulk to soup. The noodles should taste lightly wheaty, like traditional pasta, but with a richer flavor that comes from eggs in the pasta dough.

The last time we evaluated egg noodles, we found so many “bland” and “gummy” examples that we could recommend just two products. To see if our options have improved, we surveyed supermarket shelves and selected seven products to taste. We chose those that were widely available, and if the company offered multiple shapes, we focused on noodles labeled “wide” or “broad,” as these are the most common type and what we typically call for in our recipes.

The egg noodle market has significantly improved, and we can recommend five of seven products. Of the other two, one was so-so; it contained only egg whites, no yolks, so it lacked flavor. The second was a frozen egg noodle that was very different from the others—short, straight, thick, and dumplinglike; tasters found it gummy.

Among the five products that we enjoyed, one stood out for being “­buttery,” “al dente” noodles in just the right shape. Since tasters liked their rich flavor, we compared the fat ­content among products. It ranged from 1 gram to 3 grams per 2-ounce serving, and sure enough, our winning product had the most. Egg noodles have two primary ingredients: flour and eggs. So most of the fat is derived from the eggs, specifically the yolks. We inferred that with 3 grams of fat per serving, our winning noodles had the highest ratio of egg yolks, which imparted the winning rich flavor.

Rich, eggy flavor was a huge plus, but our winning noodles also stood out for their firm, chewy bite. The primary ingredient in every product was wheat flour, but three different kinds were used: standard wheat flour, durum flour, and semolina. The product with standard wheat flour was soft and gummy. The other two flours are both made from ground durum wheat, a high-protein variety that’s often used in pasta because it develops more gluten, which helps noodles maintain their springy texture during cooking. The durum flour is finely ground, while semolina is coarser, and this difference was the key to our winner’s resilient texture: The finer grains of durum flour break down more easily when cooked, so noodles turn mushy faster. Products at the top of our lineup use semolina.

One final factor explained our preferences: noodle shape, which ranged from broad pappardelle-like planks to short, narrow corkscrews; manufacturers interpreted the word “wide” in a variety of ways, as the industry does not have size standards. The optimal shape was somewhere in between. Tasters didn’t like chasing thin noodles around their plates, and long flat noodles were unwieldy in soup, where they wiggled off our spoons, flicking broth in our faces. The most versatile shape was a wide corkscrew that was easy to spear with a fork yet short enough to be scooped up with a spoon. Four products offered this shape, including our winner.

We’re glad to see that the egg noodle market has improved and are even happier that one brand was so good. We found these noodles rich and eggy, with the perfect tender chew and a versatile shape that works equally well as pasta and in soup. Our winner beat a strong lineup to take the top spot. We’ll be sure to choose them when available, but if they aren’t sold at our supermarket, we’re confident that we can find an alternative that’s almost as good.

Methodology

Twenty-one tasters evaluated each product twice, first cooked plain in lightly salted water and then tossed with a neutral-flavored oil to prevent sticking, and next in chicken noodle soup. We tabulated the results and were happily surprised: The egg noodle market has significantly improved, and we can recommend five of seven products.

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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.)*