Prepared Foods

41 Kitchen-Tested Ingredients

Firm Tofu
Firm Tofu
Check the nutrition label for a clue about your tofu’s texture.
Crushed Tomatoes
Crushed Tomatoes
Sometimes smooth like puree and sometimes chock-full of chunks, crushed tomatoes can be the most unpredictable product in the canned tomato aisle.
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Soy Sauce
Soy Sauce
Savory, fragrant, umami-rich soy sauce is a staple in American kitchens. But choose the wrong product and all you get is a salt bomb.
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Prepared Pesto
Prepared Pesto
We scooped up seven traditional basil pestos (also called pesto Genovese), priced from $2.99 to $11.49 per container. We sampled each pesto plain and tossed wit…
Dijon Mustard
Dijon Mustard
What traits guarantee a Dijon mustard that packs a wallop of clean heat and balanced acidity? Youth and, surprisingly, a little fat.
Apricot Preserves
Apricot Preserves
We tasted five top-selling products plain and in our Cook's Illustrated French Apple Tart.
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Processed Artichoke Hearts
Processed Artichoke Hearts
With so many options on the market, selecting a brand of processed artichoke hearts is often a stab in the dark.
Supermarket Frozen Yogurt
Supermarket Frozen Yogurt
These days, supermarket frozen yogurts are flying off the shelves. Is that because they’re healthful and taste good—or because they simply sound that way?
Blue Cheese Dressing
Blue Cheese Dressing
Was it too much to ask for a blue cheese dressing that was thick, creamy, and actually tasted like blue cheese?
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Frozen Straight-Cut French Fries
Frozen Straight-Cut French Fries
Homemade fries are not usually an option for weeknight cooking—but was there a frozen brand good enough to earn a place in our freezer?
Supermarket Hummus
Supermarket Hummus
This creamy chickpea spread has gone from health food obscurity to the No. 1 refrigerated dip. But some brands definitely aren't worth a swipe.
Ice Cream Cones
Ice Cream Cones
We tasted five supermarket sugar cones and waffle cones (after much debate, we decided to save cup-style “cake” cones for another day), both plain and filled wi…
Supermarket Tortellini
Supermarket Tortellini
Is store-bought tortellini any good?
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Supermarket Cheese Ravioli
Supermarket Cheese Ravioli
Store-bought cheese ravioli offer convenience, but would any pass muster?
Graham Crackers
Graham Crackers
We tasted three top-selling national brands to see which came out on top.
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Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese
We tasted 25 boxed and frozen versions of mostly clumpy, gloppy, wimpy mac and cheese. Were there any we’d actually eat?
Pancake Mixes
Pancake Mixes
What’s the secret to the best from-the-box pancakes? Here’s a hint: They don’t mix with water.
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Reduced-Fat Potato Chips
Reduced-Fat Potato Chips
With reduced-fat chips crowding the snack aisle, we wondered if an acceptable stand-in for fried potato chips existed. We purchased eight national brands and ca…
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English Muffins
English Muffins
Are there real differences among the four major national brands of English muffins? To find out, we got busy toasting.
Boxed Brownie Mixes
Boxed Brownie Mixes
Do any come close to homemade?
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Jarred Hot Salsas
Jarred Hot Salsas
Are hot salsas better than mild?
Mail-Order Brownies
Mail-Order Brownies
Got a chocolate craving? Discover the top mail-order brownies.
Mail-Order Truffles
Mail-Order Truffles
If you pay a premium price, you should expect a premium product.
Applesauce
Applesauce
Our runaway favorite contains a surprising ingredient.
Refrigerator Biscuits
Refrigerator Biscuits
Pillsbury has cornered the market on refrigerator biscuits, but how do you choose among their several dozen varieties?
Frozen Waffles
Frozen Waffles
One brand beat out seven other contestants.
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Packaged Stuffing
Packaged Stuffing
Supermarket stuffing is incredibly easy to use—but how much quality must you sacrifice for the convenience?
Ready-to-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ready-to-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies
To determine if we could cheat and buy ready-to-bake cookie dough, we baked up cookies from homemade dough, cookie dough sold in the traditional log shape, and …
Supermarket Veggie Burgers
All the brands we tasted won high marks for convenience, but what about taste?
100% Whole-Wheat Bread
100% Whole-Wheat Bread
The labels on whole-wheat bread can be perplexing. We set out to clear up the confusion and find the best sandwich bread made with 100 percent whole-wheat flou…
Supermarket Sauerkraut
Supermarket Sauerkraut
To find out which kraut is king, we tried six nationally available supermarket sauerkrauts plain, with hot dogs, and in pierogi.
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Mild Jarred Red Salsa
Mild Jarred Red Salsa
Piquant jarred salsas can add a little spice to any occasion. But what do mild salsas have to offer?
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Hamburger Buns
Hamburger Buns
Which burger bun is the best?
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Fish Sauce
Fish Sauce
We gathered five products from grocery stores and Asian markets and sampled them over white rice, mixed into a simple Thai dipping sauce, and in our recipe for…
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Tortilla Chips
Tortilla Chips
Can you judge a chip by its color?
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Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Until recently, you’d be lucky to find one brand of shredded coconut in the supermarket, but now there are lots of options—does it matter which one you choose?