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- Epic roundup of store-bought mac 'n' cheese
- Taste-Off: The best frozen mac and cheese -- and the Worst Ever
- Macaroni and Cheese
In the lower-fat category, all boxes called for 2 tablespoons of butter or less, with little to no milk added. We excluded any of the ready-to-eat, single-serving, microwaveable products, such as Stouffer's and Chef Boyardee.
We judged based on a few parameters. First off, we wanted pasta that tasted like real grown-up pasta.
That means decently textured with a firm but not chewy or tough bite. Mushy pasta was downgraded. Cheese sauce should taste like real cheese and butter—fake movie-theater-style butter flavor was not appreciated.
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While we don't expect any real funk to the cheese in these bowls it is, after all, American-style cheese , we wanted a good balance of tanginess and salt. Too much or too little of either is not a good thing.
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Finally, despite the fact that almost all the cheese sauces came from a packet, we were looking for some semblance of sauciness, some vague reminiscence of real, from-scratch cheesiness. Not surprisingly, our favorite was the brand that most of us were already familiar with. While some of us have gradually shifted over to the more adult-looking Annie's brand, Kraft is still the cheesiest, tastiest, and butteriest.
Interestingly enough, the brands that had more fat and milk added to them did not necessarily score better than those with less butter and milk added. While the high fat versions had an average rating of 4. True, our absolute favorite was high fat and our least favorite was low fat, but second and third place both went to low-fat versions. The clear winner, it has "a nice thin layer of cheese" that still manages to pack "sharp cheddar-y taste.
While the sauce was not particularly flavorful "I want more cheese! What I remember it tasting like growing up. It had some really good pasta, though a lack of cheese flavor is what kept it from taking the 1 spot. Some complained of a slightly grainy texture. It lost most of its points for a mushier pasta than the Kraft it's trying to clone. Actually, sauce is too heavy. Max, for instance, claimed to have preferred it.
When given a blind taste test, however, the results were not as cut and dry. The most expensive of the bunch, and a divisive one, this is the only brand that comes with a ready-made cheese sauce that you simply squeeze out of a packet. It's also the only one to feature shell-shaped pasta in lieu of elbows.
Unfortunately, the pasta cooks up chewy and dense, slowly turning mushy as it cooks, rather than softening while simultaneously maintaining a slight bite as a good pasta should.
Some liked the thicker, gooier texture of the cheese sauce, while others found it to be too plastic-y and gummy. I'm ashamed, but It doesn't taste like the stuff you get at home, but more like the stuff you "get at day camp. The texture is too thick. Bland flavor.
Epic roundup of store-bought mac 'n' cheese
Not much redeeming to be said here. Universally panned for its grainy texture and "super fake" "cheez-y" flavor. One taster likened it to "very bad American cheese," while another simply said "No. Our Tasting Methodology: All taste tests are conducted completely blind and without discussion.
One tiny quibble: The blade of our inch slicing knife stuck out a little. Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy.
It survived abuse testing without a scratch.
Taste-Off: The best frozen mac and cheese -- and the Worst Ever
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Macaroni and Cheese
Log In. Macaroni and Cheese We tasted 25 boxed and frozen versions of mostly clumpy, gloppy, wimpy mac and cheese. Update, March Already a member? Enter your email address Email is required. How we use your email address. America's Test Kitchen will not sell, rent, or disclose your email address to third parties unless otherwise notified. Your email address is required to identify you for free access to content on the site. You will also receive free newsletters and notification of America's Test Kitchen specials.