Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Which Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Is the Best?

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In our Taste Test series, BA editors conduct blind comparisons to discover the best supermarket staples (like Greek yogurt or canned tuna). Today, which cookies and cream ice cream should you snag from the freezer section?

Can you imagine anything better than a double-scoop of cookies and cream ice cream on a summer day when you’ve called in “sick” to work in order to escape to the beach? I can’t, and I spend all day thinking about food (even when I’m playing hooky). I’m not the only one. In 2019, cookies and cream was the most-searched ice cream in 14 states. This popularity is starting to supplant other classic flavors. According to reporting in the New York Times, volume sales of vanilla ice cream sank more than six percent from 2018 to 2022, while volume sales of cookies and cream rose 72.6 percent in that same period.

The origins of Cookies and Cream—or Cookies ‘n’ Cream, if you’re, I don’t know, in a rush—are murky. Malcolm Stogo, an ice cream consultant, claims to have invented the flavor in 1976. Shirley Seas, the dairy plant manager at South Dakota State University also claims to have pioneered the flavor. Ice cream companies Edy’s and Blue Bell all make similar claims, but in light of its simple formula, it seems likely that this was a case of parallel thought.

Like many of the best food items, cookies and cream ice cream has a deceptively simple recipe: vanilla ice cream and crushed-up chocolate sandwich cookies. But there are heaps of variables in those two ingredients. To our staff here at Bon Appétit, the best cookies and cream ice cream has an indulgent creamy texture, without too much air whipped in (more on this below), a heady vanilla backdrop, and, perhaps most importantly, hefty hunks of chocolate sandwich cookies.

We put 10 brands of cookies and cream ice cream to the test to find the very best.

How we picked the products

First, we generated a list of popular ice cream brands reliably found in grocery stores. Next, we took a look at other cookies and cream ice cream taste tests to see which brands are generally included—and which have been left out. We wanted to taste a range of ice creams that are widely available and, importantly, fall squarely into the category of cookies and cream. That means leaving out gelato, dairy-free versions, and some regional favorites (like Friendly’s, for example). We also omitted Ben & Jerry’s take on cookies and cream, since it’s only available in their scoop shops (in stores you can find “Milk and Cookies,” a version with chocolate and chocolate chip cookies). Lastly, we double-checked our shortlist by asking the whole Bon Appétit and Epicurious staff for recommendations, which led us to some lesser known brands with a feverish following, like Graeter’s.

How we set up our blind taste test

We portioned each ice cream brand into unmarked paper cups, so tasters couldn’t see the labels or even the shapes of the containers (everyone knows Häagen-Dazs comes in a cylindrical pint). We then stored those cups in the freezer and took them out just before tasting to minimize unintended melting.

How our editors evaluated

Compared to vanilla or chocolate, there’s a lot to consider with cookies and cream ice cream. Our tasters were looking for:

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