There's nothing difficult exactly about stirring up a batch of melty, homemade chocolate chip cookies. But then again, there are some days when even a pack of break-and-bake dough involves more steps than we're willing to complete, which is when we set our sights to a very specific grocery aisle—you know, the one inhabited by tree-dwelling bakery elves.
Granted, packaged cookies will never hold a candle to Mom's not-so-secret Toll House recipe, but nevertheless, we grabbed 10 brands of grocery store chocolate chip cookies (along with a gallon of milk) to see which one is the most worthy of your office snack drawer.
We split our tasting between seven crunchy cookies, as well as three chewy varieties, giving each one a rating based on taste, texture and appearance before stamping it with an overall score. You shouldn't expect packaged cookies to be anything but sugary, so for us, having nice pockets of chocolate to break up all the high-fructose corn syrup was an important qualifier. A good cookie should also have a decent backbone of vanilla and brown sugar. We then averaged the scores to see which cookie is the one most suitable for serving Santa come Christmas Eve.
Our Top Picks: Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
In a sea of pale, washed-out cookies, the dark-brown tan of Tate's gave us high hopes even before we started chomping down. The dough itself has golden notes of brown butter and caramelized toffee, with chocolate chips that, well, actually taste like chocolate. This cookie is the kid you loved to hate in high school: so perfect in every way no one else even stood a chance.
Pepperidge Farm might have come a distant second, but in the off chance you can't get your hands on Tate's, these cookies' butterscotch notes and nuggets of dark chocolate still put them well ahead of any other concession stand snacks you might find. Some found the sweetness a bit overwhelming, but then again, some also forgot there's a reason we drink milk with our cookies.
An eerily pale complexion lost the Keebler elves points on their baked goods' appearance, but that doesn't necessarily make for a bad cookie. Though none of us felt passionately for or against these crunchy cookies, if a plateful were being passed around at back-to-school night, we'd gladly grab a handful.
One taster thought these tasted exactly like Cookie Crisp cereal, which is as good an excuse as any to just dump the bite-size morsels into a bowl with some milk before grabbing a spoon. Save for a slightly chalky texture, no one was able to guess that these were gluten free.
"These are the prettiest of the bunch," one editor gushed as she picked up one of the extra-golden specimens. Thin, crisp and snappy—the only thing holding Chips Ahoy! back was a strong artificial aftertaste, which, let's face it, is kind of an integral part of the packaged cookie experience. (And as iconic as Chips Ahoy! is, no one was able to correctly pick it out from the bunch.)
Though these cookies are free of ingredients we can't pronounce (the ingredient list includes butter, sugar, flour, eggs and your other standard baking ingredients), oddly enough, we preferred the original preservative-filled versions more. The extra sugariness of the cookie can be pleasantly tamed by an extended milk dunk, but we had issues with how crumbly these were (we're talking Nature Valley granola bar crumbly).
Thick, bite-size coins with an extra crunch, these organic cookies oddly had the unmistakable processed sweetness of boxed cake mix, which either turned tasters off or made them love them even more. Whole wheat flour helped differentiate these cookies with a nutty flavor.
Our Top Pick: Chewy Cookies
"These are a 10," one taster proclaimed upon first bite. (Let it be clear: Our scoring scale topped out at five, so either these cookies were that good, or we need to go over our scoring system more clearly.) Numbers aside, it's hard to fault these near-perfect cookies everyone was convinced were from Entenmann's, thanks to their dense, doughy chew; buttery vanilla flavor; and pockets of dark chocolate.
Big chunks of chocolate were a welcome pro in these larger cookies, while a sticky, solid texture meant you needed only one to be satisfied—a rare feat in the world of packaged cookies. We just wished the boulders of milk chocolate were swapped out with dark chocolate for a more balanced experience.
Chances are these Play-Doh-like cookies were the lifeblood of your middle school years, and for that, they hold a permanent place in our hearts. They're unashamedly cloying, with a processed taste that will forever bring us back to four square tournaments and tetherball games on the playground.
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