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Are Expensive Chocolate Chips Worth the Price Tag?

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We did a taste test to find out, and the answer might surprise you...

World Peace Cookies

Though they are rarely included in pantry essentials lists, I believe that one should have chocolate chips on hand at all times. What if your friend goes through a break-up and needs the soothing salve of a giant, melty cookie? What if you realize that those biscotti would look one thousand times better dipped in chocolate? What if you are exhausted and wrung out and need something to eat by the handful at 1 A.M.? One must be prepared.

And while chocolate chips are definitely not in the "major splurge" category, they can make a dent in your budget if you go through them as quickly as some people (cough, me). So when I find myself standing in front of the chocolate chip options in the grocery store, I am torn: To spend, or not to spend? Store brand chips, or fancy pants chips?

Typically, I'll make my decision based on whether or not I have overspent on coffee for the day. But today, we're putting chocolate chips to the test: Is it worth it to splurge on fancier brands, or will the budget brand do just as well? The answer might surprise you...

For the sake of simplicity, I only tested two brands of chocolate chips: a budget store brand (priced $1.47), and a fancy name brand (priced $3.49).  In order to cover the scope of chocolate chip uses, I asked testers to select which chocolate chip they preferred as-is and which they preferred when baked into a cookie (I used this recipe from Phyllis Grant).

For my venue, I selected my friend's E.P. release—and it was all too easy to find testers to participate in the experiment. They took their task seriously. Most sniffed the chocolate chips before eating, like they were about to drink a fine wine. They chewed thoughtfully before giving their opinions. Here are the results: 

Trail Mix

1. The Chocolate Chip Test

For scientific accuracy, I put chocolate chips in identical plastic containers labeled "A" and "B," and then asked ten testers which one they preferred. It wasn't even close: nine liked the pricier chocolate chips, while only one preferred the store brand.

Those that liked the fancier chips noted that they had "a nicer texture" and a "more balanced flavor." The storebrand chips were criticized for being "too waxy" and "overly sweet." Onto the next test.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2. The Cookie Test

When I asked for volunteers to test the two different type of cookies, I explained that there was one difference between them—but I didn't divulge what that difference was. There were many guesses, some spectacularly off: "Does one have cinnamon?" "This one has more salt. Definitely salt." 

The testers may not have pinned down what was different about the two cookies, but they definitely pinned down which cookie they liked better: the one made with store brand chocolate chips. Out of ten testers, only one preferred the cookie made with the fancier chocolate. Those who liked the cookies made with store brand chips said that they were "sweeter," "had a better texture," and were "more like the cookies I had growing up."

We may never know the complex science behind why the testers preferred the cheaper chips in their cookies, but I can hazard an educated guess: the critiques of the storebrand chocolate chips in the previous category—their waxy texture and sweetness—were the very points that made them work so well in a chocolate chip cookie. They had less integrity on their own, but blended well into the cookie; in short, they are more of a team player.

I did make one definite conclusion from the experiment: The next time I'm making chocolate chip cookies, I'm going with the budget brand. 

Do you have a diehard preference for chocolate chip brands? Or are you a fan of chocolate shavings, chunks, or discs in your cookies? Tell us in the comments!

Tags: Chocolate, Bake, 5 Ingredients or Fewer, On the Cheap, Worth It?, My Broke Kitchen