Greek yogurt is a fantastic ingredient to have in the kitchen. The thick and creamy yogurt is made like many other yogurts and starts with milk and active yogurt cultures, but before packaging the yogurt is thoroughly strained to remove excess whey from the yogurt and give it its rich consistency. Nonfat Greek yogurt is the most widely available variety. The tangy plain yogurt is a healthy addition to all kinds of foods, from dips for appetizers to cheesecakes for dessert. Nonfat Greek yogurt is a staple in my kitchen (I usually buy the Fage brand) but there are many more brands to choose from than there were just a couple of years ago. Cook’s Illustrated set out to give plain, nonfat Greek yogurts a taste test to see which of these yogurts stood out from the rest in a recent issue (May/June 2011).
The test kitchen discovered that most Greek Yogurts were made using the traditional method of straining the yogurt to remove excess whey. This is a fairly time consuming process, and they noticed that at least one brand in their taste test used pectin or gelatin to thicken up their yogurt instead of relying on straining alone. The two brands that included these extra ingredients – made by Yoplait and The Greek Gods – were at the very bottom of the taste test with textures that just couldn’t compare to the real thing. The rest of the yogurts in the taste test fared fairly well, with flavor preferences varying very slightly from tester to tester. The top ranked yogurt was Olympus Traditional Greek Nonfat Yogurt, which was praised for being “smooth, fatty,” and “seriously creamy” with a “pleasantly tangy” flavor and was well-liked by all of the taste testers. Other highly ranked brands were Voskos, Brown Cow, Dannon, Oikos and Fage.
The test kitchen tasted the yogurts plain, but also tried them in dips and baked in their Lower Fat New York Cheesecake, as these are other very popular culinary uses for the yogurt. In their dip testing, they found that the results were very similar to those of the original taste test, as you could still get the full richness (or lack thereof) of the yogurt even with seasonings added. In the baking test, the test kitchen found that brand didn’t really matter much and even the lowest ranked yogurts still turned out a great finished product once the cheesecake was out of the oven.
For the full results of the taste test, check out the full text of the Greek Yogurt review at Cook’s Illustrated (available until the end of the month). The test kitchen also tried low fat Greek Yogurts (Fage was the top contender in this category) and full fat Greek Yogurts (Olympus took the top spot).