Comparing chicken noodle soup required navigating shelves of soups in cans, boxes, pouches and cubes.
In the end, Taster's Choice panelists chose to sip spoonfuls of canned chicken noodle soups. Some of the nine cans we tried were condensed and others were ready to heat right from the can without any added liquid. Most of the soups were in 10.5-ounce and 15.3-ounce cans.
Even though it's easy to whip up a batch of chicken noodle soup, it's even easier to pop open a can and heat a pan on the stove.
And, it's much cheaper too.
Three of our four judges said they liked the Albertsons store brand of condensed, chicken noodle soup (99 cents) because it tasted familiar — like the kind they ate as children while taking a sick day off from school.
"This is the classic chicken noodle soup," said one judge. "It's the soup I've had since I was a kid — it's soothing to the tummy."
All judges said they would have added more noodles and perhaps even more chicken if they made the soup today. The store brand can of soup received 70 out of 100 points from panelists and three said they would buy it.
The other panelist said it was too bland.
They had similar things to say about the can of soup from Great Value (50 cents from Wal-Mart). They gave it 50 points and said they liked the broth of the soup, describing it as thicker than the others. Two of the four complained about the soup's skinny noodles and lack of vegetables. But those were the reasons the other two said they would buy the soup.
"My kids would definitely eat this," said one who liked the tiny noodles and fewer veggies.
The condensed soup from Hannaford (67 cents from Sweetbay) was the other can they liked. Again, two of the four judges would buy the brand, which got 44 points.
The Sweetbay store brand had tasty, thin noodles that appealed to the judges. This soup also came in a large 26-ounce can.
"It has a bright, almost just-simmered taste," said one panelist.
Judges preferred the soups that did not look like the manufacturers were trying too hard. They disliked brands with too many flecks of spices, thick noodles and lots of veggies. They wanted to make those additions on their own.
Also sampled were canned chicken noodle soups from Healthy Choice ($1.26 from Wal-Mart); Campbell's Healthy Request Chunky Soup ($2.29 from Wal-Mart); Progresso ($1.25 from Publix); Campbell's Select ($2.29 from Publix); Campbell's Homestyle ($1.49 from Publix); and Great Value Chunky ($1.32 from Wal-Mart).
Panelists were Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and consumer and mother of four, Julie Overton. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tastings to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.