QUINCY, Mass. -- Stop & Shop Cos. here came out on top with its all-beef deli hot dogs in a blind taste-test to find the dog of dogs.
The test, which involved one tasting panel of adults and another of children, was conducted by the editorial department of Cook's Illustrated, a consumer magazine based in Brookline, Mass.
Stop & Shop's hot dogs were the only supermarket deli dogs tasted. The chain's products were chosen because they happened to be in the right place at the right time, said Maryellen Driscoll, an associate editor at Cook's.
"Stop & Shop is the predominant chain here, and there is one near the office. That's why we chose their deli hot dogs for the test," Driscoll said.
She pointed out that the aim of the test was not to compare supermarket deli hot dogs against each other, but instead to compare a supermarket deli dog against the packaged, branded dogs.
"So we just bought deli dogs we hoped would be representative of what anyone could buy in their own supermarket deli. The test results indicated to us that people should try the hot dogs sold in their supermarket delis. I, for example, didn't even know supermarket delis sold them," Driscoll said.
She added that she has since bought deli-style dogs by the pound from the service deli in another chain's store and found them also to be superior to the prepackaged, branded varieties that she has tasted.
It was the panel of adults that chose Stop & Shop's hot dogs over nine branded varieties. The children's panel deemed Ball Park brand bun-size beef franks the best.
Ball Park brand beef franks, Nathan's Famous beef franks and Hebrew National kosher beef franks were also recommended, in that order, by the panel of adults. Other contenders were Oscar Mayer beef franks, Kahn's beef franks, Healthy Choice low-fat beef franks, Armour premium beef hot dogs, John Morrell beef franks and Pure Farms uncured beef wiener. None of the latter six was recommended by either panel.
In the taste-test, the hot dogs were pan-fried and served warm. Tasters were asked to rate each product on appearance, flavor, texture and overall likeability.
The adult taste-testers said that even though Stop & Shop's deli dogs cost more, they were worth it. First of all, the links are bigger. So there's about twice as much dog for 25 cents more a link, Driscoll pointed out in her summary of the taste-test results.
Stop & Shop's retail price per pound -- which includes six franks -- is $3.96. That compares with $3.29 for Ball Park and Nathan's Famous, both of which have eight franks to a pound. Hebrew National's retail is $2.99 for 12 ounces (seven franks). The other brands ranged from $2.49 a pound for Armour premium beef hot dogs to $4.49 for the Pure Farms uncured wiener.
Panelists described the Stop & Shop hot dog as "substantial" and "gutsy." They said it was a "nice, meaty dog" with a "juicy beef flavor." And they said the beef flavor was balanced with moderate saltiness, sweetness, smoky flavors and spice, including a distinctive garlic note.
The natural casing was described as "a bit toothy," verging on tough, but was mostly well-liked.
For the children's panel, the Stop & Shop hot dog was "too grown up." "It was too spicy and I didn't like it at all," said one young critic.
Stop & Shop identifies its product as "an old-fashioned style deli dog." It's made to Stop & Shop's specifications by a third-party manufacturer and contains no nonmeat binders, said Driscoll at Cook's.