Admittedly, meat sizzling on the grill is the main event of most backyard barbecues. But the menu just wouldn't be complete without salty, garlicky, crunchy dill pickles -- either piled high on top of a cheeseburger or alongside, say, a pulled pork sandwich with potato salad and chips.
Contrary to popular belief, pickles shouldn't be an afterthought. Rather, careful consideration should go into determining which brand your guests will enjoy most. But with so many lining the supermarket shelves, it's easy to get in a pickle over which one to choose.
That's why here at The Stir we blindly sampled 7 dill pickle brands and chose the best based on two criteria: flavor and crunchiness. See if you're shocked by the ones that topped our list. (Hint: The winners weren't the ones with the most brand recognition.)
First, a little background on our in-office taste test. Are we seasoned (heh) pickle experts who spend all of our free time canning homemade pickles in our kitchen using cucumbers we grew in our rooftop garden and an old family recipe? Hardly. But we are an office full of pickle-eaters confident in our ability to differentiate between a great-tasting, garlicky-dill, crunchy supermarket pickle and a bland, limp one.
The pickle brands we used in our taste test are the ones you typically find in most supermarkets. We went for the classic dill pickle spears thinking these are the most ubiquitous at summer picnics and barbecues. We rated the pickles based on 1) good garlicky-salty-dill flavor and 2) a crunchy snap when you bite into it.
(A quick note: When used to refer to pickles, the designation "kosher" doesn't necessarily mean that it has been prepared according to Jewish kosher law. Here, it simply means that it's made in a salt brine with dill weed and a generous amount of garlic.)
Without further ado, the list of pickles in our blind taste test:
1. Ba-Tampte Garlic Dill Pickles
2. Boar's Head Dill Kosher Spears
3. Claussen Kosher Dill Halves
4. Generic Kosher Dill Spears (Best Yet)
5. Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Spears
6. Whole Foods Organic Reduced Sodium Kosher Dill Pickles
7. Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears
Best Pickle: Boar's Head Dill Kosher Spears
Across the board, this pickle had the highest ratings for both flavor and crunch. This is how tasters described Boar's Head: "Salty and fresh," "Reminds me of a classic deli spear," "Flavorful," "Excellent crunch!" and "Tastes like the pickle I grew up with."
Second Place: Generic Kosher Dill Spears (Best Yet)
Who would have ever guessed the generic would be a favorite as well? Tasters had this to say about the runner-up: "Decent crunch," "Good sour-garlic taste," "Fresh," "A very good pickle," and "Nice sour vinegary flavor."
Third Place: Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Spears
As you can see from the comments, the tasters tended to like Mt. Olive's spears for their slightly spicy flavor and decent crunch: "Classic pickle taste with a kick," "Tastes like a Vlasic -- I like," "Great, bright garlicky flavor," "A little spicy," and "Satisfying crunch."
What's your favorite pickle?
Image via Emily Abbate