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Do brands really make a difference?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Before I get started, I'd like to say I ran a search on brands in this forum and found thousands of posts.  After skimming through them, I decided this topic is worth it's own special little thread (imo).  If the topic has been covered, I apologize in advance. 

 

Anywho, do name brand products really matter?  I will admit, I am not a baker.  I love cooking, for it's more of an abstract art, but I am not in love with the whole "concrete" form of baking.  With this being said, I tend to skimp on certain baking products.  I've been known to buy the generic baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, etc. but I feel this is blasphemy when it comes to cooking. ( Yes, I am biased :rolleyes:)  I always buy King Arthur Flour, mainly because I love making bread, but when it comes to the ingredients I previously mentioned, they are the bottom of the barrel brands. 

 

I know baking soda and baking powder are essential ingredients but I buy them like I buy medicine, I go for the generic brand.  I think of it like a science, all baking powder should be equal... Or is it???  Have I been shopping wrong??? Are certain brands of baking powder, soda, salt, etc better than others???

 

European butter is made differently from American, I get that.  I like my Euro butter.  Fresh ingredients, are always my go to when I cook, but how do I select the best "powder" in a box, when they all seem the same to me?


Am I justified in skimping on these ingredients?  If not, forgive me bakers, for I have sinned.

post #2 of 11

The process in fabricating, and storage is different...

Products may differ in origin, they may differ in quantities of chemicals or substanceses added to said product. 

 

Example... different tomatoe sauces have different sodium contents as well as may or may not have a difference in certain substances or chemicals added to their product. 

 

Not all salts are created equally i suppose, and you can most likely find dozens of debates over this around google. 

Heres a link... http://smittenkitchen.com/tips/2010/06/29/not-all-salts-are-created-equally/

 

Im sure the same rule applies for baking soda, flour etc...

 

Seasonings and fabricated products all have a difference be it taste, texture, quality or ingredients added. 

 

Just so you have an idea my father to this day states Coca-cola in Brazil tastes better then that of the U.S. today i had a can of coke, and to be honest i tasted a very small difference that made me think either i was nuts, or forgot how coke tastes, or he was right.... still dont know which option is correct lol. :rolleyes:

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

I can tell the difference in products that you cook with but I guess that's because I'm not a baker.  I always look for the best products to cook with (seasonings and such).   

 

What you said about chemicals makes sense.  I can understand that.

 

I read that article and it compared kosher salt and sea salt to table salt, which are completely different.  I wouldn't bake with sea salt or Pink Himalayan sea salt, although I prefer to cook with the more coarse salts.  My question is more is Morton's Salt any different than the generic grocery store table salt.  It's more geared towards comparing "apples to apples" of a different brand, if that makes any sense.  Is Clabber Girl better than "Kroger" brand?  Is Arm and Hammer better than "Insert Generic Name Here"?   

 

I will say as an Atlanta girl, home of Coca Cola, your father is correct.  They use a different formula in international countries than here in the US.  They use a different sweetener. :-)

 

check out: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-11/the-mexican-coca-cola-myth-its-almost-american

post #4 of 11
There is not always quality-control consistency with some generic products. The cheapest bidder gets the job whenever a new batch is produced. Sometimes however, big major brands make the products. I know this from auto parts. K-Mart was really good for this. If you find out the manufacturers you can make better judgments. Sometimes generic can be very high quality on the cheap ... sometimes it's just a cheap product.
post #5 of 11

I have to agree with Iceman on this one.  But there is no "blanket statement" that all generic products are better or worse than brand name ones.  Each item has be to "investigated" individually.

 

Take for example baking soda.  I look at the brand name box and the generic box in the supermarket. If the boxes are identical--that is, the size, shape and weight are identical, it's a pretty sure bet that the contents are.

 

Ingredient list is another test, if the packaging is identical, but the ingredient list isn't, it's a pretty sure bet that the items are not identical.  Take chocolate for instance, cheaper choc will list sugar as the first ingredient, while more expensive ones will list "cocoa mass" (a.ka. cocoa liquor) first, cheaper chocs will state if the beans are "dutched" or "processed with alkalai", and if milk powder or any dairy is listed on dark chocolate packaging, that's a red flag, as that would mean it's a cheaper chocolate too.

 

Fruit juices are another, big price difference between "pure fruit juice" and "pure fruit juice made from concentrate", and if apple juice is listed as first or second ingredient even though it's blueberry juice or other, that's a red flag too.

 

There are huge differences in flour quality as well, so if you are happy with one brand for bread, stick with it, ash content and gluten content differ wildly in brands and varaieties.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 

I have to agree with Iceman on this one.  But there is no "blanket statement" that all generic products are better or worse than brand name ones.  Each item has be to "investigated" individually.

 

Take for example baking soda.  I look at the brand name box and the generic box in the supermarket. If the boxes are identical--that is, the size, shape and weight are identical, it's a pretty sure bet that the contents are.

 

Ingredient list is another test, if the packaging is identical, but the ingredient list isn't, it's a pretty sure bet that the items are not identical.  Take chocolate for instance, cheaper choc will list sugar as the first ingredient, while more expensive ones will list "cocoa mass" (a.ka. cocoa liquor) first, cheaper chocs will state if the beans are "dutched" or "processed with alkalai", and if milk powder or any dairy is listed on dark chocolate packaging, that's a red flag, as that would mean it's a cheaper chocolate too.

 

Fruit juices are another, big price difference between "pure fruit juice" and "pure fruit juice made from concentrate", and if apple juice is listed as first or second ingredient even though it's blueberry juice or other, that's a red flag too.

 

There are huge differences in flour quality as well, so if you are happy with one brand for bread, stick with it, ash content and gluten content differ wildly in brands and varaieties.

Wow!  This was helpful.  I'd like to save money if I can but I want to start baking more, and want to use the best quality product at the best price.  I'm all about efficiency!  I'll pay more for a god quality product up until the point where the cost doesn't outweigh the benefit.  I guess it will come from trial and error.  The hard thing with baking is I can't tell which ingredient threw the whole recipe off.  I'm thankful for this forum though because I've seen people post an ingredient list and others can pin point what went wrong. 

 

Thanks for the tips!

post #7 of 11

A couple of things to be on the lookout for as a baker.. Cheaper butters have a higher water content so will change the outcome of your product (though you use higher quality, others reading may not) and also with powdered sugars, not all are created equal. Cheap brands use a higher ratio of cornstarch to sugar and create a gritty frosting and a use beet sugar (cheaper) rather than cane. Dixie is the only one I trust.

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laurenlulu View Post
 

A couple of things to be on the lookout for as a baker.. Cheaper butters have a higher water content so will change the outcome of your product (though you use higher quality, others reading may not) and also with powdered sugars, not all are created equal. Cheap brands use a higher ratio of cornstarch to sugar and create a gritty frosting and a use beet sugar (cheaper) rather than cane. Dixie is the only one I trust.

That's good to know about powdered sugar.  I typically buy Dixie, just because that is what I was used to growing up, but just checked and saw I have an unopened bag of Domino in the pantry.  Dixie is one of those brands you typically see in most southern homes, and with sugar I just buy the same brand my mother, grandmother, etc always bought.  I'm not sure how Domino measures up to it (haven't used it yet).

 

I always buy organic raw sugar for things like coffee but I haven't tried baking with it yet.  I'm not sure it would melt properly, so I use refined sugar for baking.  

 

My world revolves around butter and all of it's uses.  That's one thing I don't skimp on. Mmmm!

post #9 of 11

In 1 respect yes  example I would not put Sysco Catsup  in bottles on tables only Heinz same thing mayo only Helmans. But for house made 1000 isle dressing house brands are fine . Another factor is example ,Hellmans commercial is heavier then its consumer package as is Heinz and Kraft. They all have their gimmicks and tricks, you will see and learn them as you progress. Kraft cream cheese for example retail is watery commercial is not..

Many years ago there was a commercial that chock full of nuts was coffee served at waldorf astoria   to a point it was but not the same blend the consummer could buy retail. So its only a white lie

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post #10 of 11

"quality" - in some respects - is a very subjective thing.  here's a lol personal example:
we like biscuits.  White Lily Flour is preferred by a few zillion people for "making the best biscuits."  per their web site, it is not distributed in my state; then somebody tipped me off that Walmart stocks White Lily.  Walmart we got; and by jove, there it was right on the shelf for the pickings....


made 4, 5 batches of biscuits, some minor adjustments to liquid required, asked DW:
So what you think of these biscuits?  answer:  "I like the old ones better."

- go figger:  it's flour, butter, salt, baking powder (or not, the WL was self rising), milk.


I really don't think it's a quality issue, I suspect it's a personal taste / comfort food / what you grew up on / etc.


as Iceman mentioned and foodpump repeats - in my experience with 'off brand' aka 'private label' aka 'store brand' is a problem of consistency.  suddenly what used to work doesn't work anymore - the "why?" is likely a different "bulk" supplier, based on the latest bids to supply X tons of flour-in-5-pound-bags.


"name brands" are much more likely to control the characteristics of their products much more rigorously than the lowest cost supplier.  and cost may or may not be a serious matter.  


just came back from the store, price checked Ceresota Unbleached AP ($2.99/5 lb) vs the 'store brand' ($2.29/5 lb) - that's roughly $0.05 per cup difference.  been using the Ceresota for decades.  I do a white sandwich bread, makes two loaves, uses nominally six cups of flour.  $0.15 per loaf difference; not gonna' risk a failure for that kind of dough (ow!, bad pun....)


otoh, King Arthur Unbleached Bread flour is roughly double the cost per 5 lb bag as other name brands - my market has no 'store brand bread flour' - so we're talking Pillsbury / Betty Crocker / etc.  do I think Pillsbury has consistent quality control?  yup.  but my experience has been years and years of KA bread flour, so I just stick to it.  in absolute terms - it's $0.30-0.45 per loaf; makes a real difference if you're baking 10,000 loaves per day - for my 2-3 loaves a week, not so much....


the cocoa / chocolate example is one where "quality" probably will make a huge difference.  it's the Yugo vs Rolls-Royce thing.

chocolatiers are ueber fussy about their stuff, fwiw.

 

>>butter
USDA graded butter has a max. water content, but not a min. water content.  so "no min" can affect how it works vs a 'better than max" brand - although I've never seen any brand 'advertise' its water content.

 

>>raw sugar
Danger, Will Robinson!
raw / less than 'fully' refined sugars do _not_ bake the same.

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Lol @ Danger, Will Robinson... I've never tried baking with raw sugar but the texture is so completely different from refined I wouldn't dare. I prefer it in my coffee though.

This gives me a new perspective on the generic brands. I'm particular about certain items, flour being one of them (King Arthur all day), but I "fudge" a little on the baking soda and powder.

I buy certain items because they're familiar, Morton's salt, Dixie Crystals, etc. I guess it's the comfort thing because I wouldn't dare bring a product in the house mom didn't swear by.
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