Looking to stock up on some store-bought staples for Christmas? Don’t worry, we enlisted a panel of experts and tried-and-tested the quintessential supermarket products for you in this our 2018 F&W Christmas Taste Test.
There are so many delicious products on supermarket shelves for Christmas, and in saying that, so many supermarkets to choose from, that it can easily be confusing as to which products are best for flavour, for value and for a last-minute dash to the shops!
We know that most of our readers love to make their Christmas dishes from scratch and we have lots of to help you out on the website from some of Ireland's best-loved chefs, with lots more to come over the next couple of weeks, but let's face it, sometimes there just isn't enough time to make everything. Not to mention that the festive period can put a strain on anyone's wallet and you might want to save your Euros for a tasting menu at your favourite restaurant or a city break in the New Year. That's understandable!
Hence, the introduction of the F&W Christmas Taste Test. We decided upon what we feel are the quintessential shop-bought, ready-made items that most households would buy for Christmas and gather a panel of experts to test them for you. This way you can make an informed choice when you're out shopping.
(Photo: from left to right)
Former Executive Pastry Chef at Glovers Alley, Luna Restaurant and Patrick Guilbaud, this girl is ridiculously talented when it comes to sweet treats! In fact, she won Best Pastry Chef 2018 at the F&W Awards earlier this year.
Executive Chef at The Marker Hotel, Dublin and a regular on Virgin Media TV's The Six O'Clock Show. He’s a big advocate for making your own cranberry sauce, but let's see what he thought of the supermarket offerings during judging.
Editor of FOOD&WINE and ringleader for the day of judging, steering the process along and keeping everyone in check (things can get rowdy after a few samples of boozy pudding!).
Food writer, stylist, and part of the creative and PR team at Bodytonic, who run Eatyard – Yuleyard at the moment! – and The Big Grill Festival and newly-opened The Lighthouse, among many other fab things.
Owner of Klaw Dublin, including The [fab] Seafood Café on Fownes Street in Temple Bar, wholesale business Sustainable Seafood Ireland, AND soon to open The Urbanmonger, which will be Dublin's go-to for the best seafood in town – retail, wholesale, café, education, the whole caboodle (yes, it's a word)!
Many thanks to the wonderful staff at The Radisson Blu Royal on Golden Lane, Dublin 2 who hosted us for the morning of our taste test and were generous with their venue, time and help.
- To get the most widely available in the country, we stuck with nationwide supermarkets of which there are six main ones: Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Marks & Spencer, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores.
- We picked six categories – mince pies, Christmas pudding, smoked salmon, paté, cranberry sauce and mulled wine – and asked each retailer to send us the product from their higher-end range as we felt people like to splash out on the best at Christmas. In some cases, we didn't receive a product from supermarkets and therefore simply left them out of that round.
- The taste test was a blind tasting, so no judges knew where the product they were tasting was from, including our editor Dee who was not allowed to label products beforehand. This was the fairest way to judge as products were simply being judged on their merit and not to be compared to each other.
- The categories for scoring were: appearance, aroma, taste, texture, and overall quality. Products were scored out of 10 and an overall score calculated in each instance.
AND THE RESULTS OF THE 2018 CHRISTMAS TASTE TEST ARE...
Tesco Finest Irish Organic Smoked Salmon 100g pack
The judges thought this product had a nice, smoky flavour that wasn’t too salty or fatty. All of the judges said they would buy this product.
Lidl Organic Smoked Salmon €3.39
Dunnes Stores Oak Smoked Organic Irish Salmon with Honey and Dill €9.99
Marks & Spencer Scottish Lochmuir Oak Sweetcure Salmon €28.00
SuperValu Signature Tastes Dingle Gin Infused Smoked Salmon €5.49
Aldi Specially Selected Irish Organic Cold Smoked Salmon 100g €3.49
Marks & Spencer Cranberry Sauce
While Gareth loved the Dunnes Stores version, in particular, the M&S Cranberry Sauce came out as the overall winner in this category. The judges commented that they would buy this product as it had a bright colour and a great texture, with some whole fruit still in the mix.
Dunnes Stores Simply Better Handmade Cranberry Sauce 200g €2.99
SuperValu Signature Tastes Cranberry Sauce with Ruby Port €2.99
Tesco Finest Cranberry Sauce €2.49
Dunnes Stores Simply Better Handmade Irish Smoked Trout Pâté
This pâté was a little different to the others in this category, as it was made with smoked trout. The judges loved the unique flavour and they all said that they would buy this product.
Aldi Specially Selected Chicken Liver Parfait €1.99
Tesco Finest Brussels Pâté €2.59
Marks & Spencer Chicken Liver Pâté €2.00
Tesco Finest All Butter Pastry Deep Filled Mince Pies
This was a hotly contested round, with all of the mince pies scoring very highly! In the end, the Tesco Finest mince pies came out on top, as the judges thought that there was the perfect ratio of filling to pastry in this product.
Aldi Specially Selected Mince Pies €2.99
Marks & Spencer The Collection Mince Pie Selection €3.80
Dunnes Stores Simply Better 6 Handmade All Butter Mince Pies €4.99
Supervalu Signature Tastes All Butter Pastry Mince Pies €4.00
Lidl Deluxe Luxury Mini Mince Pies €2.49
Judges’ favourite: Aldi Specially Selected 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding
This was another difficult round for the judges to score. Ultimately, the Aldi Christmas pudding took the top spot, with the judges agreeing that this luxurious pudding was the winner.
Dunnes Stores Simply Better 9 Month Matured Christmas Pudding €8.49
Marks & Spencer 12 Month Matured Intensely Fruity Christmas Pudding €18.00
Tesco Finest 12 Month Matured Christmas Pudding €7.00
SuperValu Signature Tastes Kevin Dundon’s Traditional Christmas Pudding €10.00
Lidl Deluxe 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding €9.99
Judges’ favourite: Marks & Spencer Mulled Wine
Our judges only sampled two mulled wines during the taste test so it was a close call between the pair. The Marks & Spencer mulled wine came out on top in the end, with the judges calling it fruity and drinkable.
Lidl Christkindl Gluhwein €6.99
Hopefully, we’ve helped you with your Christmas shopping – when you can’t make everything from scratch, these products will do the job. Thanks to the retailers and our lovely panel of judges for helping us out with our 2018 Christmas Taste Test.
Have you any shop-bought Christmas essentials? Did we miss your favourite product? Let us know in the comments below!