Alaska, Magnolia, or Nestle: We Try 3 Brands of All-Purpose CreamJune 24, 2019
So you’re planning to cook up a mean mousse or cream soup, but the thought of paying a hundred-plus bucks for imported dairy cream doesn’t stoke your appetite quite in the same way. Enter all-purpose cream: a pasteurized and reconstituted version of the real stuff made with milk fat, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and other ingredients that allow it to behave much in the same way—at a fraction of the price. (And that’s aside from having a longer shelf life and being able to stand at room temperature while unopened.) But do they actually taste like cream? How do the different brands compare?
Note: We tried each brand of all-purpose cream both out of the carton (chilled and shaken before opening), and whipped. None of the brands on our list specified the fat content of their cream.
Alaska comes up thick right out of the packet. Glossy with an off-white quality (which reminds us of jarred mayonnaise), it holds its shape and has a voluptous feel on the mouth. Whipping it aerates the mix, but keeps it relatively on the thick end. Likely due to the buttermilk powder in the ingredients list, it carries a strong buttery note which isn’t unpleasant, but keeps it from tasting more neutral than we’d like.
Magnolia’s comes up on the opposite side of the spectrum: out of the pack, it’s relatively thin with a viscous consistency. It thickens slightly when whipped, developing a slightly thinner yogurt-like consistency, which might not be enough if you’re using it for mousses or other desserts but isn’t a problem for soups or stews. Flavor-wise, it gives you the taste of heated milk (hello, Maillard reaction)—not unlike evaporated milk—which carries its own appeal, but isn’t the most neutral one around.
Right out of the container, Nestle falls right in between the two previous brands in consistency. Whip it, however, and—though it gets oddly opaque and almost too white that it looks closer to mayo than to real dairy cream—it develops an impressive thickness that stays put even when the bowl is turned upside down, and holds its shape when left in the fridge overnight. It’s also the cleanest-tasting of the lot, initially milky before ending with a rich, fatty creaminess that lends a richness to just about any dish you can imagine.
The Verdict: Nestle
With the cleanest flavor profile of the three brands, Nestle’s all-purpose cream is our top pick. It’s runny enough from the container that you can easily add it to savory dishes, yet whips up to an especially thick consistency that stays that way for a long time.