Yes, There Is A Real Difference Between Name Brand And Generic Ice Cream

Woman buying ice cream
Woman buying ice cream - Vladeep/Shutterstock

When you're treating yourself to ice cream, it can be hard to choose between the budget options and the premium pints. Maybe you should save your money: After all, is the pricy stuff emblazoned with words like premium and super-premium, really all that much better? But if it really is a better product, why not fork over a few extra dollars since you've already decided to indulge?

The truth is, there is a difference between cheap ice cream and deluxe brands. And, while those premium labels aren't legal definitions, they aren't just marketing either. The terms have specific meanings within the ice cream industry. It all has to do with overrun, the industry term for the amount of air that is whipped into the ice cream as it's frozen and churned. If you start with one gallon of ice cream base and whip it into two gallons of ice cream, that's 100% overrun. Having no more than 100% overrun is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regulations that govern whether a dessert can be labeled as ice cream or not.

Unsurprisingly, it benefits brands' bottom line to sell customers as much air as possible. Budget brands tend to have high overrun, while the quality stuff is creamier, thicker, and denser. Ice cream with low overrun tends to have a high percentage of butterfat, giving it that rich, creamy texture.

Read more: 25 Best Ice Cream Brands Ranked

How To Pick The Best Quality Ice Cream

colored ice cream in tubs
colored ice cream in tubs - stockcreations/Shutterstock

Ice cream gets classified in four ways, though you'll probably only ever see premium or super-premium on packaging. Economy is the word used to indicate low-quality ice cream that barely meets the legal definition of ice cream. It's what you usually find in big plastic tubs at the bottom of the grocery store freezer. The term "standard" applies to most of the ice cream you find on grocery store shelves, which typically has overrun of around 100%.

Once you get to the premium label, you'll notice a significant difference in quality. Premium has lower overrun and higher butterfat. It often comes in unique gourmet flavors. Super-premium is known for fancy flavors, too, and tends to have below 50% overrun. This ultra-creamy texture makes brands like Häagen-Dazs and Cold Stone Creamery stand out. At the bottom of the pile, there's "frozen dairy dessert", which you'll see on packages that don't meet the legal definition of ice cream, often because the overrun is too high.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll personally prefer ultra-premium ice cream. Many people find the dense, high-fat taste and texture too rich. In 2013, a Breyers representative told the New York Times that the brand had introduced a line of frozen dairy desserts after feedback found that customers liked the texture. So, if you want the best quality, go for ultra-premium — but you might want to taste-test a selection, including frozen dairy dessert. You know, for science.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.