Before we dive into the world of ice cream sandwiches, a note about nomenclature: In the lead up to this story, I asked several random acquaintances what they would call the chocolate part (in some circles known as the best part) of a traditional ice cream sandwich. Some called it a cookie. Others called it cake. I've always thought of it as a brownie. After a little research, I found that all of these are wrong. Apparently, the chocolate part of a classic ice cream sandwich is officially called a wafer. #themoreyouknow
So that's the term we used in our official taste test. We sampled 14 varieties of the classic chocolate wafer–vanilla ice cream combo, including mini versions, round versions, classic rectangles, organic versions, and more. (We also tasted both mini and "regular" versions from two out of the 11 brands represented—and despite common logic, those minis did not taste the same as their larger counterparts.)
Our ultimate winner was the brilliantly (and/or atrociously) named FatBoy, Jr., which is one of the smaller ice cream sandwiches we tried. If you require a classic-sized sandwich, or even an organic one, you're in luck—we chose the best-in-category for those, too. For our methodology and the full list of sandos we tasted, scroll to the bottom of the page. First up, the rankings!
Our Favorite Ice Cream Sandwich: FatBoy Jr.
Call them small but mighty: these sandwiches boast both a deeply chocolaty and nicely chewy wafer, and a light, creamy, vanilla-rich ice cream. Together, those two components gave our tasters the deeply satisfying experience every ice cream sandwich should provide. Tasted side-by-side with lesser sandwiches, these wafers had a more noticeable presence of salt, which likely enhanced—and highlighted the contrast of—the chocolate and vanilla. And while these are definitely small (they're technically the "minis" of the FatBoy line) we actually like the size: they have an ideal ratio of wafer to ice cream, and are big enough for any treat-seeker to feel satisfied.
The Best Organic Ice Cream Sandwich: Alden's Round Sammies
The vanilla ice cream in these sandwiches has a homemade quality about it. Not in terms of texture, which several tasters described as particularly fluffy, but in the wholesome "real vanilla" flavor. The wafer has a lovely bitter-chocolate flavor that mitigates the sweetness of the sandwich, and a soft, cakey texture.
The Best Classic Ice Cream Sandwich: Turkey Hill
If you crave a super-classic ICS, this is the ultimate option. It sports a deeply chocolaty and chewy wafer, melty ice cream with real vanilla bean flecks, and—unlike our other two picks—it's rectangular. It also has that paper wrapper that's actually kind of hard to peel off, but for nostalgic folks, maybe that's part of the fun?
What We Were Looking For
When we set out to find the best ice cream sandwich, a few people asked if we'd include sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. Nope. A chipwhich, which is what a choco-chip ice cream sandwich is called, is a totally different experience than a classic sandwich. We also tossed out any flavor other than the classic vanilla—no strawberry, no cookies 'n' cream, and definitely no sandwiches made with Neapolitan. We also chose to disqualify any ice cream sandwich promoted exclusively as a diet or low-fat food, because, frankly, we knew there was no way they'd be able to stand up to the real stuff.
Ultimately we wanted a wafer with deep chocolate flavor and a nice chewy consistency. Any wafers deemed too crisp fell in the rankings (when the wafer's too hard, it squishes the ice cream out out of the sandwich). Similarly, any wafer too mushy got a downgrade—you don't want the entire cookie stuck to your hands before you're halfway through the sandwich! The ice cream needed to have prominent vanilla flavor and be neither too melty nor too stiff. The perfect sandwich, we found, bites through cleanly and then melts away on the tongue.
How We Tested
Ice cream sandwiches were cut into portions and then placed on sheet pans in the freezer until tasting commenced. A group of Epicurious editors and staff then gathered around a table and tried to make it through 14 sandwiches before the table was flooded with melted ice cream—although not all sandwiched ice creams melt. All samples were tasted blind and no distinction was made between organic and non-organic products during testing.
The Other Ice Cream Sandwiches We tasted
In alphabetical order:
- Alden's Organic Vanilla Mini Squares
- Alden's Organic Old-School Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Annie's Organic Vanilla Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Blue Bunny Simply Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Carvel Vanilla Flying Saucers
- Fat Boy Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Friendly's Vanilla Friendwich
- Hood Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Nestlé Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Klondike Classic Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Three Twins Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious