When we think of toaster pastries, most of us think of Kellogg’s Pop Tarts®, the Goliath of the toaster pastry industry. In fact, most of us use “Pop Tart” as a synonym for toaster pastry in everyday speech.
But these days, there are many alternatives to consider – competing brands, various textures and flavors. You can’t automatically reach for the Pop Tarts box and assume that you’re getting the best – but how are you supposed to choose?
Well, we’ve done the hard work for you. We did blind tests of five national brands, evaluating them on several fronts:
- Flavor – What happens when the pedal meets the metal, aka your tongue?
- Flammability – Which variety is most likely to catch fire in your toaster?
- Aerodynamics – Which variety tends to be ejected the furthest by a toaster?
- Gimmicks – Which manufacturer offers the oddest flavors and combinations?
Lucky’s Toaster Tarts and Albertson’s Toaster Pastries earned the maximum rating of five tarts. The filling in both was tangy and substantial, but not gummy. The proportion of filling and icing to pastry was quite generous, submerging one in the full, sensuous, tongue-rolling toaster pastry experience.
They were even aesthetically pleasing, with a lovely scalloped pastry edge and discreet white frosting with multicolored sugar sprinkles – elegant enough to grace even the most discriminating breakfast table. These pastries look and taste identical; we suspect that they’re made by the same company.
Flammability and aerodynamics were unfortunately less than stellar, but on par with all of the other brands surveyed. When ignited with a pocket torch for a full 30 seconds, neither the crust nor filling caught fire. The icing did bubble and smolder satisfyingly, however.
Aerodynamics, as measured by the maximum distance ejected by the toaster, is similar for all brands. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, based on their very similar shapes and masses. (See data below) At toaster velocities, embellishments such as scallops and icing make very little aerodynamic difference.
Nabisco’s Toastettes received an average rating of three tarts. While there was nothing particularly right with the pastries, there was nothing particularly wrong. Icing, pastry, and filling were all of average quantity and quality, and neither flammability nor aerodynamics were spectacular.
Much to our surprise, the Goliath and the bargain basement of toaster pastries tied for a one tart rating.
Safeway’s Toaster Pastries excelled at awfulness with their combination of hard dry crust, thin gummy filling, and no icing whatsoever. Essentially, they’re just an cruel expanse of dry, stale dough, with barely enough filling to make a stain on one’s shirt.
One might expect that the dryness and high fat content of the dough combined with the stingy dollop of filling would lend itself to flame tests – but this was not the case! The pastries stubbornly refused to burst into flame; at best, we were only able to generate a coal which glowed for a few moments.
Our hopes were also dashed on the count of aerodynamics – we’d thought perhaps the streamlined form factor of the icing-nude pastries would give it an advantage in the ejection department. Such was not the case. The pastries leaped a pitiful few centimeters into the air, only to collapse back into the toaster.
Kellogg’s Pop Tarts were poorly rated because of their overall homogeneity: poorly delineated masses of pastry, icing, and filling. Ironically, the manufacturer whose name is synonymous with toaster pastries didn’t deliver the proper toaster pastry experience.
Although Kellogg’s excels in the department of gimmicks, having the widest variety of bright icings, flavors, and sprinkles of any manufacturer, this was not enough to rescue the pastries from the depths of mediocrity. Any gains were offset by their failure to use the pastry edge as a design feature, delivering a straight, boring, unadorned edge.
Aerodynamics and flammability were also surprisingly poor, considering the range of filling and icing options available. Given the flammability of marshmallows, we expected success with the Smores flavor. However, only the sprinkles on the Wild Magic Burst showed promise by bursting into flame – and in the end, their mass was too small to sustain extended combustion.
Supporting Measurements and Observations