What Makes a Great Raisin?

The most popular dried fruit, raisins are an extremely versatile cooking ingredient. Raisins are a great addition to trail mix, they are delicious when baked into cakes, pies, breads and cookies, and they find a home in various meat dishes, ethnic dishes, sauces and chutneys. High in iron and fiber, raisins are also a healthy snack on their own. Our chefs define a high-quality raisin as having a brown color. Despite being dried, raisins should still have a plumpness that comes from remaining moisture content. Raisins should have some glossiness or sheen. They should never be dull, and there should be few stems. The raisin aroma intensity should be noticeable, but there should be no off notes in either the aroma or flavor. Raisins will be in taste balance when a noticeable sweet intensity is the leading basic taste, followed by a sour intensity that is about half the level of the sweetness. The raisin flavor intensity, which measures how strong a flavor is, should be pronounced. Lingering grape flavors, along with the sweetness from the taste profile will round out the raisin flavor. Texture is important in a raisin. They should be moist enough to prevent an overly shriveled dryness. Since raisins are a dried fruit they are expected to have a somewhat tough exterior, but the interior should be tender and moist. The mouthfeel, which our chefs define as “the texture experienced as food is eaten,” should be clean and devoid of stems or crystallized sugars. Raisins should be fun, chewy and easy to eat, whether by the handful or in your favorite recipe.

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Tasting terms

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • off notes

    Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food’s packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or stale flavors from freezer burn in a frozen entrée are types of off notes.

  • sour intensity

    A measurement of the perceived sourness or acidity in a particular food. Example: Lemon juice without any sugar has a high sour intensity.

  • sweet intensity

    Measures the perceived natural or artificial sweetness in a particular food. Example: Apple cinnamon cereal will have a high sweet intensity.

  • taste profile

    The expected levels of each basic taste in any given food; defines the overall taste balance. Example: The taste profile of baking chocolate is led by bitterness that is balanced by a low amount of sweetness.

  • flavor intensity

    A measurement of the strength of a flavor in a particular food. Example: High-quality chocolate will have high cocoa flavor intensity.

  • mouthfeel

    The texture experienced while food is being eaten. Examples include smooth, chalky, grainy or greasy. Example: Super premium ice cream is often described as having a rich and smooth mouthfeel.

  • texture

    A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunch texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.