We didn't eat many Pillsbury poppin' fresh biscuits as a kid, but we sure as heck ate a lot of poppin' fresh breadsticks and poppin' fresh cinnamon rolls. Little did I know when I decided to do a canned, ready-to-bake biscuit taste test there were not the two or three flavors of Pillsbury biscuits I was expecting, but a WHOPPING THIRTEEN WHOLE FLAVORS. Holy cow, that's a lot of biscuits!
Well, we popped, baked, and tasted our way through nearly every one of them. Here's what we found.
The canned biscuit display at your average supermarket may be a bit confounding at first, but once you figure out how to navigate it, everything becomes clear. The first division level in Pillsbury Biscuits is their size. There are three of them.
The standard Grands! come 8 to a can, weighing in at about an ounce per biscuit. Then there are Grands! jr, which come 10 to a can, and are about 2/3rds the size of a standard Grands! biscuit. The smallest option is their Biscuits Value Pack, which includes 4 cans or 10-to-a-can biscuits, each one weighing about a third of the standard Grands!.
Right off the bat, we can tell you that getting the larger biscuits is the way to go. While all of them sported similar flavors and texture out of the oven, the mini biscuits (we tasted both Buttermilk and Country style cooled down very fast, and if there's one thing that's for sure, it's that Pillsbury canned biscuits are only good while they're warm.
Once you're past sizing, the next breakdown is Homestyle vs. Flaky Layers. On the surface, it may seem like a significant difference. On baking, the variation between the two is not all that great. Homestyle are slightly lumpy on the exterior with soft, sweet, fluffy, Wonderbread-like interiors. Flaky Layers look flaky on the exterior with soft, sweet, fluffy, Wonderbread-like interiors. Once you get past the edges, the flakes kind of all meld into one.
Our recommendation? Get the flakes. They aren't that different, but you at least get the illusion of flakiness, and what more can you expect from a can?
Once you've narrowed it down to sticking with Flaky Layers Grands!, you still have five more options to choose from. Here's our take, from favorite to least favorite.
Grands! Flaky Layers Buttermilk Biscuits
Very not bad. Sweet, soft, and moist, and not particularly biscuit-like—these things are more like soft bread than true flaky or short biscuits—but straight out of the oven, they're decent. They're made with palm and soybean oil, so don't expect any buttery flavor. Some real butter slathered into the middle or honey drizzled over them goes a long way to masking their inherent insipidness. They rely on salt, sugar, and the faintest tang of what could be either natural or artificial buttermilk flavoring (the ingredients list contains no real buttermilk) for their taste, not much else.
Grands! Flaky Layers Original Biscuits
Nearly identical to the Buttermilk Biscuits above, but with a slightly more overt sweetness without the tang of buttermilk to mask the excessive salty sweetness.
Grands! Flaky Layers Reduced Fat Original Biscuits
There's an entire 25% less fat in these biscuits than their standard Flaky Layers, and to be honest, we didn't miss it at all. In a side-by-side taste test, you would barely be able to tell the two apart, particularly not after adding your own real butter to them. Does buttering a reduced fat biscuit defeat the purpose? Maybe, but that's not stopping us.
Grands! Flaky Layers Butter Tastin' Biscuits
This is where we drew the line. Straight out of the can, Butter Tastin' biscuits were studded with frighteningly day-glo orange specks. I suppose these were the butter tastin' flavor crystals, or some such thing. Instead of tasting like butter, the biscuits end up tasting like the worst movie theater popcorn you can imagine. As if Jelly Belly's buttered popcorn jelly beans were baked into a slice of Wonderbread. If we want butter in our biscuits, we'll add it ourselves, thanks. AVOID.
Grands! Flaky Layers Honey Butter Biscuits
All the artificial butter flavor of the Butter Tastin' biscuits, with a healthy dose of fake honey flavor thrown on top. Again, AVOID.
Tell us: Do you ever resort to opening the can? Do poppin' fresh biscuits have a place in your fridge, or are you homemade all the way?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.
Our Tasting Methodology: All taste tests are conducted completely blind and without discussion. Tasters taste samples in random order. For example, taster A may taste sample 1 first, while taster B will taste sample 6 first. This is to prevent palate fatigue from unfairly giving any one sample an advantage. Tasters are asked to fill out tasting sheets ranking the samples for various criteria that vary from sample to sample. All data is tabulated and results are calculated with no editorial input in order to give us the most impartial representation of actual results possible.