Rich, creamy gelato is one of the delightful frozen desserts to indulge in while traveling in Italy. Although Italy is the native soil where gelato originated. Having eating gelato in Italy is, in itself, not a guarantee of getting the quality product. In the same way, it is necessary to fly down to Italy to taste the real gelato. Every city and town has a gelato shop all around the world. And as it happens for all that is popular and edible, getting something that tastes good and is also genuine when it comes to its taste, flavors, and ingredients is not as simple as it may seem.
Unfortunately, some enterprising gelato parlors have picked up on this trend, claiming to be offering products that are neither fresh nor handmade, and not genuine at all. It may often become a little tricky to tell whether gelato you’re getting is a real deal or just a poser. We put together a quick guide to learn how to identify good quality gelato to enjoy it in its full glory. The main factors in determining the quality of gelato remain the same irrespective of the place it is made. We are pretty sure you can very much apply the tricks to identify the best among the rest.
1. Let’s Come Down to the Ingredients First
In a real artisanal gelato shop, the ingredients are never kept away. If the list of ingredients isn’t already posted somewhere, the staff will always take you through their process of making and provide the correct information regarding the ingredients used. Traditional gelato artisans take great care in choosing their ingredients and are proud to showcase them publicly.
This factor relates more to the gelato shop rather than the gelato itself, but it is a clear symbol of the company’s commitment to reliable and genuine quality. Gelato shops have an ingredients list someplace well visible on the premises, whether on a poster on the walls or as a flyer on the main counter. That provides information related to the ingredients of their main flavors, especially those used as a base in fruit flavors. You must read the ingredient list carefully and check what it says. If you find anywhere the ingredients like hydrogenated fats, colorings, preservatives, or vegetable fats, you are better to find a place to go. The gelato shop should also clearly specify which flavors are not suitable for people suffering from specific food allergies or any other sickness.
Gelato contains tiny crystals that give a soft and smooth on the tongue. This sensation tends to fade with time as the natural ingredients in true gelatos, including sugars, proteins, water, fruit, oilseed pastes like pistachios or hazelnuts, remain balanced only when fresh. Days-old gelato tends to missout on these qualities, even if appropriately made by the rulebook.
Good gelato is the one made and consumed on the same day. In the form of small grainy frosts, the presence of ice crystals is an indication of gelato that it is not fresh or might be stored at the wrong temperature. This is due to the water eventually getting untied and takes the form of crystals. Although this shouldn’t be the only factor you should be looking at since a gelato shop that tells its ingredients is not always synonymous with artisanal quality.
There reasons that a good quality gelato tastes so creamy additionally still feels indescribably perfect is because of its few yet flavorful ingredients. It really does come down to the ingredients that include fresh full-fat milk, cream, eggs, seasonal fruit, and nuts. There should be no chemical acronyms, especially flavorings and additives.
2. What does the gelato counter and serving style look like?
After the ingredient list, these come second to consider the authenticity of the gelato visually by observing the serving counter. If the foremost thing you observe is the gelato piled up in huge mounds above the top of the metal tubs, believe us, it is a hoax. Puffy clouds, Big mountains, and heaps full of gelato made to stay up tall all day have fake written all over it.
The gelato can hold a solid shape only if it has a much higher percentage of air, made possible by adding chemical stabilizers. It may look way more enticing and Instagram-worthy, but it doesn’t have the same tempting texture and flavor that gelato contains. Real gelato is heavy, so it naturally stays flat and never overflows the rim of the gelato container. So if you fancy a creamier, richer, more flavorful experience, and don’t want to pay for air, which anyway gets for free, then cut and run and look for a better place.
If you spot huge piles of gelato taken out of the freezer, be careful despite being stored above the cold line temperature. If the gelato is not stored at a perfect temperature and still doesn’t melt, as it should have, it has not been made according to the right procedure and ingredients. This could mean that hydrogenated vegetable fats, which can withstand higher temperatures, were used in the recipe. You don’t want those in your gelato. In any case, the best way to store gelato, even if you can’t look at it before ordering, is in covered, circular containers.
One more thing to check is that good quality gelato is always kept in metal containers and not plastic. Although it may seem insignificant, trust us when we say it matters, and it is an excellent way to visually spot bad places, whether you are in a gelato shop in Italy or abroad. Also, metal containers tend to maintain optimal temperature and flat metal spatulas are to be preferred to serve the gelato because of its much denser texture.
3. Careful Analysis of the Colors
Natural ingredients used for making gelato are never bright or neon in color. Pistachio should not be bright green, and neither the strawberry flavor lurid red. If you find so, it is most likely that they have used artificial coloring and maybe flavoring as well. Genuine quality gelato should be the same color as the fruit it is made of. If it glows in the dark, keep walking.
Watch out for soft, muted colors, especially in the Lime, Mint, Pistachio, and Banana flavors. For example, pistachio flavored gelato should look dull, muted earthy green, while the mint flavor should be white. Because gelato makers use the essence of mint and not the actual mint leaves.
Also, do not be deluded by the fresh fruits they put on top of the gelato. They may look appealing, but it doesn’t mean they have used real fruit to make the gelato. The gelato stores that use only natural ingredients, the colors will be more muted and brown. This is particularly apparent with fruit flavors. When prepared, fruits naturally oxidize, and the vivacity of the color tends to fade at low temperatures. Banana is one of the best flavors to test this as it should be grey as naturally, bananas are off-white, not yellow. Similarly, it applies to lemon too, as the juice is white, not yellow.
Bright looking gelato may be appealing to the eye, but may not be the best in taste. The more natural the color of the gelato, the better is the quality you’re getting. Keep an eye open for the shiny or opaque gelato. If it shines, it is usually a synonym of a very high percentage of fats used in the making, whereas opacity shows the gelato is not fresh.
4. Feel and Texture of the Gelato
The texture is an important hint to the quality of the gelato you’re getting. As natural as it is to assess a gelato that scoops out soft and smooth. However, sometimes what may appear hard while scooped may end up being soft and creamy in your mouth. If you want to check whether the gelato has a precise texture, press it with your tongue on the palate. It should be smooth. If you find ice crystals, it may be caused either by the unsuitable temperature at the preparation stage.
Like wine, gelato also has a distinct aftertaste, which you feel on your tongue. The body is connected to temperature. Therefore, a cream that is too light, too skimmed, has not used enough cream and/or milk. It will also feel too cold because water will prevail. Gelato is supposed to be creamy and smooth in texture, but if you find it excessively, so it implies it has been, much likely, produced using excessive amounts of fats and air. If your palate feels greasy, it means that the gelato maker has saved on the rich fats like milk, butter, and cream to use artificial fats and are using hydrogenated, refined fats. In such cases, make sure that was your first and last order from that store.
Even it may sound obvious, but we gotta say, that the lemon flavor should taste like lemon, pistachio like pistachio, and so on. Every flavor must be recognizable with the very first mouthful of the gelato, in its most accurate individuality. When gelato is not handmade or, in any case, not well made, all the creams tend to taste the same. This happens when they’re prepared from the same base, to which the separate ingredient is added at the end. Each flavor must have its mark, and the taste should not instantly fade away. It should linger in the mouth for a while.
Gelato should never give a sensation of bitter cold when you put it in your mouth. If it does, it means that the recipe was incorrectly balanced. Similarly, gelato should never be too warm either, like mousse; in this case, it could mean excessive air absorption during the production stage.
5. Only the seasonal fruit flavors should be there on the list
It is reasonable to be attracted by gelato parlors sporting dozens of different and unique flavors. Yet, if they offer them all year round, regardless of what is in season, there is a reasonably high possibility that gelato has been made from flavorings. The fruit flavors available in a gelato shop indicate whether the gelato-maker serves good quality real gelato. The fruit flavors in the store should suit what would be available during that season of a particular location. Certain fruits such as lemon s, bananas, and a few other flavors can be there year-round.
If you see stacks full of gelato behind the counter labeled with the names of distinct flavors like menta, fragola, and mandorla then you are at the wrong place. Have you heard of them before? Neither have we. We hope we made it more clear what we were trying to say. Ambiguous flavors are a clear indication of “gelato fraud.”
It is definitely a better choice to get your gelato from a smaller shop offering fewer flavors than heading for flashy stores with a long list of flavors. A good gelato takes time to make it correctly, making it more difficult and laborious to supply many options. Therefore genuine gelato shops prefer 20 freshly made seasonal options than among 50 created with additives and flavoring.
Summing It Up
As the gelato experts say, if you really want to enjoy a gelato to the fullest, you may pick only one flavor and have it in a cup. That may be true for some, but for many, is there anything more pleasant and satisfying than walking around the town with a big cone, filled with 2 or 3 delicious scoops of fresh, creamy gelato?
As you crave a fulfilling frozen dessert, then gelato belongs with the greats. Now that you are no less than an expert to identify the gem out of the pebbles. Trust your taste buds. Taste a little of it. If it doesn’t scream out the flavor and feel, it’s not a good gelato.