Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

We are a source for a definitive guide to classic Southern dishes, and we take that task seriously. We do plenty of research and put our Test Kitchen professionals through the wringer, asking them to test and retest recipes until everyone around the tasting table can confidently say: “Yes, this one is the best!” But when July rolled around, we decided to tackle pimiento cheese—and the notion of a consensus went out the window.

As it turns out, there are countless views on pimiento cheese perfection. It can be a smooth and spreadable version sandwiched between two slices of white bread. It can be chunky, spiked with hot sauce and cayenne pepper, and stuffed into celery sticks. It can be made with extra mayonnaise for a creamy cracker topper. The list goes on and on. We found that, apart from the fundamental ingredients (cheese, pimientos, and mayo), the best pimiento cheese is the one you grew up eating.

WATCH: Pimiento Cheese Fries

So while this is the place where we typically take a firm stance on a Southern classic, we kept the peace in the Test Kitchen and honored the “pâté of the South” in all its glorious forms, with two caveats. First, hand shred the cheese—some finely, some coarsely—for the best texture (a food processor will get the job done, but don’t cheat with the pre-grated stuff). Second, pick jarred pimientos that are diced, not sliced. After that, it’s up to you.

We've always found that a no-frills Basic Pimiento Cheese is a real crowd pleaser, but you can easily switch things up for a completely different dip. If you're a cheese connoisseur, you'll love our Goat Cheese and Gouda Pimiento Cheese. When you want to mix a little Italian with your Southern spread, go for our Prosciutto-Asiago Pimiento Cheese. Feel like you're missing the heat? You'll love our Chipotle Pimiento Cheese. Make the Horseradish Pimiento Cheese when you need something a little thicker for your party.