Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Swanson Hungry-Man's Sports Grill Jumbo Popcorn Chicken and Pizza Sticks
We always go back to those that hurt us.
We always go back to those that hurt us.

One of the more popular Horrors of the Ice Box has been the Swanson Hungry-Man's Beer Battered Chicken and Cheese Fries. I don't know why really, I think it probably has something to do with the fact that this was the one that nearly broke me. I've still got an iron constitution and I haven't gotten sick doing these reviews yet, but damnit, those stupid cheese fries nearly did me in.

So it was pretty unavoidable that somebody would eventually come up to me and present me with another Hungry-Man dinner, and another one from the Sports Grill line to boot. This time it's Jumbo Popcorn Chicken and Pizza Sticks. Jumbo popcorn chicken...why the hell don't they say chicken nuggets, unless for some reason they're breading the things in popcorn. I wouldn't put it past them.

Also pizza sticks? These things look like those pre-filled frozen bagels that I've seen lately. That's not a pizza stick, that's a piece of fucking bread.

Sound familiar? Well, I wrote that back on May 1st when I first attempted to review the Swanson Hungry-Man's Sports Grill Jumbo Popcorn Chicken and Pizza Sticks. This time, I'm relatively sure that there's no masked stranger ready to beat me over the head with a baseball bat and drag me fifteen feet into my garage, chain me up and force me to review frozen dinners.

This time, I'm doing it for me.

Seriously though, if there's an award for the worst line of frozen food, it would probably go to Hungry-Man. There was the Beer Battered Chicken and Cheese Fries that nearly had me puking and the extremely acidic Backyard Barbeque. I gotta say that I'm really dreading the inevitable. Well, time to open the box...


Ok, just kidding there! No big-bad kidnappers this time. I guess this means that I really have to review it.

One word: Yeeesh.
One word: Yeeesh.

Most frozen dinners look half-way edible when they're still in their sub-zero state. Not so here. If you look carefully on the right you'll see that pieces of breading have broken off the chicken and are covering the entirety of the packaging. I even found quite a little pile of them inside the box. The container itself is sealed quite firmly with plastic, so I don't even know where that handful of errant crumbs came from, but just to play it on the safe side, I'm going to discard them.

So, this stuff needs to be cooked for a couple of minutes without the bread, and then even longer with the bread inside. Microwaved bread...mmm. I will never understand how people think that eating bread that's been effectively "boiled in package" tastes good.

So, this inconspicuous package packs some pretty serious punch. 65% of your daily recommended of fat (58% of your saturated fat) and 75% of your sodium are right here, ready for the eating. It's not all bad though, you get 45% of your vitamin c and 25% of your calcium. So, hopefully you'll be safe from bone loss and scurvy.

And now, in order to drag this out as long as possible before getting to the review, here are the rules:

  • Rule #1:
    I must follow cooking procedures exactly as they're shown on the container. I will not deviate from those instructions in any way, and I must prepare food in the fastest manner presented to me.
  • Rule #2:
    I must consume everything that comes with the meal. No hiding of disgusting parts will be tolerated. (In the unlikely event of bones or other inedibles, allowances will be made).
  • Rule #3:
    To make sure my palate is completely free of obstructions, I may only be allowed either water or alcohol. Alcohol does not include fancy-pants fruity girly drinks.
  • Rule #4:
    All food will be graded by smell, taste and mouthfeel, with less offensive qualities receiving higher marks. At the end, each part is receives an average score. The full meal is graded by the average score of each component. Appearance of the food is not graded because, let's face it, they all look pretty bad.

Ahhh civilization.
Ahhh civilization.
It's amazing how nice these things look when you take the time to plate them properly. Well, from the looks of things, there are about seven pieces of jumbo popcorn chicken and two pieces of pizza bread. Also included is quite a lot of this sauce. I'm not quite sure what it's called, so we'll just call it pizza sauce.

Well, enough stalling. Let's get on with it.

Jumbo Popcorn Chicken

Foodstuff or wood, you decide.
Foodstuff or wood, you decide.
Ok, popcorn chicken are small battered and fried pieces of chicken that look like, well, popcorn. This stuff, doesn't look like popcorn. This looks like a goddamn fucking nugget to me. Although it's greasy, it's not overwhelmingly so. I don't know if this was even fried, but it certainly wasn't battered, this was breaded. So, now that we've established that Swanson doesn't know the difference between battered and breaded or between fried and baked and has no idea what popcorn looks like, let's continue.

Well, the smell is just awful, there's no other word for it. My stomach started doing somersaults when the musty scent of buttered nuts hit me. That's right, the chicken smells nutty. That's a good sign right?

The taste is better. It's quite neutral with a slight chemical taste. For all the sodium in these things, I'm surprised that they need salt to give them some flavor. As for the mouthfeel? Well, the breading got mushy during cooking, so imagine biting into a piece of reconstituted chicken shavings surrounded by a piece of damp toast and you're pretty much there.

Smell: 2/10
Taste: 4/10
Mouthfeel: 3/10
Total Score: (3.0/10)

Pizza Sticks

Holy shit, you can see the dampness from here.
Holy shit, you can see the dampness from here.
Right, it's time for another edition of "Rules to Cook By". This time we're going to discuss how to heat bread. Bread doesn't take to moisture well, so you're going to want to use a dry cooking method. Toasting, broiling and baking are all good. You can even fry it. But you don't microwave it. Why? Well, microwaves heat food by exciting the water particles in food, turning them into steam. Steaming is a wet cooking method and leaves bread mushy in some places and bone dry in others.

So repeat after me: we do not heat bread in the fucking microwave.

This stuff is horrendous. I really need a new word to describe just this bread. It's amazing how through modern science you can turn one of the most basic processed foods, a staple of life and turn it into this omnifuck. Wow, that is a good word to describe it. These pizza sticks are an omnifuck on your sensibilities and tastebuds.

The stuff smells wet, surprise, surprise. The taste is unappealing. It's wet bread with some chemical-toilet cheese in the middle and what appears the world's least flavorful garlic sprinkled conservatively on top. And since it was microwaved as per instructions, it's hard on the edges and yet mushy in the middle.

Smell: 1/10
Taste: 2/10
Mouthfeel: 3/10
Total Score: (2.0/10)

Pizza Sauce

The chicken sucked, the pizza sticks were even worse. I'm really scared to see what kind of fresh hell this sauce unleashes.

Well, here's the thing. It doesn't suck. It smells like really good, rich pizza sauce. It tastes like really good, rich pizza sauce, and the consistency makes me think that somebody put semi-high quality pizza sauce into the box when I wasn't looking. I'm serious, this is good. Probably one of the best things I've reviewed in months. Easily the best thing to come out of the Hungry-Man line that I've seen.

This stuff is so good, that it makes the pizza bread edible and the chicken palatable. I'm being completely serious here. If it wasn't for the sauce, this meal would probably be the worst one of the year. The sauce has officially pushed this from 'suicide meal' to 'mediocre'.

So here's the million dollar question: if Swanson actually made something good in a Hungry-Man meal, how come they can't do the same for EVERYTHING ELSE? Well, maybe that's best left for another day.

Smell: 8/10
Taste: 8/10
Mouthfeel: 10/10
Total Score: (8.6/10)

The Totals:

Smell: 3.7/10
Taste: 4.7/10
Mouthfeel: 5.3/10
Total Score: (4.6/10)

So, at the end of the day, this isn't the worst Hungry-Man that's crossed these pages, but it's tied for 2nd, so it's not great, but you won't be puking it up an hour later.

Bottom line is this: If you've aspirations towards cooking, take notes: a good sauce can easily take a horrible meal and make it passable. It's magical. Also, if you're working for a dictionary:

Adjective; So horribly conceived or executed as to negatively affect the environment around the subject.
Example: The fire that caused the explosion in the napalm factory during that school field trip was an omnifuck.

I've got a real craving going on for some eggs and bacon. I wonder if I can get something like that in a frozen dinner? I wonder if I can get something half-way decent?

Next time: Aunt Jemima provides me with Scrambled Eggs and Bacon.

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