Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Stouffer's Barbecue Chicken

Summer has come to an end. It's time for children to return to the drudgery of school. The leaves have already begun to change their color. The inevitable drop in temperature has already arrived, somewhat early this year, meaning an end to nice weather and a reintroduction to the next stupid fucking winter.

Damn.  It.
Damn. It.

That doesn't mean that we can't delay winter's arrival in our hearts somewhat. Stouffer's has tried to capture the essence of summer time cookouts in a frozen dinner: Stouffer's Barbecue Chicken.

Summer in a frozen goddamn box.
Summer in a frozen goddamn box.

Now I'm not sure what they mean by 'barbecue' exactly, because here's where we come into a little bit of a language barrier. From a glance at the box, I can't tell whether they mean American-style barbecue, which would mean it was slow cooked in sauce, or if they mean barbecue in the Canadian sense, which would mean it was grilled and then covered in sauce. I'm going to assume that they mean the latter, since I don't think that Stouffer's would go through all the trouble to slow-cooking the food for their frozen dinners so they become succulent and tender and almost melt in your mouth.

Now interestingly enough, this meal got a Health Check from the Heart and Stroke Foundation. That means that the food was reviewed by the foundation, and found to meet certain criteria (whatever they are) that they developed. It also says on the box that Stouffer's paid a fee to help run the program, which is apparently voluntary.

The cynic in me wants to point out that other similar awards presented in other industries (such as the auto industry) aren't worth the paper they're printed on since the requirements to win such awards are fairly minimal. The fee required is mainly used as a pay-off to get the endorsement they can use in their advertising. The fact that this meal contains 12% of the daily recommended allowance of fat and 23% of the daily recommended allowance of sodium makes me think that this award might be somewhat similar, since neither of those values are particularly heart-healthy.

Well, as I open up the box, let's go through 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.

Inside the box is a single tray containing barbecue chicken and seasoned potato wedges in their native state.

In the wild, single trays containing barbecue chicken and seasoned potato wedges have been known to take down a gazelle.
In the wild, single trays containing barbecue chicken and seasoned potato wedges have been known to take down a gazelle.

One thing I did notice is that while the chicken is covered in sauce, it is not partitioned within the tray, meaning that the sauce will flow over into the potatoes while cooking. This may not bother most of you, but any people suffering from OCD might find themselves having a nervous breakdown after preparing this meal.

The tray goes into the microwave, with its cellophane unpierced, unopened and unmolested (this is a rarity since most cellophane is rather slutty) for a whole 5 and 1/2 minutes to cook. There is a two minute difference between the minimum and maximum cooking times, which is giving me flashbacks to the terrifying Beer Battered Chicken and Cheese Fries incident of 2009.

A few minutes later, the tray emerges. The scent of sauce tickling my nose.

Let the games begin.
Let the games begin.

Barbecue Chicken
Notice the conspicuous lack of grill marks that would indicate actual barbecue.
Notice the conspicuous lack of grill marks that would indicate actual barbecue.

Since the meal is called 'barbecue chicken', let's start with the chicken, which doesn't seem to be barbecue under either of the definitions I could find above. In fact, a quick look at the ingredients confirms my suspicions. It's not barbecue chicken. It's 'cooked glazed chicken'. The sauce it's been dumped in just happens to be barbecue-like.

The smell of the chicken is almost completely hidden by the sauce, but since the two are a package deal, it's not a bad thing. The sauce has a sharp, but rich smell, and I can make out both tomato and chili sauce in it. It doesn't seem like it's a regular barbecue sauce, but it's not bad. Although the smell is good, it tends to be cloying and drowns out the rest of the food.

The cut of meat is a chicken breast, and appears to be an actual cut of meat, which is a nice change of pace from the usual pressed chicken sweepings that are sold in these meals.

The chicken is bland and almost entirely flavorless. The sauce however is slightly acidic and only mildly spicy. There are some small pieces of onion that have been added to the sauce to provide some texture. The barbecue-like sauce that Stouffer's has concocted isn't award-winning by any means, but still stands head and shoulders over the usual sauces seen in these meals, which are usually ketchup or just straight tomato sauce.

All in all, the chicken is above average for a frozen dinner. Unfortunately, that means I can't make too many snide comments about it. There are however the potato wedges that still need to be reviewed.

Smell: 7/10
Taste: 8/10
Mouthfeel: 7/10
Total Score: (7.3/10)

Seasoned Potato Wedges
Just a big-old chunk of bad.
Just a big-old chunk of bad.

The potato wedges are just that. They're wedges made from small potatoes with a crinkle cut. They're seasoned, but just look like they've been dusted with parsley, and if I were to guess probably some salt and pepper too.

The smell of the wedges stands out strongly. It's very nutty, like a three day old peanut butter sandwich that's been left out in the sun. I know that may sound extreme, but these are extremely stinky potato wedges, and that is a sentence I thought I'd never have to say twice in one lifetime.

While I had originally thought that the cooking time wouldn't be enough to heat up the wedges, it turns out that I was wrong. They did get hot. The problem is that some of the potatoes were not fully cooked before they were frozen. Some of the pieces are still partially raw.

And if they aren't raw, they're rubbery. The pieces that were cooked lie limp and uninterested on my fork, and bearing a striking resemblance to a girl I used to date. The insides of the cooked wedges are dry and I choke more than once just trying to get them down.

I haven't mentioned the taste yet, but let's get to that now. They're salty. How salty are they? Well, combined with their dryness, these wedges are the saltine crackers of the frozen food world. They do have a pleasant peppery aftertaste, but that does little to disguise the taste of spoiled food that's very prevalent.

Yeah. Not only are they partially cooked and dry as a bone, but they also taste like the potatoes had spoiled before they were cooked. Whoever approved these wedges should be marched out behind the factory and shot. There's just no excuse for potatoes this fucking bad.

Earlier I mentioned that the package wasn't partitioned, which meant that sauce would flow over into the potatoes, upsetting those crazy people who insist that different foods should not touch. It turns out that this was a blessing in disguise, as the wedges that were drenched in barbecue sauce are by far more palatable than the rest.

These are by far the worst potatoes I've had in a long time.

Smell: 1/10
Taste: 1/10
Mouthfeel: 1/10
Total Score: (1.0/10)

The Totals:

Smell: 4.0/10
Taste: 4.5/10
Mouthfeel: 4.0/10
Total Score: (4.2/10)

So, there you have it: strong start, but an extremely questionable finish. The sauce that seemed to cover almost everything as designed to mask the flavor of the actual food portion of the meal, like a chef in a seedy restaurant.

Bottom line is this: This meal is the equivalent of the shady guy who picks up on girls in the bar at closing time. It's somewhat saucy and looks ok at the time, but he leaves a bad taste in your mouth. (Am I right ladies?)

After I reviewed the meal, I noticed that the box had a pin number that could provide me with rewards! I checked the website and found that for only 22 pin numbers, I could get a gift card worth a whole $10 of groceries!

Now, I did the math, and I have reviewed only 3 out of the 14 selections available in Stouffer's original line. That means that I could review the remaining meals twice each in order to get myself the free gift card.

But the promotion finishes at the end of February of next year, leaving me a little under six months to eat 21 frozen meals. That means that I would have to eat 3.5 times as many frozen dinners as I usually do between now and then in order to get a $10 gift card that I can use towards groceries.

Ehhhh....fuck it. I'll live without the $10.

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