Assessing gourmet frozen meals.

Assessing gourmet frozen meals.

Assessing gourmet frozen meals.

How to be the best consumer you can be.
March 29 2005 7:27 AM

Cold Case

Are the new frozen dinners any good?

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Blue Ginger Tangerine Beef and Leeks Noodle Bowl (Ming Tsai)

Food Network celebrity chef Ming Tsai is responsible for this "very contained and pretty" bowl of fun, judged to have "good orange flavor" and beef that is "lean, good, and not tough." The nutritionists were happy that it "has pea pods" but noted "it could use more vegetables" and is also "a little greasy."


Taste and presentation: 3.7
Nutrition: 3
Would you buy this: 5
Value: +1.09
Total: 12.79

Whole Kitchen Thai Red Curry With Shrimp (Whole Foods Market)

We warmed to this meal in no small part because it was attractive. But it wowed us with its abundant green beans and a note of authenticity—one taster commended it for its "strong lemongrass, garlic, and galangal." An added bonus: The rice accompanying many frozen dinners is soggy; this meal produced a fragrant, even fluffy product. Another factor: shrimp. Most shrimp we consume, especially by those living in landlocked regions, is frozen. As a result, the shrimp was deemed far tastier than the watered-down, flavorless chicken and beef in many other frozen meals.

Taste and presentation: 4.4
Nutrition: 2.9
Would you buy this: 6
Value: +0.30
Total: 13.6

The Verdict

Going into this experiment, I wondered if these frozen meals would save me more time and money than good old-fashioned ingenuity in the kitchen. It takes me just over four minutes to make that Frasier-worthy dinner of tossed salad and scrambled eggs, along with a slice of buttered toast. The cost of that meal is equivalent to a frozen dinner, but all the food is fresh. I have to say that I would prefer a thrown-together homemade meal over all but two or three of these frozen dinners. But between you and me, if your Whole Foods runs out of the Thai red curry with shrimp, you know who to blame.

Kelly Alexander is a North Carolina-based writer and a consulting editor for Saveur magazine.