Finn lives in California's central valley. He enjoys writing food reviews.
Frozen foods are convenient, and a lot of people enjoy meatloaf. Who makes the best meatloaf, though? I will evaluate Boston Market, Hormel, Marie Callender's, Stouffers, Swanson, and Walmart brands. Most of these brands are available nationally—and perhaps even internationally, as well, since the world wide web has a global reach.
I created a chart of my overall opinions at the top of the article, and then I go into each brand-specific review below that. You may not agree with all my opinions, but please feel free to provide feedback below.
I would like to hear from all of you about your recommendations, as well. Sometimes the quality of these brands seems to change. For example, it seems like the quality of Stouffer's has gone down somewhat recently, which is disappointing because it used to be one of my favorites.
Let me know about any new brands out there that I should try!
Meatloaf Dinners Rated 1- 10
Flavor (Meat and Gravy)
Potatoes and Sides
Great Value (Walmart)
Meatloaf Is Good Food
I have heard people refer to meatloaf as comfort food, and it's probably because it is a relatively easy-to-make meal that is good when hot and freshly prepared, tastes good cold, and is a great filling for sandwiches days later. It is fairly economical with simple ingredients and can probably provide you with meals for several days.
Frozen foods, although convenient, may not be the healthiest option, nor the most delicious, but sometimes they time a saving substitute for at-home meal preparation. Honestly, I've never been a big fan of frozen food for most of my life because I prefer to cook. But sometimes I don't have the time or the energy to prepare my own meals. And cleaning up after yourself, particularly when you equate a full sink with success, is another story.
Meatloaf as well, has never been my favorite selection, but when I want some good old fashioned dish with a side of mashed potatoes and something with gravy, meatloaf certainly satisfies.
In this piece, I will rate the following meatloaf dinners offered by the following brands: Stouffer's, Boston Market, Swanson's, Walmart, and Hormel. I prepared all of my dinners either in a toaster oven or a conventional oven, even though all are microwaveable. I personally feel that the food comes out nicer that way. They will be rated on various categories, including taste, appearance, aroma, and texture.
Each of these meals should run you a cost anywhere from $2.00 to $3.50 depending upon sales or locality. The Hormel meatloaf by itself was $4.98 at my local grocer.
My first review is of Stouffer's brand meatloaf.
I found it to be very delicious and one that I would recommend:
Taste: A nice beefy taste with a hint of bell pepper and onion. The aroma was full of flavor and a nice body, one that made me look forward to consuming the meal.
Texture: The meat had a nice solid hold. It didn't break apart easily or seem sinewy. The beef was tender and full.
Potatoes: They tasted authentic and were full and fluffy. I usually add a little butter to mine.
Gravy: Warm and yummy. They went well with the potatoes and had a nice look to it. Often the gravies in meals are a little thin, but not so here. And it went well with the potatoes. My only criticism is that I wanted more.
Overall I would rate this brand a 9. It was easy to prepare and had a nice appearance after being cooked. I felt relaxed and satiated after eating.
My second review is Boston Market.
I was a big fan of Boston Market about 15 or 20 years ago. I liked the restaurants because you could get a serving of meat, potatoes, a side of veggies, and a stick of bread for a reasonable price. It was quick and convenient, and fairly tasty.
The meatloaf dinner appeared somewhat appetizing and had a pleasant aroma. For the most part, I found it enjoyable, even though I didn't finish all of my meat.
Taste: The meat had a somewhat bland taste, in my opinion, and I really wasn't sure whether it was meat or some sort of filler I was eating. I usually like my meatloaf to have a few distinctive palates such as a bit of onion, pepper, and maybe some slight tomato-like base.
Texture: This is the area where the meal actually failed me. The texture was very soft, and I prefer that my meat have a certain firmness to it. This fact led me to believe that there were some fillers in the meat - perhaps some soy or other wheat products because it felt like I was biting into a piece of colored bread—and it didn't taste that much different. The two pieces of meat did not appear to be sliced from a loaf but rather looked like two patties that were pressed together. It made me think of Salisbury Steak - which I guess is not really that much different from meatloaf.
Potatoes: The potatoes were probably one of the best aspects of this dinner. They were flavorful, and just enough pepper spice was added to them. They had a nice full-bodied texture and were not too watery. The potatoes were filling and solid enough to dip into the gravy.
Gravy: At first, I was a bit disappointed because the gravy had a blandish color and seemed a little more watery than I would like. But they exhibited a pleasant aroma and had a nice beefy flavor, which wasn't overbearing. The gravy made the meatloaf examples tastier and was a nice complement to the potatoes.
Overall, fairly filling and probably worth the price if you are looking for a good meal. Not my first choice, though.
Swanson Hungry Man
Overview: Everyone is probably familiar with a name like Swanson. One of the pioneers of the TV Dinner, Swanson used to come in foil containers that were not suitable for today's microwaves. Not only a good name but probably one of the few brands that provide a complete—including vegetable and dessert - meal.
Taste: This dinner smelled really nice and, for the most part, looked pretty good. The patties were not as solid as I had liked. They were soft but still flavorful. For the most part, they had a pleasant taste, but because the texture was unappealing, I found them less enjoyable than other brands.
Potatoes and Gravy: The gravy was really nice and full of beefy flavor, and the potatoes were rich, thick, and delicious. This is what made the meal for me. A meat and potatoes dinner, of course, must include a good starch.
Sides: The vegetables were all right as far as frozen vegetables cooked in an oven goes. I think the portion was a little smaller than what I had expected, but given the fact that this was a fairly well-rounded meal, I think they were a nice addition.
Desert included: The brownie was pretty good - just the same basic cake Swanson has been offering for at least thirty years. Nothing really spectacular, but if you put it next to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and add some toppings, you have yourself quite a fixin'!
Overview: Well, I will be honest with you; I was wary about this one because I had tried it before. I took one slight bite of the meatloaf and decided to pass.
Taste (and Appearance): In its favor, however, this was the brand that probably looked the most appetizing coming out of the oven. The corn looks very crisp, and the mushrooms on top of the patty are a nice touch. Aesthetically, this was probably the most appealing of all the brands surveyed. It actually seemed quite fancy. The taste, though, was not there for me: it seemed artificial and processed, almost like the loaf, instead of being composed of actual meat, was made of ... well, mushrooms.
Summary: You may give it a try, though ... there is a nice portion of cut corn along with potatoes and gravy. The beef has some mushroom pieces on it, and actually, the beef tasted more like a mushroom than meat is why I was turned off.
I'll be honest, I didn't finish it and instead left it outside for the hungry animals. I just didn't care for it.
Overview: Well, not too bad for a generic brand meatloaf. The potatoes were flavorful and creamy and tasted pretty good, especially with the gravy.
Taste: With the meat, I was a little disappointed - a nice beefy flavor with a slight hint of tomato in it. However, I didn't really too much care for the texture which was more like a Salisbury steak. I personally like my meatloaf to have more body too it. The meat itself wasn't completely beefy and tasted a bit full of fillers as well - more so than necessary. (Because there are a lot of fillers in your home-cooked version, you just don't taste them).
Sides: The gravy was flavorful and had a nice body to it. It went well with the meat and the potatoes.
Summary: Overall, not too bad for the cost - which was slightly more than the other Great Value meals - which probably says something in itself. It wouldn't be my first choice, but I might consider it an option for variety's sake in the future.
It certainly would be nice if they added a side dish like a vegetable to help round out the dinner.
Well, here is an updated review of Hormel's meatloaf:
Horrible. I don't know what they did to change the recipe.
The texture was like something between tofu and a sponge that had spent too much time wandering around the Mariana Trench in a Jeep Wrangler without any wheels or engine parts. It was like coagulated mush, frozen and then drizzled with a small ketchup packet from an abandoned restaurant in the 1940s. It was sour and stale and in a paste that could substitute for putty.
The taste was bland, and the aroma even less so. I lifted the brick of meat, and it broke in half—but each piece managed to retain its shape. I would expect meat to have a certain give to it, but this did not at all.
I do not recommend this brand and am sorry I ever wrote anything favorable about it in the past. Perhaps it was okay at one time, but their ingredients must have changed dramatically over the years.
My Old (Outdated!) Review of Hormel
I decided to try the Hormel brand even though I was a bit wary because I had tried some of these ready-made, vacuum-sealed products before and found them mediocre at best. I had also read one review online that said Hormel was not very pleasant, but there were several others that said it was. So I decided to give it a try.
Because I do not have a microwave, I had to cook it in the oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour. The bowl started to warp, so I was a little nervous, but when I took the meatloaf out, it smelled very pleasant, like the stuff you cook at home.
The texture was solid - which is one of my preferences - and the taste was pretty delicious. One of the better ones. My only real complaint is that there wasn't any gravy. Just some juice to keep the meat moist; otherwise, this was almost like home-cooked.
I added some potatoes and gravy, which I picked up at Walmart, some corn I had in the refrigerator (previously canned), and a buttered Hawaiian roll. All in all, I probably consumed about three or four dollars worth of food and had quite a nice meal.
I have enough meatloaf for sandwiches for the next couple of days, and some potatoes left over to cook another dinner.
Hormel was pretty good.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why do some meatloaf brands look like hamburger patties?
Answer: I think because often meatloaf is made from ground beef. Ground beef is rather inexpensive and most meat eaters like it. Patties are fairly common items and the patty shape is simple and easy to replicate.
© 2016 Finn