Frozen Meat Loaf Dinners: Who Has the Best?
I realize there are some editorial issues here and that I missed out on a lot of other brands of meat loaf out there. I probably should have gone back and cleaned up some of the language, but I figured that because there were only a couple of brands I found really appealing, it didn't matter that much. Of course, these are just my opinions and you may or may not agree with me.
What I also found limiting is the fact that meatloaf - at least frozen, TV dinner type, is actually kind of a hard selection. Turkey is pretty simple. Meat loaf - to get good as many of you who enjoy the dish understand - is something that frozen food companies have yet to perfect. Most of the ones I have come across have been kind of like soggy bread and I ended throwing them out. Others were like a Salisbury steak and if that is the case, why call it meat loaf? It might sound a bit silly, but for those of us who enjoy a nice home style meal, meat loaf really cannot be topped. It is one of the ultimate comfort foods.
So since there were many out there I missed out on, and if you read the article, I would like to ask you folks to please offer some suggestions for me in the commentary section. I would appreciate knowing what else is out there and probably add a review myself. Also, in my first outline I had looked over the prices and wanted to add them as well. In fact, I think I did with my original selections but the format wouldn't take in HP. However, given that the prices have been going up lately (have you noticed) and that they can vary from region (and even from retailer within the same city) it would not be fair to include a price.
Again, these are my opinions and I thank you for giving me a chance to share my opinion. I am sort of biased towards Stouffers because that has been my favorite for awhile - but I did get a bad purchase a few weeks back so I'll be turned off on it for awhile.
Meatloaf is Actually Pretty Good
I have heard people refer to meatloaf as comfort food and it's probably because it is an 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 meals for several days.
Frozen foods, although convenient, may not be the healthiest option, nor the most delicious, but sometimes they time 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.
A Meatloaf Dinner in a Famous Restaurant
In this piece, I will rate the following meat loaf dinners, offered by the following brands: Stouffer's, Boston Market, Swanson's, Walmart and Hormel. I prepared all of my dinner's 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 meat loaf by itself was $4.98 at my local grocer.
Stouffer's Brand Meat Loaf
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 nice body, one that I made me look forward to consuming the meal.
Texture: the meat had a nice solid hold. It didn't break apart easy 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 fifteen or twenty 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 meat loaf 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 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 added to it. 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 big disappointed because the gravy had blandish color and seemed a little more watery that I would like. But they exhibited a pleasant aroma and had a nice beefy flavor which wasn't overbearing. The gravy made the meat loaf examples tastier and were a nice compliment 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 microwave. Not only a good name, but probably one of the few brands that provide a complete - including vegetable and desert - 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, 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 mushroom than meat is why I was turned off.
I'll be honest, I did't finish it and instead left it outside for the hungry animals. I just didn't care for it.
Walmart's Great Value branch meat loaf
Overview: Well, not too bad for a generic brand meat loaf. 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 meat loaf to have more of 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.
Hormell Meat Loaf
I decided to try Hormell 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: 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 juics 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 meat loaf for sandwiches for the next couple of days and some potatoes left over to cook another dinner.
Hormell was pretty good.
Meat Loaf Dinners Rated 1- 10
Flavor (Meat and Gravy)
Potatoes and Sides
Great Value (Walmart)