Food Fight: T.G.I. Friday’s, Part 3

Posted in Food Fight on January 25th, 2010 by bl1y

Here it is,the third and final installment T.G.I. Friday’s frozen food reviews.  [Read the first and second entries.]  This time we’re taking a look at three different chicken products, Honey BBQ Chicken Wings, Buffalo Chicken Wings, and Buffalo Popcorn Chicken.  Again, all the products are roughly the same size by weight, so the stats are for an entire small box, not per serving.  The popcorn chicken comes with a side of buffalo sauce (in addition to the buffalo seasoning already on the chicken); so the popcorn chicken will be listed both with and without the sauce.

Round One: Bad Nutrition

Calories

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 400

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 360

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 480 / 690

Fat

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 22g

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 22g

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 21g / 25g

Carbs

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 20g

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 8g

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 45g / 90g

Sodium

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 1100mg

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 2060mg

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 2010mg / 4090mg

Round Two: Good Nutrition

Protein

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 28g

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 30g

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 27g / 27g

Calcium

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 8%

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 4%

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 0% / 0%

Vitamin A

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 4%

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 16%

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 12% / 24%

Iron

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: 8%

Buffalo Chicken Wings: 8%

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: 6%

Round Three: Cost

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: $2.98

Buffalo Chicken Wings: $2.98

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: $2.98

Round Four: Convenience

Honey BBQ and Buffalo Chicken Wings: The wings had the same cooking instructions.  They could be, theoretically, microwaved, and while I am favoring convenience in products, wings are just something that really need to be baked.  They bake at 450F for 9 minutes, need to be flipped, and then baked for another 8 minutes.

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: These also had both baking and microwave instructions, but I went with the microwave on this one, at a quick 2:30.  Trouble with these is the extra sauce packet, which cannot be microwaved.  You thaw it by setting it in a pot of hot water for about 8 minutes.

Round Five: The Main Event – How Was It

Honey BBQ Chicken Wings: Bad choice in sauce.  Barbeque is sweet enough as it is, no need for anything to ever be honey barbeque.  It wasn’t gross, just too sweet to be good.  The texture of the meat was fine, but baking it did not produce anything resembling a crispy skin.  The wings are too drenched in sauce to crisp up at all, but pretty much what you find in all second rate wings.  B-

Buffalo Chicken Wings: This sauce was actually pretty decent.  If you’re looking for something really spicy, this won’t be it, but I think that’s a good thing.  Too many wings go for heat over taste.  Buffalo describes a specific type of mild-medium hot sauce, and they produced that flavor pretty well.  And, despite not being as drenched in sauce as the barbeque wings, the skin on these still didn’t crisp up in the oven.  You’d be much better off buying the wings cooked by your local grocery store.  B

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken: The processing, freezing, and microwaving really took a toll on the texture of the nuggets.  These probably would have benefited from baking (where as the wings would have been the same out of the microwave).  Otherwise though, they were pretty decent.  They got the same good buffalo flavor as the wings, and weren’t too hot.  As for the extra sauce…completely unnecessary.  It tastes exactly the same as the chicken.  B+

Results

Since the Buffalo Popcorn Chicken was ultimately eaten without the extra sauce, those numbers will not be considered in the results, except to say right now that 4090mg of sodium is INSANE.

Bad Nutrition

Worst Bad Nutrition: Mozzarella Sticks, not even close.  770 calories, 35g of fat, 63g carbs, and 1330mg sodium to boot.  I feel sick just thinking about it.

Best Bad Nutrition: Potato Skins?  None of these was remotely good for you, but the Potato Skins seem like they’ll kill you the slowest.

Good Nutrition

Worst Good Nutrition: Potato Skins?  Again, a tough thing to judge.  This one just ranks so much lower than everything else for protein that it’s the only thing to stand out.

Best Good Nutrition: Mozzarella Sticks just barely beats out Chicken Quesadillas.  Everything competing was high protein, but these two also packed in a lot of calcium.

Cost

Those of you who’ve been keeping up will have spotted this already: a 7 way tie!  Everyone one of these products came in at just $2.98 (which is why I was willing to buy so many).

Convenience

Least Convenient: Both of the Wings and the Mozzarella Sticks are pretty inconvenient.  All three bake, which slows the process down.  The Wings require being flipped halfway through, and the Mozzarella Sticks have a whole sauce thawing process.  Mozzarella Sticks are the least convenient, by a field goal.

Most Convenient: The two Quesadillas will split this victory with the Popcorn Chicken.  Sure, the Popcorn Chicken has a packet of sauce to thaw, but you’re better served throwing it away, making all three of these products about equally convenient.  (I still suggest baking the chicken.)

How Was It?

It Was the Worst: Mozzarella Sticks, without a doubt, hands down, one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve had horse.

It Was the Best: This isn’t much of a victory, since nothing stood out as great, but the Popcorn Chicken wins this one.

Final Verdict

What the hell, let’s give it to the Potato Skins.  If I went back and looked at all the data carefully, I might reach another result, but right now the Potato Skins are simply the only thing I could imagine buying again, and that basically makes it the white guy boxing against the black guy.  If you’re black, anything other than a knockout in the ring results in a loss.  Sorry, but there you have it, I’m a food racist.

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Food Fight: T.G.I. Friday’s, Part 1

Posted in Food Fight on January 21st, 2010 by bl1y

This is the first of three installments in which I put any concern for my health aside in order to explore the quality of 7 different frozen T.G.I Friday’s products.  In this first segment, we’ll be taking a look at Cheddar and Bacon Potato Skins, and Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce.  Since all the packages are about the same weight but the serving sizes have a big range, the data will be for the entire package.  All of the contestants are the small, ~200g containers.  Info for the mozzarella sticks includes the servings of marinara.

Round One: Bad Nutrition

Calories

Potato Skins: 420

Mozzarella Sticks: 770

Fat

Potato Skins: 24g

Mozzarella Sticks: 35g

Carbs

Potato Skins: 34g

Mozzarella Sticks: 63g

Sodium

Potato Skins: 960g

Mozzarella Sticks: 1330g

Round Two: Good Nutrition

Protein

Potato Skins: 16g

Mozzarella Sticks: 28g

Calcium

Potato Skins: 12%

Mozzarella Sticks: 56%

Vitamin A

Potato Skins: 4%

Mozzarella Sticks: 14%

Iron

Potato Skins: 8%

Mozzarella Sticks: 0%

Round Three: Cost

Potato Skins: $2.98

Mozzarella Sticks: $2.98

Round Four: Convenience

Potato Skins: Cooks at 450F for 12 minutes

Mozzarella Sticks: Cooks at 450F for 8 minutes, and requires thawing marinara sauce (place packet in hot water for 8 minutes)

Round Five: The Main Event – How Was It?

Potato Skins: One of my pet peeves is that too many companies do not understand the difference between a potato skin and a potato boat.  A potato skin is a very thin slice of the skin of the potato, with a little bit of the flesh of the potato attached.  A potato boat is the same idea, but with a thick, substantial amount of potato.  These were potato boats, and like all potato boats, the texture was crap (unlike potato skins, which come out nice and crisp).  The cheese was very mediocre, but they did contain a fair amount of bacon pieces, which actually seemed to be genuine bacon.  C+

Mozzarella Sticks: As a whole, mozzarella sticks are a pretty disgusting food and are never very appealing.  These are the most retarded kid in the special ed class. While most mozzarella sticks have a cylindrical shape, these looked like they’d been flattened.  The firmness of the stick didn’t hold up.  The overall appearance was like a limp, deflated mozzarella dick.  The flavor was completely unappetizing.  I only ate a second one to confirm that the first was so awful.  The only saving grace here was the marinara, which comes in at average.  D-

There won’t be any winners until I’ve gone through all 7 of the products I picked up, so check back for updates as the food fight continues.

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Food Fight: Frozen, Zapped Mac’n'Cheese

Posted in Food Fight on January 13th, 2010 by bl1y

Once again it’s time to subject my already punished body to needless experimentation with processed food products. In this installment we’ve got a side-by-side-by-side battle between three frozen, microwavable macaroni and cheese products. I originally was just going to compare Lean Cuisine to Smart Ones, but figured I should throw in a third, non-diet brand to give a good taste comparison, so I’ve added in Stouffer’s as well.

Both the Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine came in single serving packages, and while it looks like Stouffer’s does to, my store only had the large size. The two diet brands weighed in at 283g, while one serving of the Stouffer’s was 225g, so the Stouffer’s nutritional data will be increased by 25% to compensate.

Round One: Bad Nutrition

Calories

Stouffer’s: 438

Lean Cuisine: 290

Smart Ones: 270

Fat

Stouffer’s: 21g

Lean Cuisine: 6g

Smart Ones: 2g

Sodium

Stouffer’s: 1150mg

Lean Cuisine: 630mg

Smart Ones: 790mg

Carbs

Stouffer’s: 43g

Lean Cuisine: 43g

Smart Ones: 52g

Winner: Close class, but this round goes to Lean Cuisine. Smart Ones smashed Lean Cuisine for fat, but I’ve found finding low fat options fairly easy to do. Low sodium is harder, so the higher sodium count of Smart Ones costs it this round.

Round Two: Good Nutrition

Protein

Stouffer’s: 19g

Lean Cuisine: 15g

Smart Ones: 11g

Calcium

Stouffer’s: 38%

Lean Cuisine: 30%

Smart Ones: 15%

Iron

Stouffer’s: 10%

Lean Cuisine: 6%

Smart Ones: 10%

Potassium

Stouffer’s: 0%

Lean Cuisine: 16%

Smart Ones: 0%

Winner: Stouffer’s. No contest here. Stouffer’s ties or beats the other in everything aside from potassium. Not too difficult for the fattening product to win on protein and calcium though, especially in a cheese dish.

Round Three: Cost

Stouffer’s: $1.31 per serving ($2.63 for the box). The box says it has 2 1/2 servings, but the 25% we’re using here brings that number down to just 2.

Lean Cuisine: $2.53

Smart Ones: $2.53

Winner: Stouffer’s, by a good margin too. I’m not entirely sure on the prices for the Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones, since I got them on sale (5 for $10), and the receipt was confusing about the original prices. So, I distributed the discount evenly over the 3 items I got on sale, and reached a price of $2.53 for each.

Round Four: Convenience

Stouffer’s: Cook for 8 minutes, stir, cook for another 3. Keep in mind that this is a large container, so it will have a longer cooking time.

Lean Cuisine: Cook for 3 minutes, stir, cook again for 90 seconds.

Smart Ones: Cook for 3 minutes, stir, cook again for 1 minute.

Winner: Draw. Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones are too close to make a difference, and Stouffer’s large size means it can’t really be compared. All three require stirring in the middle, which I find annoying. Where am I supposed to put the fork after I’ve stirred? (I know, on the box, but I’ve usually thrown it out by then.)

Round Five: The Main Event – How Was It?

Stouffer’s: I expected Stouffer’s to come in as the tasty-but-bad-for you contestant, but it just wasn’t very tasty. The noodles were soggy, tiny grease pools were visible on the surface, and the cheese was down right bland. C

Lean Cuisine: Just by looking at it, I could tell that the pasta had a better texture than the Stouffer’s. But, just from eating it, I probably could not have recognized it as macaroni and cheese. The color is spot on, but the cheese sauce just tastes thin and watery. D

Smart Ones: After Smart Ones triumphant victory in the mini pizza battle, I expected them to do well with another classic junk food item, but they didn’t pull through, not in the slightest. While Lean Cuisine was edible (if awkward), Smart Ones is just disgusting. I can’t place what’s wrong with the cheese sauce, my only because I refuse to eat enough to really figure it out. F

Winner: Stouffer’s wins this round, but I’d consider it more of a loss for all three. I wouldn’t want to have to finish any of them.

Final Verdict: Total Failure

None of the three products is worthy of a victory today, and my recommendation is to simply avoid them at all costs. The boxed mac’n'cheese options are far better, and there’s definitely better frozen food choices. No need to ever try any of these.

Full disclosure requires me to mention that each also has instructions for preparing it in a conventional oven. These cooking times are much longer and I wanted this to be a straight up microwave battle. I don’t think the oven would have improved them much. It might have given the pasta a better texture, but all three fell flat in the taste department, and I doubt the oven would have helped that.

Frozen pizzas have managed to get some really nice blends of multiple cheeses and herbs. I think that technology needs to be applied here. A combination of cheese sauce and actual cheese would have given them a nice, stringy texture and could have resulted in an actually pleasant flavor.

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