Monday, November 30, 2009

Convenience, or the lack thereof

Frozen convenience foods are great for when you need food and you don't really feel like cooking. They shouldn't be consumed with great regularity due to their general lack of regard for nutrition, but they're good to have around. I'm thinking primarily skillet meals here. We keep a few skillet meals in the freezer as "emergency meals" to be cooked when nobody really feels like doing actual cooking.

We've been stocking the Stouffer's skillet meals, which are really easy to make. Get out your skillet, add contents of the bag, heat according to directions, then serve and eat. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than that, right?

Well, TGI Friday's thinks it should be more complex.

We've been ignoring the TGI Friday's skillet meals because they're more expensive and they have fewer varieties. But a few days ago we were given one (story largely irrelevant) and decided to make it.

Open up its bag and what do you have? Several smaller bags. There's a bag of sauce that needs to be thawed in a bowl of warm water, and bags for other individual ingredients, generally separating the meat from everything else. The directions say "Easy as 1-2-3!" but closer inspection reveals that their three steps are made up of sub-steps as you heat one part, then add the others in.

Portion-wise, the TGI Friday's skillet meals have smaller servings than the Stouffer's ones. They also generate a lot more trash, as you have to throw out all of the bags that were in the main bag, in addition to the main bag itself. With the Stouffer's ones, you only have one bag to toss out when you're done.

I like TGI Friday's as a restaurant. I like their boxed convenience items. But their skillet meals aren't convenient. What's wrong with just combining everything together like Stouffer's does?

They also tell you to confirm that the internal temperature is 165°F. I've already ranted about this, but... ovens and cooktops are way more consistent than microwaves, so there's no excuse for not knowing if your directions will get the internal temperature to the right level. Having to get out a thermometer and measure that isn't convenient at all.

The moral of the story: Stouffer's skillet meals are awesome.

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