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Cold Shoulder: Doritos LOADED Cool Ranch

Visualize “Hot Cool Ranch.” Then proceed.

We had been dragging our collective heels, when it comes to these new frozen “Doritos LOADED Cool Ranch” breaded cheese snacks. First developed for sale at 7-Eleven in the “Nacho Cheese” variety, these snacks have made their way to the frozen food hellscape of Wal-Mart stores everywhere.

The Nacho Cheese and Jalapeño Cheddar flavors have been with us for some time now, and while tempting, we never felt the need to explore them. The long-awaited release of the new “Cool Ranch” flavor, however, is a different story.

If you weren’t alive in the 1980s, it’s hard to explain just what a watershed moment the release of “Cool Ranch” was in the history of Doritos development, right up there with redesigning the chip to have rounded corners so that eating an entire bag didn’t mean living with the consequences of a ripped up mouth and gums.

Cool Ranch was what the COOLEST sixth graders were serving at their alcohol-less parties, where we all played Air Pro Hockey and listened to Snap’s “The Power” and tried to dance as cool as Freedom Williams. In fact, Cool Ranch WAS the Freedom Williams of chips, cool and mysterious, of vague ethic origins, and with ridiculous amounts of flavor, the likes of which we had never seen.

Frozen.

The release of the “Cool Ranch” variety of Doritos LOADED snacks was finally enough to inspire a purchase. From the box:

Crispy DORITOS flavored crust loaded with Melty Cheese

Look, the box doesn’t need to go into a whole lot of detail about what we’re getting, here. Mostly because of the huge, enlarged photo of the product, all golden brown and delicious and positively oozing the product’s combination of mozzarella, Monterey Jack, cheddar, and cream cheese.

Preparation couldn’t simpler, taking just 10 minutes in a 450 degree oven, though the instructions do caution you to only cook “up to eight” of the snack at a time on a baking sheet. The triangles of Doritos developed a lovely golden brown color, with visible bits of seasoning on the crumb coating, and a few oozy cheese bits here and there.

Cooked.

After letting them cool (and presumably firm up) for the three minutes advised in the instructions, it was time for a taste. We were shocked by just how THICK the crumb coating of crushed up Doritos was; it seemed like the product was going to be mostly cheese, with a thin outer Dorito layer, but the coating is a substantial part of the experience. In fact, each bite seems to contain as much of the crushed up chips as the cheese itself, which combine into a sort of mash in your mouth. The volume is startling; it was almost like being fed already-chewed Doritos by a gigantic mama bird, forcibly squirting the mashed up paste into your mouth while you squirm uncomfortably.

The biggest issue, though, is with the flavor. Though it remains 100% faithful to the chip, it wasn’t until sampling that we realized one simple truth: “Cool Ranch” flavor was never, ever meant to be served hot, and with a liquid core. That’s because when you take the sharp, tart, creamy flavors of “ranch dressing” and add zesty spice, and then make the entire thing hot and mushy with the texture of semi-digested food, you’ll find that what you have done is inadvertently synthesized the experience of vomiting.

That’s right. It’s nearly impossible to escape the fact that for all of the product’s signature “Cool Ranch” flavor, tasting that flavor hot and in pre-chewed form carries all of the gastrointestinal pleasures of a bout of stomach flu.

We wish it weren’t so. But there you have it.

Listen, the road to this product makes sense. Doritos are very nearly the world’s most perfect food, a crunchy vehicle for MSG that tricks your brain into thinking it has found the most protein-dense food on planet earth and commanding you to eat as many as possible. And we dare you to find someone who would turn down a perfectly cooked mozzarella stick. The Jalapeño Cheddar and Spicy Nacho flavors of this crunchy treat may be downright delightful, for all we know. But if there is one message we want to leave you with today, it’s this: Cool Ranch flavor was never meant to be served hot.

 


In our “Cold Shoulder” series, we review, at great personal peril, some of the things that are in the frozen food section of the supermarket that we just don’t remember being here before. Synthesized from non-ingredients, mass-produced and marketed with breathless excitement, most of these items are pretty disappointing. Some day, we will find a winner. Click here to read more from this series.

 

Written by Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is the author of “Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road,” as well as a frequent contributor to Serious Eats, Down East Magazine, The L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and more. When not poisoning his body with garbage and then posting sardonic commentary about it on the Internet, he also owns and operates the ‘Wich, Please food truck, named Eater.com’s “Hottest Restaurant in Maine” for 2015.

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