It seems like, these days, frozen food products tend to fall into one of two categories. Sometimes, you’ll find a snack or meal made by a company that is trying its very hardest to translate some notion of “real food” into frozen form, by using high-quality, recognizable ingredients, touting the origins of each element of the product and the relative health benefits of each right on the box, in an effort to make you think that the frozen burrito you’re about to eat was made not by some cold, soulless mechanized process, but by a young Mexican boy who harvested the corn for the tortilla himself and whose kindly elderly abuela stewed the pinto beans in a hammered tin pot handed down from generation to generation.
Other times, you have shit like this.
Instead of wasting time trying to dazzle consumers with the free-range, GMO-free nature of their product, the manufacturer goes AGGRESSIVELY in the other direction. Not only are the dozens upon dozens of ingredients listed highly suspect, but the very food item itself has never existed in any kind of normal kitchen. These products wear their artificial hearts right on their cardboard crisping sleeves, assaulting your taste buds with so much fat, salt, cheese, and meat-flavored goo that your helpless brain confuses “evolutionary advantage” with “deliciousness.”
It is firmly in this second category, then, that the Jimmy Dean “Meat Lovers” Stuffed Hash Browns belong. From the box:
Premium quality ingredients: Savory Jimmy Dean meat + delicious cheeses.
It’s rare to see a frozen food giant like Jimmy Dean dispense with the colorful language on the box, so I’ll elaborate. The “Meat Lovers” Stuffed Hash Browns come packaged four to a box for around $5 bucks, and each individual serving is ostensibly filled with “Sausage, ham, bacon, cheddar, and mozzarella cheese.”
Our first impression was that the product seems a lot smaller in real life, than it does on the package. It makes sense; at 260 calories, it seems like Jimmy Dean’s intention is to serve these stuffed hash browns not as a meal replacement, but as a side for additional breakfast items, like scrambled eggs or presumably, more Jimmy Dean sausage.
The box didn’t provide any options for cooking other than microwave directions, and each serving comes packaged with a “crisping sleeve,” in an effort to introduce some kind of texture to the potatoes. We followed these directions, even allowing the product to stand after cooking for FIVE MINUTES, to ensure “extra crispiness.”
The cooked product didn’t look bad from the outside, and the crisping sleeve did manage to add some texture to at least the very outermost layer of shredded potatoes. But on first bite, our impression of the product fell apart almost immediately.
Inside the Jimmy Dean “Meat Lovers” Stuffed Hash Brown, we discovered the same sort of brown, mushy, indiscriminate goop that you would find in a bottom-shelf frozen burrito. If the product does contain sausage, bacon, and ham, it’s all whipped together into an haphazard slurry that screams “manufacturing process waste product,” and doesn’t taste much better. Salty, maybe, and definitely vaguely porky. But for the love of god, why do all of these meat paste products have that weird combination of artificial smoke flavoring and these creepy sour notes that come out of nowhere? Who in the Jimmy Dean Test Kitchen is possibly equating “sour meat” with “desirable breakfast?”
There’s a woefully inadequate amount of cheese, also, with nothing to separate the mozzarella from the cheddar flavors. And since the outside never really crisps up the way the box promises, you end up with this kind of greasy, vaguely porky, sour mush-on-mush textural scenario that is the enemy of a satisfying breakfast, and for that matter, of mouths themselves.
I’d rather assemble a group of my friends, ask them all to chew up $5 worth of spicy Slim Jims, spit the warm mush into a caulking gun, and have them take turns squirting it directly down my throat, bypassing my taste buds and filling my stomach with a pound of the acrid, meat-flavored mucilage, in a process that would still somehow be more dignified than having to look my Wal-Mart cashier in the eye while purchasing this item.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 Piece – 260 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 820 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.)