TLO Food Review: Pioneer Woman’s “Heat and Eat” Microwavable Meals

Imagine if, for one night only, Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, were to come over to your unsightly urban hovel and cook an amazing dinner of country favorites, all deeply-fried and cheese-riddled comfort foods that would be the culinary equivalent of snuggling all through the cold night close to her warm rural bosom…if only dreams came true, right?

Slumber no more, my hungry one, because the Pioneer Woman, in association with, natch, Wal-Mart, has heard your tiresome pleas and come together to provide the unworthy sloths and sluggards of America a full menu of Pioneer Woman “Heat and Eat” meals, “fully loaded” and “made with love,” as the front of the box reads, complete in effective all-caps.

I had been looking for these dinners in various Wal-Marts around town, but they always seemed to be sold out, the shelves left bare presumably by her fat-fingered fanatics, always eager to put all their filthy lucre deep into her blue-jeaned pockets. With carefully designed foodstuffs such as fried chicken, mac and cheese and, of course, a “meaty” breakfast bowl, I found myself way too eager to enter Drummond’s Southern fried web of microwavable meals…

Last week though, just as I was about to give up, I found three remaining varieties at the Wal-Mart located in Belle Isle. Ransacked and ramparted in the refrigerator section—not freezer, mind you—with a woman eyeing them behind me, quickly, I grabbed the trio and took myself far from the maddening crowd, surveying my soon-to-be purchases—Country Fried Steak, Beef and Bacon Meat Loaf and Creamy Mashed Potatoes.

Not capable of eating these meals all by my lonesome, I invited myself over to a friend’s house, ostensibly to share the backwoods bounty with him and his wife, as well as their more modern microwave. The packages felt so heavy before cooking, I could’ve sworn there were Acme bricks inside them; waiting patiently, most of the meals were about two or so minutes when nuked and nuked again, with the oven only being “Ree Recommended” for the Country Fried Steak.

With the dinner bell vivaciously ringing, we gathered around the dinner table to an absolute Pioneer…washout.

 

Where did the supposedly large portions of rural restaurant-quality food disappear to? While the creamy potatoes seemed to justify its container, the Meat Loaf was a tumorous clump of gray matter that was more sauce than anything else. Even worse, the two mysteriously shrunken Country Fried Steaks wouldn’t feed a Kid Cuisine, let alone a Hungry Man.

But, okay, I’ll let it slide—we’ve all dealt with misleading morsels before; I can live happily with small cuts of carne as long as it tastes in the slow-cooked, home-made manner that Drummond (and her rabid followers) claim it’s supposed to…

Rubbery. That’s really the only word I can use to describe not only the texture, but the overall tastes of both meats. With little to no bacon in the Meat Loaf and, even worse, little to no taste to the Country Fried Steak, these eats belong more in an Archie McPhee catalog than they do on your dinner plate. The potatoes, on the other, slightly more positive hand, lived up to their title as “creamy”, but ultimately had a slight Banquet feel to them, mostly making me wish I had a one dollar TV dinner instead of all this ranch-hand nonsense.

It’s truly a sad day in the Sooner State when you can’t even count on the Pioneer Woman to create a meal that is both heatable and eatable. But, you know, I guess we can’t really blame Drummond—I’d be surprised if she’s actually aware of about half the things Wal-Mart does in her name for easy money.

Then again, I’m the dumb Okie who bought them, so what do I know?

Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.