REVIEW: Hormel Compleats Roast Beef and Gravy

If a complete dinner in less than two minutes doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re either lying to me or to yourself. People barely have time to put on their pants before they get out of the house, a problem that has cost me several hundred dollars and a few restraining orders.

Hormel understands and they have introduced a line of Compleat meals that come out hot and ready in 90 seconds. That’s how long it used to take me to spike my ridiculously bad Asian hair in junior high (Note to self: travel back in time and slap self). By any standard of convenience, taking a box out of the cupboard and microwaving it the length of a couple commercials is pretty damn easy. But as exciting as it may seem, not all things turn out the way you want them to.

Shocking, I know.

You mean a 90 second meal doesn’t set the culinary world on fire? Well, no, unless that fire is started by me after I take my molotov cocktails over to the Hormel factory. Everything about this meal is offensively horrible in the worst way imaginable. Even worse, the cooking directions are all off. I can deal with crappy food, but when the crappy food comes out so cold that I keep having to taste it to see when it’s ready, I just begin an all out vendetta with the thing.

All in all, it probably took five solid minutes to heat the thing through. By that point, the edges of the mashed potatoes were crisp and the center was unpleasantly tepid. I understand that contrasts in texture makes food interesting, but the principle doesn’t exactly apply here.

So now that I figured out that it really takes the same amount of time to cook as a regular frozen dinner, it had to be really damn good to not make me chuck it at the neighbor’s annoying dogs. I’m sad to say that it disappointed me deeply.

The meat was dry, almost like beef jerky, and came apart in flakes. Yes, flakes. You know, like how really well cooked fish does, but only completely awful and from a cow. Not only is that disgusting, it is confusing to the taste buds.

The gravy wasn’t any better. In fact, it was completely tasteless and worthless. The mysterious sauce was watery and contained only hints of beefy goodness. It’s hard to describe…the best way I can describe it is that it tasted like “brown” with perhaps some celery thrown in. It covered the beef and a sizable bed of mashed potatoes.

I was actually pleasantly surprised with the potatoes at first because they were lumpy like homemade mashed potatoes. This was before I realized that it was just undercooked potato flakes that were just dense and mealy. My disgust at this revelation was the breaking point. In my growing hysteria, I threw the bowl against the wall and watched it slowly drip down towards oblivion. You’ll have to take my word for it, but it was very dramatic.

All in all, my hopes were crushed and it will be a long time before I can truly dream again. It was a lesson learned the hard way: gourmet meals aren’t cooked in 90 seconds. Especially ones that appear to be designed for bomb shelters and emergency kits.

Item: Hormel Compleats Roast Beef and Gravy
Price: $2.04
Purchased at: Wal-Mart
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: You can use the plastic bowl as a 7 layer dip container after you’re done.
Cons: Cold and flavorless food. Spiky hair. Ridiculous promises regarding cooking length. Public indecency.

39 thoughts to “REVIEW: Hormel Compleats Roast Beef and Gravy”

  1. Not only do they make lame food products, they think that spelling a word (complete) incorrectly makes their product more marketable. All the makings of a compleat disaster.

  2. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I eat those on a weekly basis and I actually like it. I’ve never needed more than the 90 seconds to cook them through, though. Then I mix it all together. It’s never seemed too disgusting to me, but it’s pretty much the only one from that line that I’ll eat more than once. The pasta ones and the teriyaki rice are absolutely awful (and I have never tried the salisbury steak one, because I just know that won’t end well.) The packages really do look like food made for fallout shelters.

  3. Wow, this was a disappointing experience for you, Ace. I’m glad you threw that nasty shit against the wall. Show that Hormel who’s boss!

  4. I’ve actually eaten this. well, a few bites of it, before I threw it out in utter disgust. There may well be one lurking around in my cupboard still. ew.

  5. ew my god gross. my dad eats this dreck all the time and apparently must lack taste buds, because he just keeps buying the damned things. i tried one once, a chicken and rice type concoction, and i couldn’t muster past three overly-salty, dreadful bites before chucking the whole thing in the trash. and as a fat chick who obviously does not pass on a meal willingly, that’s saying something.

  6. Compleats…Wow…What a clever name. I wonder how long it took some marketing genius to come up with that? 90 seconds, perhaps…

  7. Awesome. I’ve been looking for new bowls to make 7 layer dip in. I’ll just buy these, toss the Department of Homeland Security approved bomb shelter meal and make my dip. Thanks for the suggestion.

  8. Oh my stars, my Dad tried to unload 5 of these (in a variety of flavors) on me the other day. I thought he was being nice because I am poor, but actually he was trying to kill me?

  9. When I worked at Kmart in 1994, these did not have a fancy name, they were just Hormel dinners. Sometimes they were the difference between you & starving during your shift.

    Today I would not touch one. There is enough salt to pickle your insides for 10 years. (Although I still get wistful over the Chicken with Noodles one sometimes.)

  10. That is so disgusting… ugh. When a “meal” closely resembles the contents of a tin of dog food you know that can’t be good. (seriously… that picture looks EXACTLY like the Caesar’s brand wet dog food in “gravy” I give to my dog)

    That and the fact that it’s shelf stable and requires no refrigeration kind of freaks me out. The only other time I’ve had a meal that didn’t need refrigeration (aside from cans) was stuff from the camping/outdoors store. You’d be surprised, but freeze dried chicken ala king is actually surprisingly tasty and sure looks a hell of a lot better than that “ComplEats” meal. (hey, this gives me an idea… do some reviews on freeze dried foods! they are so weird/interesting, i’m sure you could write something funny)

  11. See, now young grasshopper, Marvo would’ve filmed the bowl being flung against the wall. And maybe sent it to Hormel if he was pissy that day. Although, I can only agree I’d have done the exact same thing cuz that’s the most disgusting looking mess.

  12. Marvo – I suspected that your marvelously coiffed hair didn’t come naturally.

    RONW – Almost certainly the reason for low troop morale, I think.

    Chuck – I’m almost ashamed to admit that I bought it because of their lame spelling.

    Webmiztris – Some people say that you eat with your eyes before anything else, but I should’ve stopped at that point.

    jenn – I’ve almost gotten over it but a hug never hurts. Unless I hugged a cactus. But you’re not a cactus. (No, I don’t know where I’m going with this either.)

    Diana – You…mix…and…what?! I can’t even comprehend how you eat this stuff.

    Mia – (‘_’) … wow. If you were a dude and we were buds, I would respond with a resounding “Grosseph, broseph!”

    Brie – Game, set, match! That showed them. Now all I need to do is send an angry letter to receive my suitcase full of money.

    Rose – I’m guessing that the Boogeyman in Stephen King’s short story is actually a Compleats meal.

    Frank – Thanks for the correction, Frank. My spiky hair did not come until the summer upon graduating junior high when I tried to cool it up for high school.

  13. betsy – Was he in the army? Maybe it reminds him of the stuff he ate there.

    Karen – Wit and sarcasm! Marry me?

    Clevegal42 – Tupperware is overrated. In the future, all things will be stored in Hormel bowls.

    Melonie – It’s simultaneously disturbing and hilarious how right you are about the comparision.

    miss mle – Yes. Yes he is.

    Peachy – I tend to like fake food, though, so this is more disappointing than most bad reviews.

    Aimee – I had no idea that these things have been on the market for so long. I can’t believe their name change fooled me.

    liz – I wouldn’t have guessed either until I ran over my first pedestrian.

    monica – Freeze dried foods have struck my curiosity ever since I saw the self-heating ones on TV. I should over a few and try them.

    Domokun – Unfortunately, Marvo is not only much wiser but also much richer than me. I don’t even my video on my cell phone.

    demondoll – I am beginning to think that half of the things I review are in fact cat food.

    thrillho – I would suspect that as well. By the way, congrats on the Bonestorm high score.

  14. I eat these dinners all of the time. I really like them. Two minutes is fine in my microwave, don’t blame the product if you can’t heat it up correctly.As for salt EVERYTHING is full of salt! Try it for yourself. Don’t take the word of another person.

  15. Ace, I really do mix the beef and gravy totally with the potatoes and then eat the resulting brown mass. Now that I think about it, it’s like an ickier version of me mixing everything together on my plate on Thanksgiving. I really don’t think it tastes all that bad. Considering some of the crap I sell at work (gas station/convenience store) it’s fine dining.

  16. Something is wrong with you and/or your microwave to cook these meals in 5 minutes. I love these Hormel microwave meals and it only takes me 60 seconds to heat these meals in my microwave. Hormel has like 20 different flavors of these meals…I suggest you try other varieties before giving a thumbs down on the entire product line.

  17. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always take the opinion of someone as “truth,” especially when it comes to food. I will try something before I make a judgment about it; even if it looks bad.

    You know, these things are not made for dining on every night (they are for a once in a while experience when you are in a hurry). They are great to have on hand for those occasions. There will never be a true replacement for the love and attention of a home cooked meal.

    I’ve tried these compleats (6 or 7 varieties), and some of them are good, while others need a little help. My pallet is much different than my husband’s (he likes more of them than I do), but I’ve tried them for myself and made my own judgments.

    If you have time to sit and write a dissertation on a quick-fix meal option that you don’t like, you could be better using your time to actually make a homemade meal.

    About the shelf stable thing – how long has tuna fish been on the shelf? Also, there are soups that are shelf stable that have meat in them. Chili has meat in it, and it is shelf stable. Do you eat them? It’s not a new concept!

  18. Hey guys, just my opinion, but this site seems to be more of a humor site than a newspaper-style review site.

    Either way, if you like something feel free to enjoy it whether it gets a bad review or not.

    There just seem to be some people getting really defensive over Hormel Brand meals. Considering the amount of sodium you consume when eating one of those meals, I suggest you relax a little because your blood pressure is probably high enough.

  19. liz – Fair enough, everything on this site should be taken with a grain of salt (pun super intended).

    Diana – While that sounds disgusting, I respect your ability to eat efficiently. It’s kind of endearing in a weird way.

    litely salted – Don’t forget Marvo’s delightful dancing.

    Compleats Lover – My microwave cooks everything else fine so perhaps I made a bad assumption that it worked or that I was capable of working a microwave. Obviously I don’t really want to firebomb Hormel, I just think this particular meal was awful.

    I think for myself – Just for the record, I have never claimed to have any credibility or to even be lucid when I’m writing. I have absolutely no reason to bash something that I didn’t think deserved it. If I expected everyone to agree with me, I would move to a distant planet because Earth would surely be doomed.

    Karen – People seem to want my head on a stick, don’t they? TIB is fun and informative, but never an authority on product quality – just the opinion of a couple average dudes.

  20. I just want to say for the record that if everyone agreed with my opinion I would be the sexist man ALIVE!!! …and Ace would be 44th.

  21. Just found this site-will bookmark it! Your reviews are very informative and I enjoyed reading the latest ones. I do disagree about the Oreo things-they had a strange undertaste to me. But we can agree to disagree!

  22. Wow — everything about the photo just is creepy and sad. I love how it looks nothing like the cover — it needs some kind of small print that says “Hi There! This picture took our art department six hours to set up, and it still looks kind of nasty. But HOO BOY are you gonna get a suprise when you see what it really looks like! But you don’t care because it’s cheap and you hate your self. Bon appetit!”

  23. Ultradave, I agree with everything you said but I think they would spell it “Bon Appet-eat”.

    Marvo, if you think Ace is the 44th best-looking guy on a planet with approximately 3.5 billion guys, it leads me to believe you’ve got a crazy man-crush on him. Ace, how does this make you feel?

  24. These actually are not meant to be frozen; the back of the package says to store them at room temperature. Perhaps that is why it didn’t cook right. When they are kept in the pantry, it really does only take 90 seconds to heat, and you won’t have any problems with crunchy potatoes or dried out meat.

  25. I don’t know why everyone thinks I can’t work a microwave, but for the record I did not freeze this thing and it still turned out terrible.

    On another note, I bought some real MRE’s and will see how they compare.

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