REVIEW: Banquet Select Recipe Chicken Parmesan

Banquet holds a special place in my heart, and not just in the cholesterol-filled regions either. For as long as I can remember, Banquet has been cranking out meals that rarely go above the rate of one dollar. Even as gas prices have risen to the point where I regularly consider skipping important things like school and frat parties just to save a little scratch, I know I can find a cheap frozen meal that will do a decent job of filling me up.

With the introduction of their Select Recipe line of meals, Banquet is looking to be more than just stop-gap chow for broke people. They are now looking to compete with brands like Marie Calendar’s in terms of flavor and heartiness. While they don’t exactly succeed, they would earn themselves a trophy if the frozen food market was like one of those self-esteem boosting little leagues for weenies.

Select Recipes differ from other Banquet meals because they offer up more vegetables and generally more “gourmet” ingredients such as white meat chicken in this Chicken Parmesan selection. The chicken is still emulsified and processed to the depths of Hell, yes, but it is white meat nonetheless. The result is a slightly inflated price of $1.50 per box, which is still cheaper than anything the government should legally allow you to eat as a meal.

Predictably, the broccoli turns into green mush once it touches your teeth. Those spoiled by those fancy steam-cooked microwave vegetables will be sorely disappointed. You can salvage it by smothering it with cheese whiz, but I doubt you’ll feel good about yourself afterwards.

The chicken, however, surprised me by not becoming too soggy even after being cooked on top of the sauce and penne pasta. It actually had a decent amount of flavor despite without tasting too salty. Pasta often turns into a gummy paste after being nuked in the microwave, but it managed to stay reasonably firm and completed the surprisingly edible meal. Cheapskates, heed my call: you may miss your fifty cents now, but even the grimiest of all hobos would laugh at your stinginess if you didn’t give these meals a try.

(Nutritional Facts – 1 meal – 350 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, 870mg sodium, 37 grams of carbs, 8 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 17 grams of protein, 6% Vitamin A, 30% Vitamin C, 15% Calcium, 15% Iron, 10% Vitamin E, 15% Thiamine, 15% Riboflavin, 10% Niacin, 10% Vitamin B6, 10% Folic Acid, 30% Phosphorus, and 10% Magnesium)

Item: Banquet Select Recipe Chicken Parmesan
Price: $1.50
Purchased at: Stater Bros.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A decent serving of vegetables to help curb your malnourishment. Chicken and pasta maintain a nice texture even after being microwaved. Now made with white meat chicken.
Cons: Chicken is still processed. Broccoli is way overcooked and soft. 50% more expensive than the regular meals. Letting gas prices control your life.

REVIEW: Banquet Southern Fried Fried Chicken Classics

I don’t know a lot about the South, but if the Food Network has taught me anything it’s that the food is good because it has a lot of soul in it. Sort of like Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat, I guess. Other than that, my knowledge of the region is limited to popular culture. It would be far too irresponsible to fill this review with southern stereotypes. I could talk about how Michael Vick and Miss South Carolina have set any progress back about 150 years, but all of that would be too easy, ignorant, and fun.

It’s a lot better to focus on the positive, like this tasty meal from our friends from Banquet, which I have a sordid and confusing past with. It’s filled with twists and turns and maybe even a few liaisons with other brands. Banquet started selling their fried chicken meals with one big thigh instead of a drumstick and a wing. That crushed my saturated fat and cholesterol-filled soul. For the past several years, I have felt betrayed. Even though I received fewer grease burns from eagerly picking up chicken pieces, eating was never quite as fun or interesting.

However, Banquet has now unveiled two new chicken meals that have found a way into my heart. They have this southern fried chicken meal, which is something I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and one featuring two drumsticks. I can only imagine that they’ve been keeping all of the spare drumsticks in some warehouse for the past 5 years. Since I didn’t feel like eating chicken that has been around since I was in high school, I opted for the southern variety.

If you’ve ever looked at a supermarket ad, you will notice that Banquet is perpetually on sale at 10 for $10. While this is awesome for the person on a budget, it also causes a great deal of shame at the checkout line when your cart is a sea of red boxes and everyone else has real groceries. I usually throw in a bell pepper so I don’t feel as bad, but the cashier sees right through me.

I will never understand why the company calls itself Banquet. Obviously, you’re not meant to serve it at an actual banquet. Are you supposed to sit on your beanbag chair and pretend to be at a fancy affair as you shovel corn into your mouth? I have come to the conclusion that Banquet exists to humiliate me.

After a few hours of stewing and self-loathing, I get over my paranoia and start to enjoy the meal. The chicken actually tastes pretty good out of the microwave. Obviously, it isn’t crispy, but it’s also nice and peppery. This is a welcome change of pace from the ultra-salty fried chicken in the regular meals. Instead of corn, you get a decent amount of green beans. I’m not sure if green beans are more southern than corn, but at least it’s edible, which is far more than I can say about the corn in these meals. A cup of fake mashed potatoes rounds out the meal quite nicely.

If there’s anything bad I can say about the meal, it’s that it costs 25 cents more than a regular Banquet meal. However, not even my cheap ass can reasonably complain about the price hike. In fact, even the biggest college lowlife can afford the extra quarter for a frozen dinner.

Unless you’re from the South.

Just kidding.

Item: Banquet Southern Fried Fried Chicken Classics
Price: $1.25
Purchased at: Stater Bros.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tasty, flavorful chicken that will actually remind you of good fried chicken. Side dishes that are actually edible. Great value for the price.
Cons: Not even close to banquet-quality food. Southern stereotypes. The humiliation of a diet consisting of 95% frozen dinners. An extra 25 cents per meal.