REVIEW: Hot Ones Hot Pockets

These new spicy Hot Pockets are way more complicated than you were expecting. Not in taste though. That’s straightforward. What’s complicated is everything else. Allow me to explain.

First, like a music festival or an early 2000s Southern rap album, these Hot Pockets are presented by someone other than Nestle alone. These are all branded as “First We Feast presents: Hot Ones,” then the name of the type of Hot Pocket. And then, if that wasn’t enough, each one is “made with” some sort of non-Hot Pocket sauce. The Hot Habanero Pepperoni & Sausage is made with “Los Calientes Rojo,” the Smoky Green Chili Cheesesteak is made with “Los Calientes Verde,” and the Spicy Garlic Chicken & Bacon is made with “The Classic Garlic Fresno.”

I know, I’m sorry. It’s a lot.

In case you’re like me and wildly disconnected from most modern media, allow me to explain. (By copy/pasting from Google.) “First We Feast is an online food-culture magazine and YouTube channel. The site co-produces the YouTube series Hot Ones with Complex Media, its parent company.”

Okay, so in retrospect, I’ve heard of this. Hot Ones is the thing where celebrities eat really hot wings and, I don’t know… it’s funny? It’s touching? Whatever it is, it’s a lucrative enterprise. Because here we are, with branded Hot Pockets.

The Hot Habanero Pepperoni & Sausage

This thing OOZED sauce — cloyingly sweet sauce. I think my entire Hot Pocket had two small shards of pepperoni and three, maybe four sausage chunks. The pepperoni and sausage are the same meats used in all other Hot Pockets, so if you’ve had any of those, you know the drill. Salty, chewy, nothing to write home about. But really, this sauce. Oof. And how was the hotness? I mean, that’s really the whole point, right? It was… noticeable but not overly aggressive. The box suggested that the heat level was a 5 out of 10 — the same as the Smoky Green Chili Cheesesteak — and I don’t feel like the heat matched at ALL. It was much milder. So, if you had this one and found it tolerable from a heat perspective, please don’t assume the cheesesteak one will be the same. It’s not.

Smoky Green Chili Cheesesteak

This one BURNED. The heat kicked in fast and was prevalent throughout. What I found interesting, though, was how quickly the heat subsided. It didn’t last more than 20 or 30 seconds after each bite. The steak was the same nib-like meat they use in the delightful Jalapeño Steak & Cheese variety, which I sadly cannot find anywhere around here anymore. In fact, this was reminiscent of that, though it’s missing the cheese sauce, which is a shame. And there didn’t seem to be as much steak. And this had a green chili that mostly just blended in. So, okay, I guess it’s not much like the Jalapeño Steak & Cheese at all. Nor is it good.

Spicy Garlic Chicken & Bacon

At least this one tried something different? Although I didn’t really get much heat from this — it was a 2 out of 10 on their arbitrary Hot Ones scale — it had the most nuance, mostly due to a mild smoky component, though I don’t know if this came from the chicken, the bacon, or the garlic sauce. (For what it’s worth, there were no discernible pieces of bacon, and the chicken’s prevalence was about as impressive as the sausage and pepperoni inclusion on that version.) This was the winner of the bunch — not that that’s saying much.

Purchased Price: $2.98 each
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Pepperoni and Sausage), 4 out of 10 (Green Chili Cheesesteak), 5 out of 10 (Garlic Chicken and Bacon)
Nutrition Facts: Pepperoni & Sausage – 290 calories, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 790 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein. Green Chili Cheesesteak – 280 calories, 11 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 700 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein. Garlic Chicken & Bacon – 280 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 760 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Sweet Treats

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats  Apple Cinnamon and Cinnamon Roll

Like the illustrious Meryl Streep at the Academy Awards, Hot Pockets on a junk food blog need no introduction. If you’ve never kept a stash of Hot Pockets because they were the only food your kid would eat or because you were too tired to cook or wait for delivery, then you a) are a liar or b) need to tell me your life secrets.

Tongue burns aside, Hot Pockets has done a lot for us over the years, providing shoppers with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options, and now with the Sweet Treats line, it’s moving to desserts.

Why hasn’t the brand thought of this before? Turns out it has. This time, it’s ditched the icing and purchased stock in cinnamon, offering two varieties: Cinnamon Roll and Apple Cinnamon. Each package includes four servings (“sticks”) that measure about two by five inches in size and, after one minute in the microwave, amount to several bites if you want to be a dainty eater.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Cinnamon Roll 1

Cinnamon Roll was first on my menu, and immediately noticeable was the thorough sprinkling of ground cinnamon over the stick’s crust. Except for the cinnamon, the crust was similar to what you would expect from a savory Hot Pocket: a stiff, bready vessel that can be held in your hand and still contain filling without falling apart. While the cinnamon flavor was apparent, I detected almost no sweetness or other accompanying flavor from the crust itself.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Cinnamon Roll 2

Described on the package as a “sweet cream cheese filling,” the contents tasted primarily of (surprise!) warm cinnamon, margarine, and a tinge of underwhelming sweetness. In the microwave, the filling suffered from a little spillage, as Hot Pocket fillings tend to, but in this case, it helped to moisten and flavor the crust’s exterior.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Cinnamon Roll 3

The inside of the stick was under-filled with an oddly-textured mixture that, when scraped out with a fork, could be best described as thick blobs of cinnamon-flavored paste. Only one bite yielded a tang reminiscent of cream cheese but with none of the sweetness promised, and I might not have noticed the taste at all if I hadn’t been searching for it. And as someone who could eat cream cheese/cream cheese icing out of a plastic bag on the highway, I promise I was searching.

So did this Sweet Treat remind me of a cinnamon roll? Not really. While the cinnamon and margarine flavors worked well together, the treat’s lack of pillowy dough and a sweet, creamy component stopped it from achieving middle-of-the-cinnamon-roll-level greatness.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Apple Cinnamon 1

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Apple Cinnamon 2

After the disappointment of Cinnamon Roll, how did Apple Cinnamon fare? Utilizing the same crust, Apple Cinnamon was much less aggressively seasoned, instead balancing the cinnamon and sugar to provide the crust with some extra sweetness and a little bit of crunch.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Apple Cinnamon 3

Inside contained a well-balanced mixture of diced apples, thickened sweet goo, and a hint of cinnamon that let the apple flavor shine. While Apple Cinnamon too could have used more filling, the presence of the fruit made the filling feel more ample and satisfying than Cinnamon Roll’s. I would buy this one again as an apple pie substitute in a pinch.

Despite their varying levels of success, Hot Pockets Sweet Treats suffer from a lack of both identity (are they desserts? sweet breakfast options? holiday cinnamon novelties?) and creativity in flavors. With varied crusts and fillings (think peaches in a flaky pie crust or chocolate hazelnut cream in a croissant), Hot Pockets Sweet Treats could have the potential to make a trip to the microwave a little more exciting.

Purchased Price: $2.79 each
Size: 10 oz. box/4 sticks per box
Purchased at: Giant Eagle
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Cinnamon Roll), 6 out of 10 (Apple Cinnamon)
Nutrition Facts: (1 stick) Cinnamon Roll – 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. Apple Cinnamon – 160 calories, 4 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef

Food trucks are all the rage these days. (Or, you know, they were like, a couple of years ago. Tell you what—go back in time a couple of years, read this review, and vigorously nod your head at my lede. Thanks.)

In fact, there’s a good chance you’re probably eating at a food truck this very instant. So am I. But while your Food Truck Experience likely involves artisanally crafted meatballs or, say, some sort of Cajun-Korean fusion sandwich, mine was a Hot Pocket.

You know, Hot Pockets.

Bastion of the down-trodden. Savior of the late night drunkard.

Like food trucks, Hot Pockets were once a cool, exciting happening; but that era went out with the Sega, Reebok Pumps and, SNL being water-cooler conversation. Where once stood a delightful, microwavable rectangle of deliciousness now sits a flaccid box of mediocre ingredients and un-melted cheeses.

Hot Pockets, how I miss thee.

But like your Milli Vanilli cassette and your Hyper-Color shirt, there is a time and place for the HP. A quick-fire lunch. A late night when you’re legally too drunk to make it to Taco Bell. A bizarre occurrence where you’re angry at your colon. These are all prime examples of when one SHOULD pull open the plastic, insert the meat-chunk into the crisping sleeve, and prepare to wreck your toilet.

If you’re doing that, though, be wise. The optimal Hot Pockets flavors rank as such: 1) 4 Meat & 4 Cheese Pizza 2) Beef Taco 3) BBQ Recipe Beef (lol at that name, by the way—“recipe.” What??) 4) Steak & Cheddar 5) Philly Steak 6) “Hickory” Ham & Cheese 7) Meatballs & Mozzarella 8) Any of the “Breakfast” Pockets.

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef 1

This new Pocket—the one I had, apparently “inspired” by a food truck—would be like, 63rd on the list.

According to the box, it was engineered in conjunction with “Komodo Food Truck” which stands for “Dangerously Good Food” and “a gourmet experience like no other.”

Per my Google searching, “Komodo Food Truck” is “a real thing,” but good lord, I’m not sure how they’d ever be okay with such a lackluster representation of their brand. (Oh, well, money.)

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef 2

This thing was garbage, plain and simple. Oh sure, it looked fine from the outside—normal-ass Pocket proceedings. Inside, however, lurked an adventurous mush that appeared to be some sort of miser’s answer to beef stew. There were carrots — lots of them — and a few disingenuous peas, and some brown paste. I saw a few errant specks of “angus beef” but that seriously could’ve been my imagination. Because I didn’t taste them.

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef 3

Instead, I tasted sweet, crunchy carrots and a dull hint of heat (the box brags that there are jalapenos involved). Point being, this thing tasted like a warm mass of microwaved newspaper that your grandmother spit out her mostly-eaten piece of grape hard candy into. It was grotesquely sugary and there was but a singular beef to be found.

And really, is that what we want in a Hot Pocket?

Because I thought we demanded better.

But maybe that’s today’s thinking, really. This…entitlement. Maybe I’m viewing this through the lens of a modern man who knows that Milli Vanilli was a grand disappointment, that Pumps won’t make me a better basketball player, and that SNL maybe hasn’t been funny ever. (Or, for arguments sake, it’s funnier than ever and the era we fondly remember was actually mostly pretty bad, save a handful of sketches.)

Anyway, don’t buy this Hot Pocket if you see it loitering. Holy shit, it’s bad and you’ll regret it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Pocket – 290 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Um, nostalgia? Cheap. Sega Genesis.
Cons: Microwaved awfulness. 63rd best Hot Pocket. Grandma’s hard candy. Carrot City.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets

Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets

When I was a kid, my mom chose not to feed us Hot Pockets. With tears in my eyes and hunger in my stomach, I spent many lunchtimes watching my classmates shove pepperoni-filled pastries into their pudgy little faces.

But now I’m an adult, and I’ve sworn to eat as many Hot Pockets as I want. This is America, dammit. As a citizen of this beautiful country, it is my duty to engorge myself with meat-filled freezer pies to my heart’s content. Don’t believe me? Go read the Bill of Rights. Freedom of Meats, y’all.

Exercising my rights as an American citizen, I decided to visit my local Hot Pocket Palace, known more colloquially as Walmart. I soon realized I was unsure of where to find Hot Pockets in this supermarket. To my surprise, they were not located in the same aisle as diapers. (Jim Gaffigan, eat your heart out.)

I eventually made it home with a package of Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie. According the front of the box, each Hot Pocket contains white meat chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and celery. According to the back of the box, it also contains many complex-sounding ingredients that could easily trip up the finalists in a second grade spelling bee: “Timmy, your word is sodium stearoyl lactylate. What’s that? Use it in a sentence? My Hot Pocket contains sodium stearoyl lactylate.”

Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets 2

Even after using the included crisping sleeve, the Hot Pocket emerged from the microwave with a slightly rubbery, chewy crust. It tasted blandly of flour, with not enough buttery flavor. The oven provided better results, yielding a more flaky, crispy crust that drew attention away from these flaws.

I must admit, I had pretty high expectations for this crust after hearing Snoop Dogg sing its praises in that bizarre Hot Pockets commercial from a few years back. That video deserved a Grammy, or at least a Nobel Peace Prize. I even keep the MP3 on my iPod for when I work out at the gym. Ever try getting your swole on while Snoop busts a rhyme about beef and cheese? That shit’s a natural muscle enhancer.

Breathing in the unmistakable scent of freshly-baked chicken pot pie, I was eager to take my first bite. After repeatedly scorching the roof of my mouth on the Hot Pocket’s superheated innards, I was finally able to taste the filling.

Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets 4

Compared to the filling in frozen pot pies I’ve tasted in the past, the Hot Pocket’s filling seems less creamy. Its flavor comes primarily from the chicken, which doesn’t feel rubbery or unnatural in texture, but tastes over-seasoned with a pre-packaged meat vibe. Every once in a while, I experienced a burst of pea flavor, but the carrots, onions, and celery seemed lost in the sea of pie filling. In addition, several spots inside the pocket were emptier than expected; the pastry could have used a bit more filling.

This Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pocket leaves something to be desired, and feels more like a savory pie-flavored Toaster Strudel than a bonafide pot pie. At only a few cents over two dollars, they seem like a steal, but I have no desire to purchase another box.

Well, at least I can cross something off my bucket list:

1. Write 500 words about a Hot Pocket
2. Eat a Hot Pocket with Kate Upton
3. Watch Harry and the Hendersons without crying
4. Finish writing my bucket list

Kate, if you’re reading this, I’ve got a box of pepperoni Hot Pockets with your name on it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Hot Pocket – 240 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 480 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein..)

Item: Limited Edition Chicken Pot Pie Hot Pockets
Purchased Price: $2.18
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crust is flaky, crispy when cooked in oven. Chicken doesn’t feel rubbery. Strong chicken flavor. Freedom of Meats. The twisted satisfaction I feel when sabotaging second grade spelling bees.
Cons: Crust is bland, rubbery when cooked in microwave. Chicken feels over-seasoned. Chicken and peas are the only noticeable fillings. Emptier than expected. The looks people give me when I’m jamming out to Snoop Dogg’s song about Hot Pockets.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken

There have been more than a few moments throughout my life when I thought I may be going crazy, and most of them revolve around one thing: Hot Pockets.

I’ve been eating the things since they were first introduced, and, while I enjoy them, I’ve never found a flavor I fell in love with other than the four cheese one. Ugh, Four Cheese. So greasy. So bad for my stomach. BUT SO TASTY!

I would try picking up different flavors and giving them a chance, but after awhile it started to seem like an insane game to be playing, as no pocket could ever equal Four Cheese.

Four Cheese may have to worry though because a new competitor, Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken, has stepped into the ring to contend for the Trevor’s Favorite Hot Pocket Championship title belt. Or plaque. Or trophy. It’s a metaphorical award so you can picture it whatever way you want, Okay? Geez.

With my hometown being an hour away from Buffalo, NY, I’ve had every buffalo wing that’s worth eating, so it should come as no surprise I’m kind of a buffalo snob.

When I first glanced the buffalo chicken pockets, I gave a “pff,” as in, “yeah, like THEY know how to do buffalo sauce.” I usually don’t judge a book by its cover but instead the preface. In this case though, I was cover judging pretty hard. I decided to give them a chance. At the least it would provide me with a good laugh.

As is normally the case with a Hot Pocket, I got pretty enraged after it came out of the microwave. The crust broke at the side and a good-sized glob of sauce spilled out onto the plate. I swear, every goddamn time!

A pocket is supposed to hold something, yet a Hot Pocket never can seem to hold onto its contents. If my pants pockets were as reliable as a Hot Pocket, I would probably be down a good twenty dollars in change this year alone.

They should be called “Hot But Not Always Reliable Pockets, or “Hot Pocket With Holes in it.”

Damn, I should’ve considered a career in marketing. Those are genius names! Moving on.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken Top

The first thing I noticed before really paying attention to the inside of the pocket was how good the crust was. I don’t know if this has a special crust since it is limited edition but they really outdid themselves on this one. It’s very buttery and flakey, almost approaching biscuit levels in those respective categories.

At first, the sauce did not seem all that spicy to me. I remained snobbish for a few bites, listening to Chopin, reading the current edition of The New Yorker and sticking my pinky out whilst holding the Hot Pocket.

Once I reached the middle though, I silenced Chopin, closed the magazine, reunited my pinky with his its finger brethren, took a breath and said, “whoa.”

The buffalo sauce seemed more spicy/sweet than spicy at first but once you ingest enough of the sauce it really hits you. The best part is it tastes like real buffalo sauce, not some sad attempt at buffalo sauce, which I was fully expecting.

And I’m not kidding when I say it’s spicy. My forehead started getting hot towards the end of the pocket. It didn’t sweat but I think if I ate a second one it may have.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken Innards 2

The box puts emphasis on the fact that the pocket contains white meat chicken, and I will say the chicken was actually very tender. Not once did I encounter a piece of grizzle that I’ve found in other Hot Pockets with chicken in them.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken Innards

The one big complaint I have, other than post-microwave pocket breach, is that the pocket seemed to be under-stuffed. When I eat one of my precious four cheese pockets, it is PACKED with filling. There was easily room for a little more. Maybe some type of cheese, like a blue or provolone?

Well, I guess finding another Hot Pocket I can enjoy along with Four Cheese proves my sanity! I have to go stick it to my Yu Darvish bobblehead. He always calls me crazy and hurls insults at me like, “Hey, Trevor. Can you hear me? Of course you can! Your big ears could pick up radio signals!”

Damn talking bobblehead. I’ll show him. I’m not crazy. Crazy cool, maybe!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 280 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 730 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Hot Pockets Limited Edition Buffalo Style Chicken
Purchased Price: $1.87
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Top-tier crust. Buffalo sauce was very tasty with a nice spicy kick. Yu Darvish bobblehead. Being totally sane.
Cons: Could’ve had more filling. Post-microwave pocket breach. Mean big ear jokes.