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Three From Lean Cuisine

I had a patient the other day say that they liked all Lean Cuisine products. There's no doubt that they are popular, and more are good than bad, but there are some real duds. After the discussion I realized that it had been some time since we had reviewed any of their products, so this week we offer three from Stouffer's.

Baked ChickenThe first is from their Comfort Classics line. The Baked Chicken is served with cornbread and whipped potatoes. The first thing we noticed is that the serving of chicken is tiny - really tiny. I actually took it out of the tray to weigh it and there's only two ounces of chicken. When cooked the chicken is tender and moist enough but that's a pretty small serving. It is topped with a nondescript sauce that doesn't have much flavor - kinda sweet, kinda savory but no real taste.

The side dishes are whipped potatoes that taste as if they came from a box and some cornbread "stuffing." The cornbread is a bit funny though because it's cut like croutons and ends up being tough and chewy when cooked in the microwave. Kind of weird actually.

CarbonaraI am always suspicious of Lean Cuisine pasta dishes. In our experience their pastas come out gummy and overcooked. The Linguine Carbonara is a pleasant surprise.

The pasta is not overcooked and it is served in a light sauce that's slightly smoky. Granted the smoke flavor is a bit artificial but it's not overpowering as many such dishes are. There's slivers of bacon with a few peas and veggies. At 300 calories and only 590 mg of sodium this would make an OK lunch.

Beef Chow FunThe Beef Chow Fun is the big loser in this review. Where there may be scant chicken in the Baked Chicken there's only a few tiny slivers of what looks like highly processed pressed beef. This is served with a cloyingly sweet sauce and wide flat noodles. The sauce is similar to the Baked Chicken in that it is bland and is only enhanced in this dish by a bit of soy sauce flavor.

Subjectively, I would say that this is about typical for our tasting - one in three Lean Cuisine meals is actually worth purchasing. That's not all that bad because when they do succeed the result is pretty good.

Reviewed: January 23, 2009