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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Chicken Parmesans from Lean Cuisine and Michael Angelo's

In the kitchen, Chicken Parmesan is a challenge to make and make well. A lot of things have to come together. The breading on the chicken has to be good and crisp - not gummy - so that it will hold up to the cheese and sauce. There's prepping the chicken and breading, making the sauce and putting it all together topped with cheese. With all of that in mind, I approached the two frozen Chicken Parmesan meals chosen for this week's review with some caution. It's just one of those dishes that has to be done just right.

Lean Cuisine Chicken Parmesan
Michale Angelo's Chicken Parmesan

The verdict is better than I would have thought. The Lean Cuisine Comfort Classics Chicken Parmesan tastes like a frozen meal. A good but not great frozen meal (faint praise I suppose). The chicken patty has that manufactured feel of all Lean Cuisine products so the texture is on the bland side. The sauce is O.K. at best, being a bit too sweet and tomatoey. The pasta that accompanies the meal is limp but not gummy.

All of this at 310 calories isn't bad, but there's a fair amount of sodium at 660 mg. In their defense, the Eggplant Parmesan recipe on the Dr. Gourmet web site has a lot of sodium as well: 1069mg for a serving size that's a good 3-4 times what you get in a Lean Cuisine package and still only 451 calories. When it comes to making dishes that have a lot of cheese, it is always a challenge to keep the salt content low.

Michael Angelo's Signature Line Chicken Parmesan is the first of the “grocery store” products we've reviewed from Michael Angelo's. The previous ones were from their Italian Natural Cuisine line. Even so, there's no preservatives in this product, and unlike the Lean Cuisine, this product really tastes really fresh.

This is, in fact, another excellent offering from this company. The chicken has the taste and texture of real chicken and not some chopped, pressed, manufactured patty. The pasta is good with a firmer texture and the sauce is excellent for a frozen meal. There's ample cheese to help pull all of this together.

The dish does have about half again as many calories as the Lean Cuisine at 480, but that's not too bad for a dinner meal. There's a similar amount of sodium at 645 mg.

A major criticism is that the Nutrition Facts is very misleading, listing the serving size as 1 cup and reporting that there's 1 1/2 servings in a package. That's just plain deceptive. No one is going to eat 2/3 of this and say “hmm… that's all I get, I'll stop now.” A tray is a serving and the folks at Michael Angelo's should be honest about this. Their foods are great and being misleading doesn't live up to that standard.

In the end, not as terrible as I would have thought. The Lean Cuisine would do, but the Michael Angelo's beats it hands down.

Posted: October 3, 2008