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Commercial Meal Tasteoff: Gumbo (With Video)

Maybe I wish everyone would cook from scratch, but lets face it, sometimes prepackaged meals can be very convenient. the only thing is…how do you know what is worth your time and money? Freeze-dried meals are getting pricier by the year but most of them are not getting any tastier…….

The contestants in this round:

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Packit Gourmets Nawlins YaYa Gumbo and Alpine Aire’s Chicken Gumbo.

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Packit Gourmet’s weighs in at 12.2 ounces and costs $11.49 (Updated to $12.49 for 2014, with a name/recipe change to The Big Easy Gumbo). Alpine Aire’s weighs in at 5.5 ounces and costs $7.43.

Why the large weight difference? Packit’s comes with: a 4 pack of Kountry Boy Sausage that you cut up and add – and the sausage weighs about 4.4 ounces. It is a big part of the meals weight but also what will impress you most. The sausage is fantastic tasting. It also has the flour mixture for the roux, oil packet, broth packet, cornbread Toastee’s and even Tabasco packets for those who like it fiery….

This is what the bag of Alpine Aire’s looks like before adding water – the green things are okra. It is a pretty standard as they come freeze-dried meal.

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Packit Gourmet’s simmering on the stove:, it works best in a non-stick lightweight 2L pot. I used a GSI Backpackers Set. The long handled spoons are GSI ReHydrate spoons – we have the new 2009 version in stock now as well.

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Finished and ready to sample: In the pot is Packit Gourmet’s and in the large bowl. In the upper right is the Alpine Aire version.

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Close up of Packit’s:

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Closeup of Alpine Aire’s:

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I shot a video making the two meals – Alpine Aire’s is a simple freeze dried meal – just add boiling water, stir, seal and let sit for 15 or so minutes. Packit’s you will need to heat the oil, make a roux with the flour (very easy to do!), then add everything else and simmer for 8 or so minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes. It comes with the tastiest cornbread Toastees they make – which just makes the meal.

While both meals have “gumbo” in the name, there is a huge difference between the two.

Packit’s simply is the winner – there is no comparison. Kirk commented that if you didn’t know it was a “backpacking meal” you would think it was made from scratch. It has a kick from the Jalapeno sausage but isn’t over powering. It is thick, stew like and full of sausage, chicken, fish and plenty of vegetables. Ford loved it as well.

The issue we had with the Alpine Aire was while it made a lot (which was shocking as many commercial meals are really 1 person servings) you kept looking over at the sausage in Packit’s and thinking “hey, this is skimpy looking!”. And bluntly put, the Alpine one was excessively salty – you didn’t get flavor or heat – you got “salt” as the main taste. Which was odd, since if you treated both as a 2 person meal they had about the same sodium levels. Yet, the Packit one made enough to serve the 3 of us for lunch. And that kept the salty sausage down to levels I could enjoy 😉

Ford refused the Alpine Aire after one bite. He didn’t care for it. And that folks is never a good sign – the boy is a bottomless hollow legged vacumn cleaner….and if he refuses a food, then…I hate to say it: it F-A-I-L-S.

The only reasons I can think of buying the loser is if you are counting every ounce, you want convience over a few minutes work and you like simple food 😉

PS: More on the new stove tomorrow.

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