In light of the jaw-dropping sale all this month on all Mountain House number 10 cans (you have seen that, right?), I’ve been asked to taste test and review a number of the entrees. It’s a rough job, but…
Actually, to be completely forthright, my expectations were not high. I spent enough years as a single college student to develop a serious aversion to pre-prepared, pre-packaged, conveniently shelf-stable, preservative-laden meals. And when I was tipped off that Mountain House brand had been tested as edible after 20+ years, I was convinced something must be wrong.
So imagine my delight when my week of experimental, freeze-dried lunches turned out to be some of the most enjoyable and satisfying meals I’d had all month (note: this is in no way an aspersion on my admittedly dismal culinary skills).
What was so great about the Mountain House entrees I tried? Let me break it down for you.
Taste – Bland? Salty? Chemical-y? None of the above. The first shock was how real it all tasted. The Mexican Style Rice and Chicken had a spicy little kick. The Beef Stroganoff with Noodles had the unmistakable tang of sour cream. And there’s an easy explanation: the ingredient list is full of real ingredients. Cream, spices, beef, vegetables, rice, pasta—all the stuff you’d use if you were actually making this stuff in your own kitchen. In fact, the first step in the production process of Mountain House’s freeze dried entrees looks a lot like what goes on in your kitchen. According to Outside Magazine’s Steven Rinella, “The company prides itself on the fact that its food is first prepared as a ready-to-eat dish before it is freeze-dried, which leads to what it calls the ‘homemade taste’ of its offerings.”
Texture – For my money, there’s nothing worse than the rubbery meat of a ready-made meal. So it was with some hesitation that I dug into the Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce. But whether it was ground beef in the lasagna, shredded chicken in the Mexican rice, or Sweet and Sour Pork, it all felt like meat. And no mushy pasta or cardboard veggies, either. Something about the magical process of freeze-drying, which Mountain House (part of Oregon Freeze Dry) has been perfecting since the 1960s, preserves food at the moment it’s frozen. That means, when reconstituted, your meal looks, tastes, and feels almost identical to how it did when it was first prepared. (Want your mind blown? Read about the freeze drying process.)
Variety – Here’s some fun history: during the Vietnam War, Oregon Freeze Dry was approached by the Department of Defense to develop portable meals that “tasted better, weighed less, and were easier to prepare” than the bulky canned rations servicemen had been toting around since WWI. The Mountain House line was the result, which means that the company has been experimenting, refining, and expanding their repertoire for more than four decades.
At any given time, Mountain House offers 20-25 different entrees, ranging from pasta dishes like Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Turkey Tetrazzini, and Pasta Primavera to down-home favorites like Chili Mac with Beef and Chicken Stew. The four I tried were all winners, which makes me think I could really brighten up a protracted emergency situation if I were to fill my shelves with all 20.
And, of course, as icing on an already super palatable cake, the Mountain House meals are extremely light, store easily, require only boiling water, and (did I mention?) last for 30 years! This is one reformed skeptic who will be stocking up.