Whether you love him or hate him, there's no denying that Gordon Ramsay has made a serious impact in the culinary world — and now, thanks to his line of frozen meals, he's made an impact on the frozen foods aisle at Walmart, too. The line, By Chef Ramsay, has come as somewhat of a surprise to fans and naysayers alike, seeing as Ramsay infamously stated that he wouldn't eat any ready meal, aka a frozen meal, in a 2009 interview with Bon Appetit.
Clearly, the ultra-popular chef has changed his tune when it comes to frozen fare, and even if Ramsay himself still has too posh a palate for such freezer finds, that doesn't mean the rest of us don't enjoy a convenient, microwavable dinner every now and then. Ramsay's line features an array of eight meals, ranging from British comfort classics like fish and chips and shepherd's pie to more global favorites like four cheese macaroni and lasagna.
There's no denying that Ramsay knows how to cook, but does he know how to curate a decent frozen meal? We put all eight of his frozen meals to the test, so before you go shell out your hard-earned money at Walmart, you can know if Ramsay's latest venture is worth the hype ... or if you should avoid the meals at all cost.
What's In Gordon Ramsay's Frozen Meals?
There's a decent amount of variety in Ramsay's frozen food line, so vegetarians, pescatarians, and meat-eaters can all get in on the action. Those who don't eat meat might enjoy the mushroom risotto, a rice-based dish that expectedly features mushrooms along with a white wine-infused sauce and Parmesan cheese. The only other vegetarian option is the four-cheese macaroni, which boasts mozzarella, fontina, Parmesan, and provolone cheeses, with cornbread crumbs as a topping.
Moving into the meat options, there's classic fish and chips, with beer-battered pollock making up the fish portion and thick-cut fries making up the chips portion. Poultry options include a lemon caper chicken, which comes with a side of potatoes and broccoli; then there's the classic chicken pot pie, and you'll find only typical suspects there: a creamy, vegetable- and chicken-infused sauce with a golden pastry crust on top.
The lasagna with Bolognese meat sauce is somewhat of a unique take on the classic dish, as the ricotta-filled lasagna pieces are shaped like roll-ups, sitting atop a bed of meaty red sauce. The slow-roasted beef boasts brisket in a red wine sauce and is paired with roasted potatoes. And finally, there's the shepherd's pie, which somewhat surprisingly features ground beef — so really it's a cottage pie, though either way, the meaty mixture comes topped with mashed potatoes all the same.
Nutritional Info For Each Meal
While you can count each meal offering slightly different nutritional breakdowns, each meal boasts a single serving and falls into a similar realm calorie-wise. The only exception is the fish and chips, which has two servings per container — 230 calories per serving, or 470 for the entire meal. You'll also find 9 grams of fat per fish and chips serving, 450 milligrams of sodium, and 10 grams of protein.
The least calorie-dense meal would be the mushroom risotto, which comes in at just 320 calories, though it is one of the carb-heavier options at 47 grams. The lemon caper chicken and slow-roasted beef both boast 340 calories apiece, though the chicken one wins the protein game at 21 grams, whereas the beef only has 15 grams.
Meanwhile, the chicken pot pie has 460 calories, though it is a more carb and sodium-heavy option, with 52 grams and 1,470 milligrams, respectively. The shepherd's pie comes in at 490 calories, the lasagna with bolognese sauce hits the 500-calorie mark exactly, and our most calorie-dense option is no other than the four-cheese macaroni, coming in at 530 calories.
Where Can You Find Them And How Much Do They Cost?
Unlike many brands of frozen meals that you might find at any grocery store, Ramsay's frozen meals are sold exclusively at Walmart. So, you won't need to worry about hopping around town trying to find them, nor will you need to worry about trying to get the best price.
Each By Chef Ramsay meal sells for around $6 ($5.94 to be exact). That price seems a bit steep, especially when compared to universal frozen dinner brands like Marie Callender's or Stouffer's, whose meals cost anywhere from two to three dollars less at Walmart. Even Rao's, which clocked in as our top-ranked frozen dinner brand, costs about a dollar less than By Chef Ramsay in the same store. It's clear you're paying for Ramsay's name here, and it almost goes without saying that these frozen meals are a steal compared to ordering a meal in one of Ramsay's restaurants.
Regardless of the price tag, there's no denying the ease of heating up one of these meals and calling it a day. Preparing one of these meals is as easy as pressing a few buttons on your microwave — none take longer than seven minutes, and several don't even require stirring partway through. One (fish and chips) calls for the oven or air fryer, but that's as intensive as it gets.
Mushroom Risotto Comes Up Mushy
We had high hopes for Chef Ramsay's frozen mushroom risotto — after all, risotto is somewhat of a specialty dish, and not always the easiest thing for a home chef to pull off. Of course, a big factor in the delicacy of risotto is freshness, something that is very obviously lacking in a frozen meal. But hey, we could suspend our belief enough to still give this frozen mushroom risotto a chance ... and unfortunately, that was a big mistake.
Though we didn't think it was possible for a mushroom dish to taste too much like mushrooms, this risotto proves the impossible to somehow be true. This dish is simply too fungi-forward, and perhaps we could excuse the strong flavor if there were other flavors to help balance it out, but those flavors seem to be hiding in fear of the mushrooms, much like we were when taking a bite.
Flavor aside, the mushroom risotto also just doesn't work texture-wise. It should be criminal to even call this a risotto, actually, seeing as the key to a good risotto is ensuring that it doesn't turn into complete mush. In fact, a better name for this mushroom risotto would be mushroom mush, so that alone is a pretty good indicator to steer clear of this frozen meal.
The Four Cheese Macaroni Is A Little Too Cheesy
We never thought we'd see the day that we thought a meal featured too much cheese, but that just might be the case with Chef Ramsay's four-cheese macaroni. This ultra-rich dish is absolutely overrun by cheeses — and, it would seem, cheeses that don't necessarily make that much sense together. Between the fontina, mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan, this dish is almost so cheesy that it doesn't even taste cheesy; it just tastes super creamy, and while that's not necessarily a terrible thing, it's not a particularly good one, either.
Any mac and cheese aficionado knows that the dish runs the risk of becoming mushy, and Ramsay's version attempts to mediate that with the addition of cornbread crumbs for textural contrast. Unfortunately, those breadcrumbs just become soggy with the rest of the dish, so there is no textural contrast to be found. Normally that would be fine, as mac and cheese is a soft dish by nature — but between the mushy pasta and overload of cheeses, this dish is not nearly as palatable as we hoped it be.
Fish & Chips Are Mostly Forgettable
At its best, fish and chips are an absolute delight, especially when served nice and hot, straight from the fryer. Of course, we know that a frozen meal isn't going to have that freshly-fried goodness to it, though we were certainly hoping for a little more character from Ramsay's take on the classic dish. Even fresh from the air fryer, which would ideally re-instill some of that fried flavor and crispness, both the fish and chips were remarkably bland, and the meal didn't come with any sort of sauce to save the entree from itself.
If there is any single food most in need of a sprinkle of salt, out of all the foods in the world (or at least those in the frozen aisle), it would be the fries in this frozen meal. It's really not that hard to get frozen fries right — so many brands do it well, so we were left pretty disappointed by these thick-cut blocks of bland potato. The beer-battered pollock is the star of this dish, though that's not to say that the fish is anything special. As a unit, these fish and chips are quite forgettable, and we'd venture to say that you could probably find a better option elsewhere in the frozen foods section.
The Lemon Caper Chicken Is Soggy, But Well-Sauced
Fresh from the microwave, the capers on this lemon caper chicken dish looked rather questionable, which didn't bode well when it came time to actually taste the chicken. Luckily, this meal tastes better than it looks, though that's not really giving it much credit — it doesn't look very appetizing, and while the chicken isn't the worst thing we've ever tasted, it's most definitely not the best.
One of this dish's biggest pitfalls is the fact that the chicken is guaranteed to become soggy, no matter what precautions one might attempt to take. Sogginess is somewhat of a given when you slather sauce onto a piece of breaded meat, freeze it, and then reheat it later on. If the chicken in question were simply grilled, then it might work better with the sauce. But alas, Ramsay's lemon caper chicken boasts an "herb-breaded chicken breast" — though we think "soggy chicken breast" might be a more accurate description.
Any soggy issues aside, the lemon caper sauce is pretty appetizing, even if it ruins the texture. The sauce is a little bit tangy, a little bit acidic, and pretty rich, too — and it's a good thing that it's so flavorful because it really makes up for the blandness of the broccoli and potatoes.
Lasagna With Bolognese Meat Sauce Falls A Bit Flat
Anyone who is a frozen meal frequent flyer knows that pasta is typically a safe bet. While the pasta itself runs the risk of becoming mushy upon reheating, it typically turns out just fine. Plus, most sauces freeze and reheat well, so combined with the noodles and ideally lots of cheese, you (most likely) can't go wrong.
While Chef Ramsay's lasagna with Bolognese stays true to the safe bet that is a frozen pasta dish, we were hoping for a bit more from this meal. Sure, there are only so many ways to get creative with lasagna (especially a frozen one), but this isn't just any frozen lasagna — this is a Chef Ramsay meal, so we wanted a little pizzazz.
Instead, what we got was a pretty run-of-the-mill frozen meal: A tomatoey, meaty Bolognese sauce and two roll-up style lasagna pieces. The lasagna features ricotta cheese in the middle, and while there is plenty of it, that's perhaps where the dish fell a little flat. There was certainly plenty of room for other cheeses to join in on the lasagna party, but for whatever reason, Ramsay's rendition kept things a bit boring.
The Chicken Pot Pie Provides Creamy, Flaky Goodness
By Chef Ramsay isn't the first brand to give chicken pot pie the frozen treatment, and we're sure it won't be the last. The real question is, of course, how does it hold up to the competition? We're pleased to report that Ramsay's chicken pot pie is pretty decent. Between the flaky, golden crust on top to the creamy chicken mixture underneath, this is comfort food at its finest — at least, as fine as frozen food can get.
If we have one real complaint about the chicken pot pie, it's that there could be more flavor coming from the creamy chicken. Between the sauce, chicken, and vegetables, everything just falls a bit flat, and while the puff pastry crust is pretty good, it's not exactly adding any dynamic flavors. If you're a fan of rich, creamy foods, then the chicken pot pie will no doubt be a hit. For those who want more dynamic flavors, however, you're better off making a chicken pot pie from scratch than counting on this frozen option to satisfy your palate.
A Special Sauce Saves The Slow Roasted Beef
Upon first taste, the slow-roasted beef in red wine sauce seemed to be a bit bland. It certainly didn't emit any initial bad flavors, it was just not quite as exciting as some of the other options in the lineup. After a couple more bites, however, it became apparent that the red wine sauce was pretty special, and paired with the surprisingly tender brisket, this dish proved itself to be quite the home run.
Despite turning out to be one of the best meals of Chef Ramsay's collection, there is still one subpar part of this dish: the potatoes. Even smothered in the red wine sauce, the potatoes were lackluster and really didn't contribute anything other than a slight boost in nutritional value. We understand the need for potatoes to round out the dish and make it more of an actual meal, but we wish they didn't feel like such a tacked-on afterthought. Fortunately, the potatoes certainly aren't bad, and as a whole, the beef and red wine sauce make for one of the more refined meals on this list.
Mashed Potatoes Sing In Ramsay's Shepherd's Pie
Fans of genuine shepherd's pie (aka the kind that has lamb) may turn their nose up at this beef-laden imposter, but we would strongly suggest that any naysayer at least give it a taste first. This shepherd's pie is the definition of comfort food, with a savory flavor profile that surprisingly contains quite a bit of depth. Each bite is indeed savory, but there's also plenty of meatiness, saltiness, tanginess, and of course, richness from the mashed potatoes.
Speaking of the mashed potatoes, they might be the tastiest part of this dish. It's not easy to get frozen mashed potatoes to taste good, but these potatoes are light, creamy, and oozing with cheesy goodness (they do come with a layer of Parmesan cheese on top). Combined with the beefy layer underneath, this shepherd's pie is really quite delicious, even if it is technically a cottage pie.
If we had one critique of this dish, it's the texture. While a fresh shepherd's pie would have a little more structural integrity to it, this frozen variation does lean heavily toward the mushier end of the spectrum. Luckily, the flavors more than compensate for any textural qualms.
Are Chef Ramsay's Frozen Meals Worth It?
By Chef Ramsay offered some real winners and some real losers, but overall, we'd say it's worth checking out this line of frozen meals. While it may be best to steer clear of the four cheese macaroni or mushroom risotto, other options like the shepherd's pie and slow-roasted beef are quite delicious, both compared to frozen meals and just generally speaking.
Though Ramsay's meals come with a higher price tag than your average frozen meal, the quality (of some) is considerably better than other options. While these frozen meals may not give you the same experience as dining in one of Ramsay's restaurants, at least you can say that you've enjoyed a private, in-home Gordon Ramsay-curated meal.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.