I’ve reviewed Hot Pockets a couple of times before, and there’s not a lot of new stuff to say regarding the general concept. They’re pastry-style things filled with meats, cheeses, and (if you’re lucky) sauces or veggies. Their output varies from time to time, with some limited edition flavors, but generally it all comes back to one or two stalwarts. And two of the stalwarts are Meatball and Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza.

Some days you're writing grand odes to bacon and barbeque sauce, and some days you just gotta dash off one about Hot Pockets.

Some days you’re writing grand odes to bacon and barbeque sauce, and some days you just gotta dash off one about Hot Pockets.

I’m reviewing these two together because they follow the same basic pattern: processed Italian meats and Mozzarella cheese. They’re not fantastic by any means, but it’s decent quality meat and cheese for the price. The Pepperoni fares a little bit better for a couple of reasons. One, the inclusion of pizza sauce makes it taste a little bit more complete. But two, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the meatballs aren’t quite as spicy as they should be. I’m never a proponent of spice for spiciness’s sake (Buffalo sauce is the worst), but without a hint of some peppers or herbs, the meatballs are somewhat bland. Not inedible by any means, just mediocre.

But the key to Hot Pockets, the whole draw of them, is that they’re cheap and easy and quick. They’re one step up from Tornados on the effort scale. Hot Pockets run for about $3 for a pack of two, and are cheaper in bulk. They’re no one’s dream sandwich, to be sure. But sometimes you’re cheap, lazy, or just in a hurry, and then, my friend, Hot Pockets are the sandwich for you.

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Having conquered breakfast, paninis, and “healthy” fare, Hot Pockets are expanding their empire into more snack-based offerings.  Though their “Snackers” line falls just outside of my purview, the recent “Sideshots” line is somewhat more sandwichy.  You may recognize them from this horrifying TV ad:

Seriously, what the hell?  Anyway, I tried the Cheeseburger and Buffalo Chicken versions, mainly because they didn’t have the Sloppy Joes at Target.  They’re actually pretty good.  Unlike regular Hot Pockets, Sideshots don’t include crisping sleeves, but they manage to keep the bread soft and flaky.  The Cheeseburger Sideshot tastes EXACTLY like a fast food cheeseburger you’d get from McDonald’s or Burger King.  It’s uncanny, and somewhat reminiscent of the cheeseburger-flavored Doritos, although less creepy.  I was a little less crazy about the Buffalo Chicken, but it was still pretty decent quality chicken meat.  Dipping it in Ranch dressing helped a lot, and the shape and style of the bun made dipping an easy and fun option.

I'm honestly slightly surprised they don't have a picture of one with a hat and glasses cowering in terror.

Hot Pockets Sideshots come four to a box, packaged in pairs.  In my experience, it takes about four to make a satisfying meal, but two could be a nice quick snack option.  They cost about $2 per box, which is a pretty good deal.  I wouldn’t get them every time, but the Sideshots are a nice change of pace from the usual Hot Pockets.

Hot Pockets. You may have heard of them. A pastry-style crust wrapped around a usually meat and cheese based filling.  It’s designed to be heated up in the microwave in a cardboard sleeve to maximize crispness.  Is it a sandwich?  Strictly speaking, no.  But Hot Pockets make up a pretty large part of the frozen meal section of most grocery stores, and they’re sandwichlike enough for me to count them. 

First up is the Barbecue Beef Hot Pocket.  Before we go any farther, I’d like to direct your attention to this little detail of the packaging:

“Barbecue Sauce with Beef in a Crust.”  As though the beef was just an afterthought, when people complained a big BBQ sauce Pop-Tart was too runny.  Advertising missteps aside, the Barbecue Beef Hot Pocket is actually pretty good.  The beef isn’t the highest quality, but it’s a bit thicker than lunch meat so it has some texture to it.  The barbecue sauce itself is actually really good, sweet while still maintaining a bit of spice.  All in all, it tastes like a barbecue pulled pork sandwich, which isn’t bad at all.

Panini?

The second Hot Pocket I tried was the Steak and Cheddar Panini.  You may remember it from the TV ads which reminded you that “you know it’s a Panini because of the marks on it!!”  (This is not how a Panini works.)  The Steak and Cheddar Panini isn’t too bad.  The crust is flakier and better tasting than the average Hot Pocket, and the shape of it is more similar to a sandwich.  The steak and cheese are fine, nothing too noteworthy but definitely worth eating.  The one issue with the Panini line is that they’re about twice as big as normal Hot Pockets, but you only get one per box, as opposed to the normal two.  That, combined with the triangular, sandwich-like shape, means that these Hot Pockets are designed as meals, rather than the quick, on-the-go option they’re known for.

Hot Pockets are a quick and easy sandwichesque option.  They’re pretty good, and they go for a couple of dollars at most grocery stores.  While they’re not nearly as high quality as most restaurant sandwiches, they’re perfect for the busy sandwich aficionado.

Stouffer’s recently began a line of microwaveable sub sandwiches.  They have a couple different varieties, and are actually advertising them comparatively heavily, with TV spots and other multimedia ads.  I picked their Meatball Marinara sub, which appears to be the flagship sandwich of the line.

Not actual size.

The major problem with this sub is that it’s packaged frozen.  Being frozen works for things like flatbread sandwiches or hot pockets, but a sub just has too much bread.  The ads promise that it “crisps in the microwave”, but it really just gets soggy.  The rest of the ingredients are fine.  The meatballs are a bit on the small side, but the peppers are actually pretty good for being frozen.    Like most boxed sandwiches, it’s not a meal in and of itself, but it could work as a snack.  All in all, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this sandwich.  If you want a microwaveable sandwich, go with something with more substance and less bread.

Sorry for the lack of content this week, check back next week for more sandwich news and reviews!!

A new review!!  Smucker’s Uncrustables are a childhood memory of mine, and they seem to have expanded since I was young.  The general premise is a simple sandwich, such as peanut butter and jelly, manufactured as a sealed pouch without the crust.  It’s designed to appeal to kids who avoid eating the crusts of their bread, an issue I struggled with a long time ago.  The Uncrustables line has expanded to include peanut butter alone, multiple kinds of jelly and jam, and most notably, a microwaveable grilled cheese option.

An Uncrustable, of the Strawberry Jam variety.

I sampled both the Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, and Grilled Cheese Uncrustables.  Let’s start with the bad news first.  The Grilled Cheese sandwich really doesn’t work.  It’s stored frozen, and supposed to be microwaved for between 30 seconds and one minute in a crisping sleeve.  When microwaved for 30 seconds, the sandwich is still frozen inside.  After a minute, it has burst, and the cheese is leaking.  45 seconds is really the best bet, and even then it’s mostly soggy.  The cheese inside tastes quite artificial, and not a good imitation at that.  Overall, it’s at best an idea whose time has not yet come, and at worst a mess which should be avoided.

The PB&J was a lot better.  While it was also stored frozen, it only required being thawed at room temperature.  Both the peanut butter and jam were pretty good.  I don’t have much more to say; it was a perfectly fine peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  All varieties of Uncrustables retail for about $2.50 for a box of four sandwiches.  While this isn’t too expensive, it’s much more cost-efficient to simply buy the ingredients and make your own.  On the other hand, the people Uncrustables are marketed towards (read: kids) are probably not going to take this review into account.  🙂

Time for another store-bought review!!  Lean Cuisine is a prepared meal brand which specializes in low calorie meals.  They have a number of different kinds of meals, including personal pizzas and pasta dishes.  Most importantly, however, they have a line of paninis and flatbread sandwiches.

Do something good for yourself!! Also, buy our product!!

There are a number of different choices in the Lean Cuisine sandwich line.  Most of them involve chicken, a few involve steak, a I didn’t see any vegetarian options.  After taking some opinions, I decided to go with the Pesto Chicken flatbread.  It was on sale for about $2.50 (at Target, by the by), so it seemed like a good enough choice.  Cooking the sandwich was simple enough, it was packaged in the box ready-to-go, and I simply needed to microwave it for a couple minutes, let it dit for a bit, and then fold it over.

So easy, a caveman could do it!! If a caveman had a microwave...

The sandwich itself was actually a little disappointing.  The chicken was fine, but the vegetable choices (sun-dried tomatoes and red peppers) felt uninspired and redundant.  The mozzarella cheese didn’t detract from the sandwich any, but neither did it really help, and the pesto sauce was bland.  Granted, I prefer pesto closer to how my father prepares it (read: with a ton of garlic), but there wasn’t anything to this sandwich to make it memorable.  I wouldn’t throw this sandwich away, but I wouldn’t buy it again either.

Overall, I’d give the Pesto Chicken flatbread a B- or so.  I didn’t care for it, but the concept of microwavable flatbreads (and paninis) is sound, and some of the other options like Steak, Cheddar, and Mushroom or Southwest Chicken sound like they’re more suited to my tastes anyway.  As for price, the sandwiches aren’t too expensive, but they’re not very filling either.  They’re more of a snack, or to be eaten with a nice bag of chips or a pickle.

I was in Kroger the other day when I stumbled across a brand new sandwich opportunity.  In the deli meat section, I discovered Oscar-Meyer’s Deli Sensations.  The Deli Sensations are boxed sandwich kits which include the ingredients to make one complete hot sandwich.  They were available in a variety of sandwich styles and flavors for about $3.50 per box, or two for $5.00 (with a Kroger Plus card).  I selected two, so I could get a better picture of how these sandwiches stacked up.

The first sandwich, unopened.

The first sandwich, unopened.

I began with a focaccia sandwich, the Steakhouse Beef and Pepper Jack.  The box contained a sandwich bun and bags of chopped beef, shredded pepper jack cheese, and a Three Pepper Ranch sauce.  I was slightly disappointed with how small the sandwich was going to be, although the ingredients looked tasty.  Preparing the sandwich consisted of opening the bags and emptying the contents onto the buns.  Quick and painless.  After putting the sandwich together, I microwaved it for 40 seconds on high.  As a side note, I was using a friend’s microwave which for some reason played Auld Lang Syne to announce it was finished.  Make of that what you will.  I then let the sandwich cool for 30 seconds before eating.

Bigger than a slider, but smaller than I'd hoped...

Bigger than a slider, but smaller than I'd hoped...

The sandwich was actually very good.  The steak (which was precooked) had a definite steakhouse flavor with being overcome with an A1-ishness.  The pepper jack was flavorful, although not entirely melted in the center of the sandwich.  The Three Pepper Ranch was not a spicy as I had expected, and was a great complement to the Italian Herb focaccia.  The sandwich was tasty but not hugely filling.  It couldn’t be a meal by itself, although it was large enough to get a good feel for its taste.  Fortunately, I had purchased not one, but two Deli Sensations!!

Kind of like a classy Lunchable.

Kind of like a classy Lunchable.

The second Deli Sensation was the Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread.  Astute observers may point this out as a violation of an earlier policy regarding the definition of a sandwich, and to you I say it’s my blog and I’ll eat what I want.  The Chicken Bacon Ranch consisted of a thick flatbread tortilla-type thing, chopped chicken, cheddar cheese, and a Bacon Ranch sauce.  That was kind of a blow to me, I hadn’t expected full strips of bacon, but even a packet of bacon crumbles would been better than it supposedly mixed into the sauce.  Nevertheless, I assembled the sandwich and popped it in the microwave.  50 seconds and one rendition of Auld Lang Syne later, I removed the flatbread and prepared to eat.

You have NO IDEA how difficult this was to pose.

You have NO IDEA how difficult this was to pose.

The Chicken Bacon Ranch was pretty good too.  The chicken was delicious, and the cheese was thoroughly melted, which probably had as much to do with my adding an extra ten seconds to cooking time as anything else.  The Bacon Ranch sauce was fine, but I still would’ve preferred an attempt at real bacon, no matter how poorly executed.  The sandwich was a little bit tougher to eat, I ended up having to eat it from both sides.  The box showed a kind of sleeve for holding while eating, but I couldn’t find anything like that inside.  All in all, Oscar-Meyer’s Deli Sensations are an interesting snack.  They’re a little bit overpriced and somewhat undersized to be worthwhile on a regular basis, but I’d definitely recommend them as a quick, easy way to break out of a boring routine.

A Note on My Updating Schedule (or lack thereof)

I haven’t been updating Sandwichtalk as regularly as I’d like, and I apologize for that.  I recently went back to school, and I have obligations (classes, homework, etc.) more pressing than my blog about sandwiches.  I have another two reviews planned out which I hope to have up by this time next week.  I’ll try to update with at least some kind of new content once a week, but please bear with me if I need to take a break every now and then.  Thanks.