Chef 5 Minute Meals: Self-cooking meal-in-a-box

I bought six of these two weeks ago just because the technology — a totally self-contained heating element that gives you a hot meal via steam heat in 10 minutes or less no matter where you are —- seemed so amazing.

Guess what?

I’m sitting here eating one of these meals right now, with no power since 14″ of snow descended on my podunk town overnight, and it is delicious.

Cheap at twice the price.

And the delight of preparing it: you simply open the included pouch of salt water, pour it on the heating element, place your sealed food container on top, put the whole shebang back into the insulated box, and wait and watch in wonder and delight as:

1. The box starts to puff up

2. Steam starts pouring out

3. Sounds — amazing sounds — emanate from the box

4. The smell of cooking food pervades the immediate vicinity

5. You open the box and peel back the plastic lid and darned if your chicken cacciatore isn’t all piping hot and smelling scrumdiddlyumptious — tastes great too!

Fantastic stuff. -- Joe Stirt

Chef 5-Minute Meals: 6 meals for $32


        1. I’m thinking he means more “chemical” based and less found in nature kind of things, like preservatives.

          But at the same time canned goods, especially things canned at home, can keep for a fairly long time and be healthy.

          1. I’ve got me a GMO peanut plant growing out by my garden that makes hydrogenated oil straight from the nut.  It makes great peanut butter.

        2. Here’s the list of ingredients in the Chicken Cacciatore meal:

          “Water, White Rice (Enriched With Niacin Thiamine, Iron, Folic Acid), Cooked Chicken, Chicken, Water, Salt, Diced Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride), Mushrooms, Modified Food Starch, Tomato Paste, Wild Rice, Red Bell Peppers, Green Bell Peppers, Onions, Canola Oil, Maltodextrin, Chicken Flavor (Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Wheat Protein and Soy Protein, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Dehydrated Chicken Meat, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed and Soy Oils, Bonita Fish Extract, Dextrose), Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Wheat Protein, and Soy Protein, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oils), Sugar, Spices, Natural Flavors, Oleoresin Paprika.”

          I couldn’t find any information on organic qualifications (which would probably be included if it were legal, it’s a selling point); or provenance of the ingredients (suggesting that the ingredients are probably sourced from agri-business concerns).

          People who are used to eating food that is not processed can taste the difference between meals made with fresh, good-quality ingredients and those made with ingredients like “modified food starch”. (Oh! There is is! Way up in the list too. Above tomatoes in cacciatore! I predict gumminess. And a distinct flavor.)  Cheaper ingredients often have a bland or strange flavor that’s absent in home-cooked meals.

          Others like to support local markets and local growers. And some like to support manufacturers who make, for instance, frozen meals that use high-qulaity organic ingredients and a minimum f ingredients. I have seen a frozen cacciatore meal that used about half of the ingredients above, specified non-GMO and organic ingredients and was free of the dog’s dinner of ingredients that made up the low-quality Chicken Flavor listed above. Those ingredients are the things that make your frozen meal taste “processed.”

          I fall into both categories above, and while I will compromise if going camping or trapped in an environment in which fresh, good quality food is unavailable, I will eat a processed meal like this one without grumbling.

          I understand that the main selling point of this product is its “built-in” cooking capacity. But there are legitimate reasons why people avoid food such as this and they don’t all come down to snobbery, or imaginary gripes. When my housemate moved in, he couldn’t eat my home-made food, and I couldn’t eat his. He has been eating processed food for most of his life, and he likes and expects certain flavors. I have been eating fresh and home-made food my entire life, and there are certain flavors in processed food that I find unpleasant.

  1. From their website: “All the comforts of home-style cooking when hiking, boating, camping, hunting or simply surviving the aftermath of a disaster.” 
    Comfort food for the apocalypse!

    1. And without electricity you pretty much have a lot of free time on your hands to cook everything in your fridge (now cooler).

    2. I mountain bike in areas that are hit hard by drought and often have fire restrictions.  I’d rather use this than risk starting a forest fire when everything is a tinderbox around here.

      1. Not really. Burning wood uses carbon that was sequestered merely a few years ago. “Borrowed” from a few years in the past, if you will. On a slightly bigger scale, it’s basically carbon-neutral.

        This is completely different from using oil or coal, which was sequestered over the course of millions of years, and is essentially pumping old CO2 into the atmosphere at levels that were never there in the first place.

      2. Burning wood pollutes, no doubt, but think of how much energy and how many resources go into prepackaging little meals like this, and how much pollution must be generated.

        1. To create a meal for one, I reckon it’s a good option, compared to the amount of time/hassle/cleanup necessary to cook a similar meal for one, as opposed to cooking that kind of food for a group. 

          1. Agreed, and I must confess that as a non-cook I eat far too many prepackaged meals for my own well being, as well as for the well being of the planet.

  2. I still don’t want to eat these products, but one ‘like’ for the use of  ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’.


  3. I check the date.  No, not April fools.

    I check the margins of the post to see if it is an advertisement.  No, appears to be a genuine post.

    Hmm … well, how can I say this? … I wish regular unprocessed unpackaged real foods with no high-tech heating gizmos could claim their rightful place in a directory of wonderful things. 

    1. It’s really less the food, which sounds like your typical TV dinner fare, maybe on the better end, but the heating gizmo. That seems like something makers could really find great uses for! 

  4. They sell these at truck stops, really convenient for truckers, way better than microwave. also shelf stable ( at least the ones I had). it’s a reaction between water and whatever they put in the section ya add water to. Some genius on this site surely knows.

  5. Or you can buy flameless MRE heaters for $2 and use them with the prepack food of your choice.

    Vacuum sealer + MRE heaters = Truly superior camp food.

  6. Go to an Asian store and cheep table top gas burner. They usually have a nice carrying case included.
    Rather like this one but cheaper.
    Asian stores will sell the little LP Gas cans that fit in those units.
    Perfect for heating up water for Coffee/Tea..using up your freezer stock in power outages. Camping or picnics. And if you have glass top electric stove, which sucks for stir fries. You can use it with a round bottom Wok for making stir fries. I use mine all the time with the round bottom wok. Or table top cooking like Mongolian hot pots etc. 

    1.  My (very) old Svea can run on ANY liquid fuel (yes, including gasoline) and is basically indestructible, which makes it even more useful than a cheap tabletop burner.  In a zombie apocalypse, it would be one of the first things in my backpack.

      Heck, I’ve still got the old Sigg bottles made to transport liquid fuel.  Just gotta find a katana or crossbow and I’d be a worthy addition to any group.

      1. Sounds a lot like the Whisperlite International that my wife and I use for backpacking. Thing will cook with camp fuel, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and probably sufficiently high-proof alcohol… They’re awesome, are field-maintainable, and practically indestructible.

      2. The look of these stoves warms my heart. Also, interesting image search after being curious about your stove, apparently Svea is a female Swedish name……

  7. Eh I’d rather track down some MREs some where. Like lunchables for adults. And as much as most of them taste like crap the lemon pound cake is actually very good.

  8. I hate you COOL TOOLS. So much so that I’m giving to a more appropriate name: CUIL TOOLZ! Cuil (like that defunct search engine- they probably aren’t using it anymore) Toolz (yeah, with a “Z,” ’cause that’s just how awesome you are.

    1. I remember seeing these in shopping lists for Cyberpunk roleplaying games decades go and really wishing they were real (or at least, commonly available, because I thought perhaps they might have been proven-in-principle).

  9. “4. The smell of cooking food pervades the immediate vicinity”

    You’re doing it wrong.

  10. If you happen to be a vegetarian who keeps kosher, these won’t do. La Briute has similar meals which are kosher/vegetarian and are reasonably good.

  11. I am reminded of the Wolfgang Puck self-heating coffee containers.  Those were taken off-market in 2006 after showing an unfortunate tendency to, umm, explode and/or burn consumers.

    I think I’d have some concern about steam burns from these.

  12. “Cheap at twice the price.” – well thanks a lot. The jackass sellers at amazon have more than doubled the price of $32 to $70. Not so cheap now are ya!?

      1. Can you get high quality ready meals in the US?

        Something like these, Coq au vin rather than meatballs in pasta sauce.

        The supermarkets advertise them in-store as an alternative to a meal out, sometimes with a discount on a bottle of wine etc.

        (I rarely eat them.  I buy them if I’m too ill to cook, or just got back from a trip and don’t have any fresh food.  Plenty of people eat them all the time.)

        1. Since many supermarkets in the US can sell you a fresh cooked dinner from the deli counter, I don’t really get the point of frozen dinners.

          1. Most sold in the UK — and pretty much all the nicer ones — are chilled, not frozen.  Frozen tends to mean really cheap.

            The point is to avoid going to the supermarket every day.

            Apparently, ‘Largest group buying ready meals are classed as “single elderly”‘.

          2. What then, exactly, is the point of living in Europe if you don’t take your basket every day and visit the butcher, the cheese shop, the baker, the greengrocer, etc.?

          3. This is Britain.  We eat ready meals so the rest of Europe doesn’t have to.

            We have Tories too.  It’s a sacrifice for the greater good.

  13. Mike Taylor got it right.  The link you provide immediately more than doubled their price because you said, “Cheap at twice the price.”
    EDIT: I spoke too soon, or rather the link you provided changed too fast. Here is a link to the distributer with a price of $55.95 for 12 meals.
    Maybe the lesson here is GO TO A SOURCE, don’t link to the profiteers.

  14. No power? I’d just light some candles and cook on my gas stove as normal… Feel sorry for people with electric stoves.

  15. Wolfgang Puck tried this in the early 2000s with coffee. It took a matter of months before they were off the shelves for being unsafe. So if I were you I’d snatch up as many of these as I could. Especially if you are prone to power outages.

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