Beef Stroganoff

Carrying on from the “Chili Mac and Beef” review (see that review for the taste test process and tasters), I conducted a taste test on the following beef stroganoff recipes:

WISE Noodles and Beef in Savory Mushroom Sauce (5.6 oz, 2 servings), $7.09

NATURAL HIGH Beef Stroganoff (5.62 oz, 2 servings), $7.00

NATURAL HIGH Beef Stroganoff with Wild Rice (5.87 oz, 2 servings), $6.75

ALPINEAIRE Beef Stroganoff (5.5 oz, 2 servings), $8.32

RICHMOOR Beef Stroganoff (5 oz, 2 servings), $5.80

MOUNTAIN HOUSE Beef Stroganoff with Noodles (4.8 oz, about 2 servings), $7.39

MOUNTAIN HOUSE PRO Beef Stroganoff with Noodles (4.06 oz, about 2.5 servings), $6.69

BACKPACKER’S PANTRY Stroganoff Sauce with Beef & Noodles (5.7 oz, 2 servings), $8.50

Comparisons are potentially difficult. Is it fair to compare one recipe that uses rice with another that uses noodles? I can eat pasta every day but I easily tire of rice and I therefore have a natural inclination towards a noodle dish. Nonetheless, when a brand is going to call something “beef stroganoff,” the customer will have an expectation for what we know as beef stroganoff. And, according to Wikipedia, those recipes vary. Wise advertises a “mushroom sauce” but mushrooms did not make an appearance until much later than the first known recipe found in Maria Jesusa de Jose’s Classic Russian Cookbook of 1861, which did not feature mushrooms. Through the evolution of beef stroganoff, different recipes featured rice or noodles (or neither). In this case, I concluded that any product called “beef stroganoff” or any variation thereof was fair game. Note that Natural High makes two recipes, one with noodles and one with rice. All other products tested were noodle-based dishes.

A quick note on product ownership: Katydyn North America (a US subsidiary of Katydyn Group) owns Richmoor, Natural High and AlpineAire (and Gourmet Reserves). Each of the three product lines represents a different segment of the market, from Richmoor’s “lower end” to AlpineAire’s more sophisticated one (at least that is the intention) and you will see that reflected in price.

The Verdict: Who knew such a retro dish would incite such diverse reaction? On taste, there was no clear-cut winner.

 

100 Point Scale:

MOUNTAIN HOUSE PRO Beef Stroganoff with Noodles = 65 (Mediocre)
MOUNTAIN HOUSE Beef Stroganoff with Noodles = 60 (Mediocre)
ALPINEAIRE Beef Stroganoff = 58 (No Man’s Land)
NATURAL HIGH Beef Stroganoff with Wild Rice = 55 (No Man’s Land)
NATURAL HIGH Beef Stroganoff = 48 (Poor)
RICHMOOR Beef Stroganoff = 40 (Poor)
WISE Noodles and Beef in Savory Mushroom Sauce = 40 (Poor)
BACKPACKER’S PANTRY Stroganoff Sauce with Beef & Noodles = 35 (Not Recommended)

The Taste Test

Three people (plus the author) strongly preferred the taste of Mountain House to all other brands. Three preferred AlpineAire (with what seemed like less enthusiasm than the Mountain House fans), one preferred Natural High (here again the preference was without much enthusiasm) and one strongly preferred Natural High’s rice package (and preferred Mountain House if she could not choose the rice dish).

One person described Wise’s product as “good” and the only other good thing that anyone had to say about Wise was that they had nothing to say. The worst is that it would be suitable if one was starving (figuratively or literally, apparently). I hated it, finding a “lard” flavor that I didn’t understand (there is no lard in the ingredient list, although there is some beef fat and TVP). Ironically, Wise advertises on its package that its stroganoff has “Great taste with real meat.”

Richmoor’s product confused most tasters and it was downright terrible to me, and clearly to the others that actually uttered “yuck” upon tasting it. Have these product developers tasted this recently? If it was a wine, I would put it in the “chemical” category and, I am not sure if it is possible for something to have too much seasoning and not enough salt – but, if so, this was a good example. Interestingly, the Backpacker’s Pantry stroganoff was described as either “bland” or downright bad. I thought one taster put it best by describing it as having a “rotten milk” taste. I disliked it as much as I disliked Richmoor’s.

The worst anyone had to say about Natural High’s product is that it was “average” or “ok” but the majority of tasters thought it was good. (I found it average, at best. As in, if I was starving after a long day’s hike and that’s all I had to eat, and I wasn’t able to scrounge up any wild edibles, I could appreciate it.)

AlpineAire’s fare was generally found to be flavorful and seriously disliked by only one taster. Several of those who enjoyed it did comment that the meat was tough. I agree with this assessment but that is likely the result of AlpineAire making an effort to give us larger chunks of meat that are not infused with TVP (as in the case of Richmoor, Wise, Natural High (and Natural High Rice) and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein in Mountain House and Mountain House Pro, or Hydrolyzed Whey Protein in Backpacker’s Pantry).

Nutrition and Packaging

Once again, Backpacker’s Pantry’s two 12-ounce servings do not hold up on calories. Its entire package of two servings amounts to 420 calories, while Wise’s two servings produce 700 calories (and more carbs, protein and fat). Mountain House, Wise and Natural High take the prize for highest sodium levels while Richmoor and Natural High (Rice) do a good job of keeping that low.

Mountain House Pro offers a vacuum-packed package that cuts down some of the bulk. Otherwise, the recipes are the same and there is a negligible difference in nutrition. A quick note on package sizes generally: they are generally all pretty close (see sizes marked below) with Mountain House Pro being smaller than all others. All products can be cooked in the package and all, except Richmoor, are re-sealable so that the pouches may be sealed more easily after boiling water is added. Richmoor’s larger package can be closed “enough” to allow cooking to occur as prescribed, but it is just not as convenient.

The ratio of carbs to protein is highest in Wise at 3.14 with the remainder as follows: Mountain House Pro 3.0, Natural High (Rice) 2.94, Mountain House 2.9, Richmor 2.73, Natural High 2.44, Backpacker’s Pantry 2.18 and AlpineAire 2.06.

 

Mountain House

MH Pro*

Wise

Natural High

Natural High (Rice)

Alpine Aire

Backpacker’s Pantry

Richmoor

Calories

250

250

350

330

290

310

210

270

Calories from Fat

100

90

120

80

60

120

60

50

Total Fat (g)

11

10

13

9

6

13

7

6

  Sat Fat (g)

4

3.5

4

4

3.5

8

4

3

  Trans       Fat (g)

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Cholesterol (mg)

40

40

15

25

35

65

35

30

Sodium (mg)

820

730

1270

820

300

580

580

280

Potassium (mg)

120

90

Carbohydrates (g)

29

30

44

44

47

37

24

41

  Fiber (g)

1

5

2

1

3

1

<1

2

  Sugars (g)

3

6

7

7

5

8

4

6

Protein (g)

10

10

14

18

16

18

11

15

Vitamin A (%)

4

4

2

8

10

25

4

6

Vitamin C (%)

8

8

2

10

15

20

2

8

Calcium (%)

10

10

8

15

15

20

6

15

Iron (%)

10

8

20

10

15

25

8

15

 

* The only other difference between Chili Mac Pro and Chili Mac regular (other than the vacuum-packed package) is that the regular has one more gram of fat and one less of carbohydrates. The recipe is the same.

 

Package Sizes

Brand

Measurements (inches)

Alpine Aire

10.5 x 7.75

Backpacker’s Pantry

10 x 7.75

Mountain House

9.5 x 8

Mountain House Pro

8.25 x 6.5

Natural High

10.5 x 7.75

Richmoor

11 x 8

Wise

8.75 x 9