Restaurant-brand frozen foods ? Consumer Reports compares

October 3, 2013 3:09:40 PM PDT
We love frozen food. In fact, Americans spent $224 billion on it last year and are expected to buy even more, according to industry analysts. Now restaurant chains are jumping on the bandwagon, putting versions of their dishes in the supermarket freeze case. Consumer Reports ran side-by-side comparisons to see how they measure up.

From the restaurant, to your microwave. Many of America's most popular chain restaurants ? including California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Fridays, Boston Market, and P.F. Chang's ? are now selling frozen versions of their best-selling items. But are they worth staying in for? According to Consumer Reports, sometimes.

California Pizza Kitchen's Frozen BBQ Recipe Chicken Thin Crust is topped with similar ingredients as the restaurant version, and at $6, it's less than half the price.

"Our tasters found that the frozen version is worth a try, but the strong barbecue sauce overpowered the flavors," said Maxine Siegel, Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports' tasters were pleased with the frozen version of TGI Fridays Cheddar and Bacon Skins. The restaurant dish costs twice as much and has three times more calories and fat.

P.F. Chang's frozen shrimp lo mein resembles its restaurant counterpart in both price and appearance. However,

"The shrimp in the frozen version were noticeably small, and the tasters found that they don't have much flavor," said Siegel.

All in all, Consumer Reports found many of the restaurants' frozen choices were pretty good and worth a try.

Consumer Reports also says if you hope to enjoy Boston Market's popular meatloaf and fresh-tasting mashed potatoes at home, you might be disappointed ? the frozen version is more like Salisbury steak and instant potatoes.