Thursday, December 15, 2011

Microwave vs Oven: Tony Luke's Cheesesteak

All the locals would tell me that the best Philly cheesesteak is actually not found in Pat's or Geno's, but in Tony Lukes. Pat's and Geno's are more popular among the tourists.

I hadn't had the chance to visit Tony Luke's, so when I went to Target I found this frozen Tony Luke's cheesesteak. Okay, we all know that frozen food is never as good as the real thing, but I'd like to give it a try.

When I got home, I expected the cheesesteak to be prepared by oven because this Tony Luke's brand makes the cheesesteak more... "premium" and thus I had the perception that it cannot be prepared using microwave. But no, I was wrong. I had two options: oven preparation ("the best method", as described on the packaging) or microwave preparation.

It's a perfect setup for an experiment: 2 frozen Italian breads and 2 packets of vacuum packed sliced beef and cheese. I tried both preparation methods at the same time.

 I was supposed to microwave the meat and cheese packet into the microwave without opening the package. At first I was a little skeptical about what will happen to the packet. It simply inflated.

I guess this way the moisture from the meat won't be lost so the meat remains juicy. On a side note, it was also written in the instruction that you can pour whatever "meat juice" left in the bag onto the cheesesteak to make it more... delicious (beef broth and beef fats? Hell yes).

The other option of reheating the meat was to submerge the meat packet into boiling water. The texture of the meat prepared in boiling water wasn't that different from the microwaved one.

As for the bread, I can either microwave it for 2 minutes, or bake it in a preheated oven for 3 minutes or so. The results were so obvious.

The left one was microwaved and the right one was oven baked. The oven baked one was more "expanded". You can't really tell from the picture but the microwaved bread was rubbery and tough. The oven baked bread was light and crispy on the outside. And a little more dried.

So you can't really tell the difference in the meat, but you definitely can tell the difference in the bread texture.

The first one you see above is microwaved. And the one below was oven-prepared.

The bread matters a lot when it comes to appearance.

My verdict? I'll go with microwave method when I only have 5 minutes for dinner. I definitely prefer the oven-prepared cheesesteak over the microwaved one.

I think the new trend nowadays is to involve consumers in some sort of food preparation to make them think like "they can cook", but in the end everything is instant if you really think about it. This kind of frozen food definitely seems more premium than instant meals on the shelves.

When I prepared the cheesesteak, I didn't feel like I was cooking. I was just re-assembling everything into one piece. Kind of like building a GUNDAM plastic model: you have the parts ready, you just have to put an extra step of putting everything into a complete piece of work.

I felt like "I didn't make the cheesesteak".

At the end of the "experiment" I felt really guilty. Look at the calories. 590? Holy crap, I ate two of them, so I had 1180 Calories that night. Boohoo.

And 80% of saturated fat intake, and 126% of sodium intake. What the hell.


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