Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Coleman San Juan Stroganoff Meal


While shopping at the local Meijer store a few months ago I made a trip down the camping isle just for kicks and was a bit surprised to see Coleman branded meals... I mean, what type of expertise would a company who makes lanterns, tents and stoves have regarding food? A little research (e.g. reading the package) revealed that the meals were made for Coleman by Enertia Trail Foods, a company I had never heard of. Nevertheless I took the plunge and bought a meal to try out. I chose San Juan Stroganoff for two reasons: it sounded better than the other offerings and I could compare it to other beef stroganoff  backpacking meals (namely Mountain House) that I have tried and enjoyed in the past.



The meal is a convenient single-serving size and the packaging is durable; it is small and lightweight. Inside the thick outer package I found two separate thinner packages- one containing the noodles and vegetables and the other containing the sauce powder. One very nice feature of the meal packaging is the clear window on the back with graduations printed on the side to accurately measure the amount of water added. Another nice feature is the flat bottom which allowed the meal to stand upright.

Convenient flat bottom package.

The two inner packets

The directions were pretty straight forward: empty contents of noodle pack into outer package, add 12 ounces of hot water, reseal outer package, let stand for several minutes, then add the contents of the gravy package and mix thoroughly. I had no difficulty in pouring the hot water into the package and other than a brisk wind blowing the package over it was a breeze to prepare.

The clear window with graduations for measuring water

The instructions stated to add less water for a thicker consistency, but I found that the recommended 12 ounces was too much and the resulting meal was very thin. This was not the creamy sauce that most people imagine when thinking of beef stroganoff, and I would recommend 8-9 ounces of water for a better consistency. Additionally, the sauce did not seem to want to mix thoroughly and had a slightly grainy texture. I also found the texture of the vegetables and, to a lesser degree the noodles, to be quite chewy. I imagine that letting the meal sit for several more minutes might help some.

The sauce was thin

The sauce did not mix quite right

I'm not quite sure where to begin regarding the taste. The sauce had an odd flavor... it was a bit sweet, especially for a stroganoff, and I was a bit put off at first. The vegetables were about what should be expected for freeze dried (that is to say they tasted fine) but for me the celery flavor did not compliment the flavor of the rest of the meal. Overall I was not impressed with the flavor of the meal.

Convient size
Great packaging
Widely available
Relitively Inexpensive
Perfect single-serving portion size

Preperation instructions call for too much water
Food texture and taste are not to my liking

Comparison to Other Brands
I've eaten both Mountain House beef stroganoff  and the military's Long Range Patrol (LRP) beef stroganoff ration (which is likely made by Mountain House). In both of these cases I've found the preparation to be a bit easier and the taste and texture much, much better, even when prepared with too much water.  In addition I've used the Knorr/Lipton beef stroganoff  meals while camping and I also find these superior to the Coleman meal in taste but more difficult to prepare.

The Coleman San Juan Stroganoff Meal is a conveniently-sized backpacking meal in a clever package. Unfortunately the food itself misses the mark when it comes to taste and texture.

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