Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vaccum Packed Brisket Battle

An inquiring mind sent an e-mail to the blog asking if I'd heard of Sadler's Smokehouse, and their vacuum packed BBQ dinners. All of the meat is smoked in Henderson, Texas, and this fellow wanted to know if this stuff still tasted like decent smoked meat. It being a new product, I had to check around at some local stores until I finally found it at Wal-Mart. It seems like the idea of microwaveable brisket and Wal-Mart are a perfect match, so I'm not sure why I didn't think of it first.

When I arrived at the Uptown Dallas Wal-Mart for the first time, I noticed an entire case just inside the entry dedicated to microwavable meat products. Among them were more vacuum packed BBQ items than I ever imagined possible. I would finally be able to give a firm opinion on this Sadler's stuff beyond my initial disgust at the thought. At this point, I figured why not go all in to determine how it also stacked up against one of its plastic coated brethren. Lloyd's seemed like a good match being made in Austin...oh wait that's Austin, Minnesota. Oddly enough both were labeled best before 02/04/2010. Did I mention they were refrigerated rather than frozen?

Opening the Sadler's package revealed a heap of mashed potatoes and some thick slices of brisket, all with a hefty smoke ring. The directions were to microwave it for 3 minutes on high, so I peered through the glass to watch the plastic bubble inflate above the meat.

It actually looks halfway appetizing.

Lean slices with no pooling or puddling of grease.

Succumbing to the mighty power of low expectations, my tongue and my mind convinced me that this stuff wasn't half bad. I certainly have had worse at some Dallas BBQ joints, but I wouldn't call this stuff exemplary. The crust was dark but had long ago turned mushy from its long marinade in the sauce. The sauces for both Sadler's and Lloyd's had water and sugar as the first two ingredients with tomatoes garnering only a bronze. Not a good start if your looking for sauce rather than syrup. Despite that, the meat had a good beefy texture, and the sauce wasn't all that bad of a compliment with hints of black pepper and garlic. Sadler's meat, upon closer inspection not clouded by plastic glare, had an odd two tone smoke ring that was obviously chemically enhanced to gain its nearly half inch thickness.

Bring on the competition. This one got mean starting off in the microwave with nearly four straight minutes of hissing. The runny sauce was boiling by the time it had completed cooking per the package directions, so I opened it gingerly.

Not that either look good, but that's just misleading labeling.

Don't worry, the grease comes absolutely free.

Peeling back the plastic, I was expecting the worst brisket of my life, and I got it. The slices had a mealy texture and the flavor had an odd tinny aftertaste, made especially odd because it's stored in plastic. Paired with the overly sweet sauce, this concoction tasted more like a sloppy joe than sliced brisket. Unlike the Sadler's these slices were covered in liquid fat as well as sauce, and I couldn't get through more than a few bites. Without a doubt, Sadler's is the clear winner in this unfortunate category of smoked meat.

- BBQ Snob


Don O. said...

You are braver than I, for sure. :)

Robert King said...

Thanks for taking the bullet for all of us. That last photo didn't make me feel good inside. About what I expected.

I'm sure to get that half inch smoke ring they had it on the "pit" for 48 hours. Just a guess ;)


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.