It is a hot time for the frozen meal industry, and celebrity chefs (and Walmart) are capitalizing on them. Frozen meal sales have been on the rise since the pandemic. So, it is no wonder that two prominent and well-respected chefs have taken on the challenge of making their new lines of frozen meals.
In the first corner, we have Gordon Ramsay — the notoriously demanding star of “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” and multiple Michelin star winner. In the other corner, we have Andrew Zimmern— star of “Bizarre Foods,” willing to try anything, and a multiple James Beard Award winner.
Both chefs have been at the head of successful restaurants and are at the top of their industry. But now, both are taking on the new challenge of creating affordable, delicious, convenient meals for the masses. With these new products premiering in rapid succession and both represented by such accomplished chefs, the only logical thing for us to do was put their frozen foods head to head and find out who makes the better meal. The two have some striking similarities. They are both made by the Golden West Food Group, for example. They also both cost the same, at $5.94. But it is the differences we are interested in, and to find out which is better overall.
What’s Offered In Gordon Ramsay’s Frozen Meals?
Gordon Ramsay has come out with a line of eight frozen meals, consisting of fish and chips, lasagna, lemon caper chicken, four cheese macaroni, mushroom risotto, shepherd’s pie, slow-roasted beef, and chicken pot pie. In this, Ramsay is tackling some classic frozen meal flavors such as lasagna and pot pie but is also clearly bringing in his own aesthetic with some British classics like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Ramsay confirmed to People that his line of food was supposed to be representative of him and his life with food.
The line of food officially dropped in September of 2023 and has received mixed reviews. It is interesting to us that a chef known so much for his critique of restaurants would come out with a line of frozen food with ingredient lists as long as a CVS receipt. However, we will see if Ramsay can bring the heat to this kitchen match.
What’s Offered In Andrew Zimmern’s Frozen Meals?
Andrew Zimmern’s products also came out in September of 2023 and took a personal approach when it came to frozen meals. Zimmern’s line consists of four meals, including caramelized onion pulled pork mac and cheese, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, Swedish-style meatballs, and turkey dinner. Zimmern fans will recognize these meals, such as the Swedish-style meatballs, as part of the chef’s regular repertoire. However, in an exclusive interview with Mashed, Zimmern revealed that in order to keep prices down, concessions had to be made. Ingredients were swapped, and in some cases — such as the lingonberry preserve that typically accompanies the meal — some had to be dropped entirely.
Zimmern’s meals are a more homestyle meal perfect for an American Sunday dinner. Two of the meals feature the classic combinations of meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. Zimmern was clearly taking a different approach than Ramsay, trying to capture an American audience looking for a taste of comfort.
Where Can You Get Them?
As we noted, there are many similarities between these two brands, mostly having to do with the logistics of them more than the actual food. We wanted to get all those similarities out of the way before we moved on to the differences.
First, both are available exclusively at Walmart and cost $5.94. How can they be so incredibly, specifically the same? Probably because they are both manufactured by Golden West Food Group, which also makes Guy Fieri’s Flavortown and Kardea Brown’s Delicious Eats frozen meals. Fieri and Brown’s meals are also available exclusively at Walmart and cost $5.94. The celebrity frozen meals produced by Golden West Food Group are nothing if not consistent in their pricing and availability.
The first tip-off that the two lines here may be related is that they come in nearly identical packaging, from the box design to the microwave trays the meals come in. The advantage to all this is, though, that there is an amazingly even playing field for Ramsay and Zimmern. Instead of focusing on whose meals are more or less affordable or where you can get them, we can really sink our teeth into the meat of these two frozen meal lines.
One Has Twice The Options
The first significant difference between the two lines is simply the options they have available. Unlike Zimmern’s four, Gordon Ramsay has eight meals in his arsenal. Ramsay literally doubled his offerings.
Importantly, there is no direct overlap between the two meal lines. Each chef offers their own unique recipes, but there are some similarities. Both offer a version of macaroni and cheese. While Gordon Ramsay’s line offers a straight-up mac and cheese topped with bread crumbs, Zimmern instead serves one topped with pulled pork. Both Ramsay and Zimmern also include mashed potatoes in some of their dishes, but Ramsay also offers roasted potatoes in one.
Each clearly offers a combination of multi-piece meals with protein and sides, as well as some one-bowl meals. Both options have merits, and one is not inherently better than the other again, though we come back to the fact that Ramsay simply has more options available. We have to wonder why, since they are made by the same company, Andrew Zimmern’s selection is lacking compared to Ramsay’s.
This brings us to the next significant consideration: options for those who have dietary concerns. This is, again, where Ramsay has a slight advantage simply due to the volume of options versus Zimmern.
Neither chef offers any vegan meals. However, Ramsay does offer two vegetarian meals. Ramsay’s four cheese macaroni and mushroom risotto are both meat-free. On the other hand, Zimmern only offers meat options, with pork, beef, chicken, and turkey all appearing.
Neither line is certified Kosher, though Ramsay’s line offers something for people who may wish to keep close to Kosher style. This includes avoiding foods such as pork and shellfish but also means refraining from mixing dairy and meat. Once again, those two meat-free meals come in to serve another demographic that Zimmern’s meals do not. Additionally, Ramsay’s fish and chips are dairy-free, a quality which none of Zimmern’s possess.
Finally, for our wheat and/or gluten-free readers, Ramsay’s line offers two meals that do not contain wheat: the mushroom risotto and the shepherd’s pie. Ramsay isn’t exactly known for being an accommodating chef, but it is nice to see that there is something for most diets within his line of meals.
Nutritional Value, Or Lack Thereof
As nutritional value goes, what was perhaps most surprising is that there really just isn’t much there in either line. We mean this in just about every possible way.
First of all, every single one of these meals is on the small side. Gordon Ramsay’s four-cheese mac and cheese is the most caloric, which clocks in at 530 calories. This is followed by Zimmern’s meatloaf and Ramsay’s lasagna, both of which are 500. However, if we are working with the FDA-suggested average 2000 calorie-a-day model, that is just one-quarter of what a person needs. And, these are the biggest meals offered.
The other meals are even smaller. Multiple meals across the lines are in the 300-calorie range, including Zimmern’s turkey dinner, which is 300 calories (just over one-sixth of what a person needs at the 2000-calorie-a-day model). Our main point is these meals are small, as are their vitamin contents. The best that can be offered from these meals is some calcium and some protein. For the most part, these are pretty even across the board. Zimmern’s meals offer between 20g and 23g of protein, and Ramsay’s range from 15g to 27g, which is a mid-range equivalent to Zimmern’s. In a way, there is no real winner for this one.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
The importance of plating is brought up in the food shows both Zimmern and Ramsay frequently judge. The look of food, while not equally as important as taste, nonetheless makes a big impact. The one thing we noticed across the board from the four Gordon Ramsay meals we made and all the Zimmern meals is that Ramsay’s meals were both better looking and more accurate to the picture on the box.
We don’t know what Zimmern has against food resembling the picture on the box, but two of his four were completely off. Unlike the advertised image, the turkey dinner is not a separate, three-component meal but one bowl of mixed-up ingredients. This is not necessarily bad, but it is definitely not what was on the box or what we think of as a turkey dinner. The pulled pork mac and cheese, frankly, did not look appetizing at all. Once again, just to make the meal, everything had to be mixed together, but the resulting bowl was gray, chunky, and unappetizing.
Ramsay’s meals, on the other hand, were fairly accurate. The biggest difference was in the shepherd’s pie, which showed a mound of lightly roasted mashed potatoes on top of the meat base. In reality, though, there were piped-on mashed potato mounds that kind of lost their shape in the microwave.
How To Prepare The Meals
Along similar lines, some of the differences in appearance had to do with preparation. All of Zimmern’s meals instructed you to stir the meals together after a first round of microwaving, which inevitably changed the looks. Ramsay’s, on the other hand, did not. In terms of ease of preparation, this is a slight favor to Ramsay.
However, Zimmern’s instructions were fairly simple and consistent across the board. Generally, he instructs microwaving for 4 minutes, stirring, then microwaving again for another minute or so. Most of Ramsay’s were similar, but he had two meals that required more time, effort, and equipment.
Ramsay’s Chicken pot pie has two options: Either microwave for 5 ½–6 min or bake in an oven for 40-45 minutes. The oven objectively gives a better result, but that is 10 times how long it took to make any Zimmern meal. The fish and chips don’t even have an option to microwave. You either stick it in the oven or an air fryer — either way, you are spending between 15 and 22 minutes on the meal. We appreciate that it is crispy, but Zimmern’s meals were objectively easier to make.
How They Taste
To be perfectly frank, neither line tasted particularly good. This is not entirely surprising, as these are cheap frozen meals made for convenience and affordability, not taste. But, it does make us wonder why they even exist, especially considering that Gordon Ramsay has stated in the past that he would never eat frozen meals. Either he has changed his mind or he saw a financial opportunity.
That being said, in terms of taste, Ramsay’s meals did come out ahead. We still did not love them, but we found them to be palatable. The shepherd’s pie and the fish and chips both had decent crisps to them, owing to the fact we spent far more energy on them than the other meals. But, even the foods that were included in both were better on Ramsay’s side compared to what Zimmern offered. Ramsay’s four-cheese macaroni is not stellar, but at least it had some flavor and looked like a bowl of mac and cheese. Zimmern’s both looked unappetizing and had very little flavor. None of the cheese stood out, the meat was gray, and we could not taste the onions. Similarly, the mashed potatoes on Ramsay’s shepherd’s pie were better than the mashed potatoes in Zimmern’s meatloaf. The best-tasting meals were consistently Ramsay’s.
Which Is Better?
There is a clear answer to who makes the better frozen meal. It honestly isn’t even a competition. Gordon Ramsay, hands down, is the winner of this competition. Not only did Ramsay’s food look better and taste better, but there were simply more options available. Yes, you are going to work harder for some of Ramsay’s options, but it is worth it.
To be clear, we would still not categorize his frozen meal line as a complete success. Better is a relative term here, and considering Zimmern’s line included the borderline inedible pulled pork mac and cheese, the bar was not exactly set high.
We can appreciate how difficult the frozen food game is, especially when trying to keep the price low. We can only wonder if Zimmern’s meals would have fared better with a budget that allowed him the ingredients he wanted. Ramsay’s products at least pulled out some decent food and attempted to present it with care. There are absolutely better frozen meals out there, but if you are at Walmart and stuck between the two, lean Ramsay.