Taste Test: Bagel-fuls and Uncrustables
Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continuing with the theme of last week's Taste Test—the strange but not-that-horrible Batter Blaster—we present a pair of items that seek to save you fractions of seconds at every meal. Yes, we're talking about Stenson's Mayostard!
No, not really. But any excuse to foist a little Mr. Show on the world is welcome, especially when products available at actual grocery stores become just as funny as the ones Bob and David made up. This week, an old favorite of yours that was new to us—Smucker's Uncrustables—and one we think is new, suggested by an alert reader named Trevor, Kraft Bagel-fuls. Both of those genius names just roll off the tongue, don't they?
So first, the old-school (apparently) Uncrustables. They've been around for a while, according to our Ohio-bred HR person, who we think secretly keeps a stash of them in her freezer. They're even the subject of a patent dispute! Smucker's was given a patent for a crimped, crustless sandwich, and then they tried to sue somebody for making a similar product—even though, as the guy pointed out, these are sorta called "pasties" and you can buy them in Michigan and Cornwall. Yum. Anyway, the case was settled privately.
But that isn't what's interesting here. What's interesting here is that, until this morning, we were only aware of Uncrustables in their peanut-butter-and-jelly iterations. Turns out they're also available in "microwaveable grilled cheese" form. (My mind was a little blown, too. I paused in the freezer aisle of Dominick's and silently said a few Our Fathers.) So I got a pack of PB&J; (our last box sat in the fridge until they hardened and expanded, several months after their sell-by date) and a pack of the grilled cheese. Here's what Smucker's claims the preparation process is like: "Smucker's takes fresh, soft white bread, grills it with delicious, wholesome cheese, removes the crust, then freezes to seal in the freshness!" It's so simple! Yet probably so far from the truth
But that isn't not the point either. You cook these little UFOs in a microwave, inside a "crisping sleeve," which is like a little paper cocoon. The PB&J; Uncrustables, you just take out of the refrigerator and let sit for 30-60 minutes, then they're ready to eat. This is strange to me, because instead of just waiting half an hour for a sandwich to achieve room temperature, I could just make and eat one myself. So that's that.
Bagel-fuls are arguably dumber. It takes no time to spread cream cheese on a bagel. Nanoseconds at most. And you can do something else while you do it. In the time it takes to unwrap an individual Bagel-ful (available in five flavors—original, strawberry, cinnamon, whole grain, and chive), you could have shmeared your own fresh bagel. On top of that, there's a bit of prep time beyond negotiating the layers of packaging. Though the box says you can eat a Bagel-ful straight from the refrigerator, we found they were unpleasantly cold, especially the rock-hard cream cheese in the middle. This caused a huge, near-violent argument to break out in the Taste Test Labs. Beakers were shattered, retorts were flung, and racks of test tubes and pipettes were knocked over as Taste Testers fought over how hot a bagel should be when cream cheese is applied, and whether warm cream cheese (resulting from spreading cream cheese on a bagel fresh from the toaster) is something normal people eat, or is barfrageously disgusting in a way that makes Crickettes and Cheeseburger In A Can look like haute cuisine by comparison.
Our eventual conclusion: You can toast or microwave them, but getting them just right, with the bagel warm-ish and the cream cheese still a little cool, but not frozen, is damn near impossible. Some things were just meant to be done separately, even though they're related. Like shitting and eating. Two separate rooms.
Taste: Speaking of shitting and eating, how do they taste? Disappointingly not bad, really. If you're expecting some monstrosity from any of these, you'll be disappointed. If you're expecting some revelatory new taste sensation, you'll be disappointed. The cinnamon Bagel-fuls were the most popular among our testers, but given the choice between one of those and a delicious fresh cinnamon bagel with cream cheese on it, there's no contest. The plain (those are the only two flavors we got) just tasted like a bagel. It's tough to fuck up a bagel, I guess. Unless you're Lenders, and you're in the bagel-fucking-up business.
The Uncrustables just taste like slightly more artificial versions of what they're copying, but in smaller form. When you cut the crust off a sandwich and crimp the edges, you're losing what, 15 percent? So it's like a tiny little PB&J; sammich, with super-gooey peanut butter and super-sweet jelly. In case there was any doubt, this is food for children. And our HR person, apparently.
The grilled cheese was a little stranger, but some people thought it was actually pretty tasty. The cheese is insanely bright and artificial, as if the slightly browned bread was stuffed with movie-theater nacho sauce. Oh, nutritional information, in case you're curious: one grilled-cheese Uncrustable, weighing 50 grams, has 140 calories and contains 500mg of sodium. One cinnamon Bagel-ful, weighing 71 grams, has 200 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 190mg of sodium. Did I mention they look like Twinkies? They do.
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Oh, and here's a bonus. The PB&J; Uncrustables said in no uncertain terms, "do not microwave." Because we're rebels, we did. The sammich barfed all of its contents out, then got rock hard. And stunk up the Taste Test labs.
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— "The cream cheese is really, really solid. [After a bite.] I cnf even bite frew it! It just tastes like cold!"
— "It's all gluey. This has the worst texture."
— "We need a trash can open for spit takes. I would have spit this out right away if there was somewhere for it."
— "I like the cinnamon one just fine."
— "Me too. It tastes just fine. These are delicious."
— "It's just not right. It just doesn't taste I don't know. The cream cheese is more chalky than creamy."
— "My wife's family would actually disown me if I brought these bagels into the house."
— [After toasting.] "The bagel's warm, the cream cheese is cold."
— "It's like a cream-cheese popsicle! Gross!"
— "I feel like I should be in a Microsoft commercial with Jerry Seinfeld, eating one of these and talking about something else."
— "It has a lot of problems with texture. Too soft out of the oven, and there's almost nothing to chew even if the pastry is cooled down. A soul-less bagel experience."
— [After various efforts to microwave and bake these, in some cases cutting vent-holes in them.] "There is no way to cook this so the cream cheese isn't totally cold. It's a popsicle no matter what I do." [20 minutes later.] "Okay, if you put it in the toaster oven until it's warm, then give it about 15 seconds in the microwave, you've created the best possible Bagel-ful you can." "I thought these were supposed to be convenience food!"
— "Why not just cook it in the microwave?" "Because microwave foods are bullshit!"
— "Cheap food and an utter lack of self-respect go hand-in-hand."
Grilled Cheese Uncrustables:
— "Aw, the cheez leaked out all over the microwave. That's cheez with two Es and a Z."
— "Gross, but delicious."
— "Shockingly not-horrible."
— "Stale, pale bread and tasteless orange cheese. A big disappointment."
— "It came out weirdly brown. It wasn't in there long enough to be brown. Is that dye? It looks like there's brown dye all over it to make it look cooked."
— "They taste just like your average crappy grilled-cheese sandwich."
— "Mmm. I might have to buy these NOT as a joke."
— "Something weird happens to American cheese when you microwave it. It curdles and gets oily instead of melting."
— "But in the toasted one, the outside is piping hot and the cheese is all still congealed into lukewarm greasy cheesebrick."
— "It's missing a lot. Buttery toasted exterior, warm melted cheese interior, and crust. Who thinks crust on a grilled-cheese sandwich is a bad thing?"
— "They taste like plastic bread and Kraft Singles."
— "It's a semi-decent grilled cheese, but way off on the ratio. Way too much cheese for this bread."
— "That's a perfectly acceptable grilled-cheese sandwich. But I'm a fan of crusts, so I'm highly suspicious of this anti-crust movement."
— "The crust provides necessary structure to the sandwich. It's like building a house without a foundation, man! You can't do it!"
— "Your basic PB&J;, on kinda gluey, squashed white bread."
— "Reminds me of going to the water park and eating home-packed food when I was a kid."
— "About as far removed from a PB&J; experience as you can get until they perfect the bread-from-a-tube technology."
— "All right, I'm gonna go vomit!"
— "All of these things were gross, but not gross enough to be memorable. That sums it up."
Where to get them: Supermarkets everywhere.