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I Want To Know

2009-08-05 - 10:58 a.m.

I mentioned a couple days ago that I've been getting some interesting correspondence from a customer service rep from Pinnacle Foods. These are the people who make Swanson dinners, amongst other things.

Well, it looks like the time has come to share with you all what's going on. It's entertaining, I promise.


First, the background.

I had bought one of the Hungry Man XXL Southern Fried Boneless Chicken dinners. This has pieces of chicken and a whole lot of mashed potatoes with gravy. The plastic tray has two sections - one for the taters-and-gravy, and one for the chicken.

Now, I usually cook these things in the microwave. The microwave instructions tell you to do the following (emphasis theirs):

1) Remove plastic cover from chicken. Remove chicken; set aside. Keep plastic cover over potatoes.
2) Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes. Return chicken to tray.
3) Microwave on HIGH 7 minutes.
4) Let stand for 2 minutes in microwave oven. Stir potatoes before serving.

Fairly straightforward. One thing, though - the instructions don't tell you whether you should cover the chicken with the plastic, or leave them in the tray uncovered. This may make a difference in moistness, consistency, and so on.

So I went to the website provided on the package and, after being redirected to the Pinnacle Foods comment site, I asked if the chicken should be covered or uncovered.

On July 31, I received this reply:

Dear Mr. Marron:

We are sorry that you were disappointed with your purchase of Hungry Man XXL Southern Fried Boneless Chicken.

The baking times and temperatures of our products are carefully researched and tested during development. Due to the differences in wattage and heating patterns of microwave ovens, it may be necessary to rotate the dinner during the cooking time. After completion of the cooking time, leaving the dinner in the microwave for a few minutes helps even out the heat. Some ingredients, like potatoes, will heat uniformly if stirred during and after preparation.

We will forward your comments to our Quality Management Team so the Hungry Man XXL Southern Fried Boneless Chicken team and other consumers can benefit from your comments. Thank you!


Lena Grant
Consumer Insights Representative

I hope you all realize what is missing in this very polite letter. That's right - an answer to my question.

So I wrote back:

Dear Mrs. Grant:

Thank you for your recent reply to my question about the cooking instructions for the Hungry Man XXL Southern Fried Boneless Chicken.

However, this reply did not address my question: When returning the chicken to the tray for further cooking, should the chicken be covered with the plastic wrap or should it be left uncovered? The instructions do not say either way.

Nowhere did I ask about rotating the tray (I have a Carousel microwave, so this is not an issue), nor did I say I was disappointed with the purchase.

I look forward to the response to my question.

David Marron

And on August 3rd, Mrs. Grant replied:

Dear Mr. Marron:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding the Hungry Man XXL Southern Fried Boneless Chicken. We genuinely appreciate your time and loyalty to our brand.

We recommend following the instructions directed on the package.

At Pinnacle Foods Corporation, we are proud of the wide array of products that we have to offer our consumers. Our brands are rich in history and heritage, over 1,000 years combined, each one with a different and interesting story. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, Pinnacle Foods has your entire day covered! To learn more about our brands and promotional activity, we invite you to visit us online at

Thank you again for your e-mail.


Lena Grant
Consumer Insights Representative

Fine and dandy. But the instructions DO NOT SAY either way...which was the point of all this!

And note the rah-rah paragraph - "we're not going to give you a straight answer, so buy more of our products!"

It was time to fight Bandini with Bandini. So I wrote AGAIN, ladling the fertilizer like gravy:

Dear Mrs. Grant:

Thank you for your reply of August 3, 2009. I do appreciate the time and effort you have put into answering my question.

Unfortunately, I still don't have an answer.

Again, my question is: when the chicken is returned to the tray, should it be covered with the plastic wrap or left uncovered?

Your reply is as follows: "We recommend following the instructions directed on the package."

That, Mrs. Grant, is my point - the package does not say either way. I'm simply asking for a clarification as to whether the southern fried chicken pieces should be covered or uncovered during cooking, or that it in fact doesn't matter.

I do enjoy the Hungry Man dinners, and I want to maximize my enjoyment by preparing them so that they fulfill their total taste potential. Since the directions on the package are ambiguous, I am trying to find out what is the best way to prepare the dinner.

I look forward to your reply.

David Marron

"Total taste potential". We're talking poetry, here.

As of this minute, there's been no further response. More bulletins as events warrant.


Okay, I have things to do and places to be...and early, at that.

Be seeing you.


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