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MRE Taste Test

MRE Taste TestAirman staff goes tactical to spill the beans on meals, ready to eat


The Airman staff “took one for the Air Force” when it taste-tested — all in one sitting — 23 of the U.S. military’s 24 meals, ready to eat.
Yummy and not so yummy.

But as expected, the entire staff survived. Nobody got sick or hurled during the test. And many were surprised at their findings. But before getting to the results, let’s look back just a bit, to a micro-sketch of military rations.

Napoleon said an army marches on its stomach. Today’s generals would most assuredly agree with that.

But the little Frenchman didn’t have “le meals, ready to eat.” His troops found food on the hoof, so to speak, and foraged for chow while on the march. It was nothing new. Armies had done that for centuries. Not a good thing for local farmers. In 1812, cows, pigs and sheep from Paris to Moscow — all potential meals — trembled at the sight of the general’s advancing army. Napoleon sure could have used a beef enchilada MRE on the outskirts of Moscow, that’s for sure. Many of his troops starved. No wonder he lost the campaign.

Today, armies are highly mobile and on the go day and night. Troops don’t have the luxury of stopping to brew coffee or barbecue a cow. They have to eat on the move to stay focused on the mission. So their meals must be state-of-the-art, easy to eat and able to keep troops fueled in any situation or climate. Taste, of course, is a big plus.

There are a host of rations for all occasions: arctic, survival, long-range patrol, medical — even Kosher and Halal. But Airmen are most familiar with meals, ready to eat in the well-known brown plastic pouch. There are 24 varieties, each with about 1,300 calories.

But MREs get bad reviews from some troops, who complain they’re not very tasty. OK, they’re not the meals found at a four-fork restaurant, or even McDonalds. But they’re well planned, top quality, nutritious, portable, safe and satisfying.
In combat it’s tough getting anything better than that, GI. Besides, it beats chasing down your meal all over the Afghan and Iraqi countryside.

After several hours of tasting, Airman staff members came up with their Top 10 list of MREs — and the not-so-good entrées, too. Here’s what they had to say.

Top fork-earning meals

10 Forks
MRE #19, Beef Roast with Vegetables
The real beef in this meal startled the entire staff. After tasting other meat meals, they’d grown accustomed to spongy substitutes. “It’s a Midwestern delight — in a bag,” was one comment. The potatoes, however, were a different story. Very pasty, they tasted like they came straight from a can. “But the thrill of real beef overcame that shortcoming.”
9 Forks
MRE #2, Pork Rib with New England Style Clam Chowder
The pork rib was so good and realistic, one taster said, “I swear I could taste bone marrow.” And the thick and creamy clam chowder looked and tasted like it was shipped from Boston. The consensus: “The clam chowder is very tasty. But you need to warm it to really enjoy it.”
8 Forks
MRE #12, Veggie Burger with Barbecue Sauce
Surprisingly yummy. Hands down the most unexpected entrée in the batch. The staff approached the veggie burger like Bambi at a rifle range convention, timidly. But a taster said, “It tastes more like meat than the beef-type entrées. It has surprisingly good flavor. Definitely a meal I’d eat again.” Everyone agreed. If only all vegetarian cuisine was this good.
7 Forks
MRE #13, Cheese Tortellini
Tops the list for the Italian fare. “Smells great and is very tomatoey. It looks good, too — like a normal dish. It’s creamy, a good meal, overall.”
6 Forks
MRE #15, Beef Enchiladas with Picante Sauce
The best of the south-of-the-border entrees. “It has a spicy-Mexicany taste worth trading for. The picante sauce has kick and mixes well with the enchilada.”
5 Forks
MRE #10, Chili Mac
Get what you pay for in this meal. No false advertising here. “Just what I expected — a good-tasting chili mac. An American classic — dig in!”
4 Forks
MRE #3, Beef Ravioli
Another Italian meal in the “it’s-hard-to-mess-this-up” category. “Not a bad deal. It tastes better than Chef Boy-R-Dee. And it looks good — always a plus.”
3 Forks
MRE #21, Chicken Tetrazzini
“ Looks like a school lunch.” Although the staff agreed it tasted yummy, the texture was a bit disturbing. “Sticks to teeth and gums a bit, but it’s really good.
2 Forks
MRE #16, Chicken with Noodles
An old reliable and close kissing cousin to chicken tetrazzini — and with the same disturbing problem. The taste was great, “but the consistency was kind of weird. It stuck together like cow saliva [Napoleon’s grenadiers would have loved that]. But looks were deceiving.”
1 Fork
MRE #8, Beef Patty with Mexican Mac & Cheese
The mac and cheese side dish kept this entrée from falling off the list. The beef patty was unreal — as in not real. “It was kind of like a ‘Mexican Sponge Bob.’”

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