Mountain House freeze-dried food packets and #10 cans are a runaway hit with backpackers and food storage enthusiasts. So overwhelmed with orders in the wake of recent natural disasters, the near US financial collapse and food inflation fears that it is nearly impossible to find these freeze-dried rations from a retail venue with less than a 4 to 6 week wait. So we decided to put two of their popular products, a 2 serving packet of chicken and potatoes and a #10 can of chicken stew, to the test.
First, who is Mountain House? Mountain House is the food division of Oregon Dry Freeze, Inc., an Albany, Oregon based company with 32,000 sq ft of production facilities in the United states and an 11,000 sq ft joint facility in Europe. The company began making freeze dried fruit for the cereal industry in 1963 and was quickly enlisted by the military to supply food rations for the troops. By the 1970s ODF had opened Mountain House, their consumer food division. They still offer a range of services to business clients and have produced over 400 different commercial freeze-dried food products over the years.
On the Left we have the 2 serving chicken and potatoes packet with freeze dried contents laid bare then subsequently prepared, per instructions, with 1 1/2 cups of boiled water. On the Right is the #10 can of chicken stew, also prepared per instructions with 3/4 cups of boiling water per serving.
The 2 serving packet came with 2 whole, grilled, freeze-dried chicken breasts and a packet of seasoned, flaked potatoes that become mashed potatoes when mixed with the hot water left over from reconstituting the chicken breasts using the packet itself and boiling water.
The #10 chicken stew can requires boiling water be added to each serving as well AND, the directions say, a small amount of powdered milk that is not included. We made ours without the powdered milk the first time and, frankly, did not miss it upon comparison to a second preparation with the milk.
Next, both hearty preparations were rated for taste by 4 of our staff on a scale of 1 – 10. 1 being “Inedible” and 10 being “Superb.”
But more importantly look at the overall scores. Both preparations were very well received and everyone of the testers said both products were far better than anything they’d expect to get out of a can or packet.
Personally, I agree. The chicken breasts were tender, if mildly dry. They looked and tasted like actual grilled chicken is supposed to. The reconstituted potatoes were creamy and did not have the taste or texture of ‘boxed’ mashed potatoes. Were they just like mom used to make? No, but these meals were far better than any MRE I’ve tasted and a very pleasant surprise.
There were very few preservatives in either product. The ingredients lists were simple, short, and almost entirely one and two syllable words. Another nice surprise.
Now for the downside. Mountain House freeze-dried food is expensive. On a per calorie cost basis they are some of the most expensive nutrients available. And lets talk more about the calorie counts. As with most food ration products their serving sizes are underwhelming.
Our 2 serving chicken and potatoes meal packet had a total of about 500 calories and cost roughly $8. Our #10 can of chicken stew contained 10 servings. Each serving was 240 calories. That’s 2400 calories per #10 can, each of which costs roughly $35.
A 160lb man requires almost 2,000 calories per day to maintain his body weight if he is sedentary. So that entire Mountain House “2 serving” meal packet may not meet the needs of a single person for even one meal. The entire #10 can of chicken stew has enough calories to last an average male only 1 day assuming he performs a few hours of mild – moderate intensity work. For comparison consider that military MREs contain over 3300 calories per soldier, per day!
Pros: Very long shelf-life, lightweight and certain to exceed expectations in the taste department. The ingredients in the products we tested were top-notch, wholesome and had nearly zero additives. Also, their freeze-dried ice cream is off the charts good.
Cons: 240 calories may be a “serving” but it is not a meal. There are more calories in a single snickers bar. Using Mountain House freeze-dried meals, even in #10 cans, we estimate it will cost $27 – $40 to provide adequate calories per person, per day. Though it appears to be worth it to many, the cost is quite high.