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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of Pork and Partially Hydrogenated Oil

I recently made a purchase of a couple of long-term food items, and decided to share my experience with both.  Both items were purchased from

The first was freeze dried pork chops.  It seems they got hold of some chops that had been originally made for some "higher ups" in our government.  This isn't the stuff given to the soldiers in the field, which kind of pissed me off the more I thought about it.

Anyway, the chops come in No. 10 cans with a content weight of 23 ounces.

 Their website says each can comes with between 15 and 20 chops, depending on size.  The can I opened (I bought a 6-can case) contained 20 chops.

The instructions tell you to soak the chops in warm, salted water for 20-30 minutes (or if possible, overnight to "equilibrate" the moisture), then cook and eat (BTW, the chops are raw and MUST be cooked).  For my test, I took 8 chops, put them in a bowl of salted water, and the chops floated.  I placed a plate on top to keep them all submerged.

Instead of waiting the recommended 20-30 mins, I let mine soak for a full 60 minutes.  I took them out, patted them dry of surface water, and let them sit covered for another 60 minutes.

I dredged two of the chops in flour and panned fried them up.  The results were iffy at best.

The 60 minute soak and 60 minute rest were not enough to fully rehydrate the chops.  They were edible, but just barely -

The meat was tough to cut (NO, I didn't over cook them), and was very stringy.  Flavor, though, was OK.

The next day, I took two more of the chops which had been in a ziplock bag in the fridge.  I did the same flour dredge and pan fry.  Quite a difference!

These chops, you'll notice, have none of the stringiness.  I cut the chop with and against the grain.  Seriously, very little difference (if any) from a fresh chop.  Flavor, texture and mouth-feel were awesome.

Now, let's talk value.  The 8 original chops weighed 9.2 ounces straight out of the can.  After rehydration, they weighed 19.7 ounces.  Doing a little math, that means that the whole can of freeze dried shops - which started at 23 ounces - will produce right around 49 ounces, or 3 pounds of rehydrated chops.

They are currently sold for around $48 per can, or $16 per pound when rehydrated.  Pricey, for sure, but for my money, it's a hell of a deal if you're in a SHTF scenario where you've been eating little more than rice, beans and jerky.  The mental uplift of eating a real chop would be huge.  The stuff lasts for 25 years, so it's one of those things, which for all practical purposes, will never need to be rotated.

I could see these being used while backpacking as well.  After setting up your base camp, throw some chops in water, let them sit a day, and have an awesome meal to look forward to.

The second item I purchased was powdered shortening.  I had VERY high hopes for this stuff.  Their website noted that the powder could be sprinkled in a pan - which would cause it to melt - and you could fry up your food.

 Here's a screen clip with the "how to" for the powder (click to enlarge) -

I'm thinking, "Finally, a light-weight, portable fat that can be used for frying!  No more lugging lard or bottles of heavy oil!"

Absolute.  Total.  Failure.

I sprinkled some of the powder in a cold pan, turned the heat on medium, and waited for the powder to melt.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, the powder started to brown (WTF?).  No melting at all.

I wiped out the pan, sprinkled in some more powder, and put the heat on low.  Same thing.  More browning, no melting.

I followed their instructions to make up some of the shortening.  One-third cup of water and one-half cup of the powder.  Mix well.  I ended up with this -

 Kind of a very thin slurry, not a solid shortening.

I put some of the slurry into a pan, thinking maybe their "sprinkle" instruction meant it had to be done with the wet stuff.

Not so much.  Just some bubbling, then - you guessed it - browning.  It never melted into an oil with which I could pan fry.

Very, very disappointed.

I wish MRE Depot would just be straight about both of these products.  For the chops, stress that they MUST be soaked overnight for them to act like real chops.  Sure, you can eat them after 20 minutes, but I can also say I can eat a bag of dried beans like popcorn if I wanted.

This is a great product, and I will likely buy more because of the high quality.  There is no need to try and make this stuff something it's not:  an instant chop.  Like the aforementioned dry beans, for them to have their expected texture and flavor, they've got to be soaked for HOURS.  It is what it is.

With regards to the shortening, IMO, it failed miserably.  I was relying on their statement that it would liquefy when sprinkled in a pan.  Not even close!  It may work wonderfully in baked goods, but those won't be high on my hit parade during a SHTF situation.  Having a light-weight cooking "oil" that I could have in my stores (and perhaps in a BOB) was what I was looking for, and which I was promised.

Like the chops, MREDepot appears to be trying to be all things to all people.  This stuff simply does not melt in a low, medium or high heat pan.  Don't tell me it will!

Copyright 2013 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

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