With its home base in Minneapolis, MN, the only border the Pillsbury Co. is south of is the Canadian border. But that's apparently no obstacle to producing a great Mexican-flavor convenience beef product.

Our BEEF Taste Test panel gives Pillsbury's Old El Paso® Taco Sauce with Seasoned Ground Beef a hearty thumbs up. The fully-cooked, microwaveable product rated an overall score of 8.6 on a 10-point scale, which places it very comfortably in the top half of the 25 convenience beef products we've put to the test thus far.

Taco Sauce with Seasoned Ground Beef comes in a 20-oz., microwaveable, re-sealable plastic container, is available nationally and sells for $5.99. It's the latest in a wide variety of easy-to-prepare Old El Paso products, and it meshes nicely with other Old El Paso offerings such as taco shells, sauces, seasonings and other Mexican side dishes.

“This product is quick, convenient and really delivers on taste,” said one panelist.

“It's an attractive package and easy to heat in the original container. You can even save the container and use it for leftovers,” added another.

In the individual sub-categories within the three major categories of packaging, convenience and sensory factors, the product rated no less than a 4.4 (5-point scale), with one exception. In the serving size category, it drew a 3.6 because panelists felt the 20-oz. package's claim of 10 servings was overly optimistic.

A few panelists also felt the product was too salty. But, higher sodium content is normally found in commercial products containing a sauce or gravy, points out panelist Michelle Torno, a Minnesota Beef Council dietitian. Another thought the consistency was too “soupy.”

The product drew its highest scores in the packaging category. Panelists liked its packaging (4.7 on a 5-point scale) and the completeness of its preparation instructions (4.6) and nutritional information (4.7).

The product garnered another 4.7 in ease of preparation and a 4.6 in preparation time. In the sensory factors of visual presentation, flavor, tenderness, texture and juiciness, it averaged a 4.5.

The overall judgment of the panel was fairly well summed up by one panelist's overall comment: “This is a great way to add value to ground beef and make it convenient.”