With an overall score of 8.5 on a 10-point scale, the BEEF Taste Test panel clearly liked Aurora Foods' Chef's Choice Beef Stir Fry. The product, which bills itself as a “complete meal with Oriental style vegetables, seasoned beef and teriyaki sauce,” drew high scores in the packaging and sensory categories.

Where the product lagged was in the convenience category, particularly its ease of preparation. While the package boasts that the product is “simply delicious, deliciously simple,” panelists felt the claim was only half accurate. As a result, Chef's Choice Beef Stir Fry managed a 3 (on a 5-point scale) in ease of preparation.

“The sauce is good, and the beef is good, and it's consistent. This is a good product, just not very convenient,” said one panelist.

Another felt the vegetables were “very crisp and fresh tasting.” Still another who rated it a 9 overall, thought the product “would taste better prepared on the stove top” rather than the microwave preparation the panel used.

Chef's Choice Beef Stir Fry is a frozen, 24 oz., 2.5-serving package that sells for $5.49. Inside are three plastic pouches, one containing the beef strips, another with vegetables, and the last is the teriyaki sauce.

Stovetop preparation is the preferred method, although microwave instructions are provided as well. Stovetop preparation involves cooking the beef in a skillet or wok for 3-3½ minutes, then adding the vegetables and stir-frying for 5 minutes. Once any excess liquid is drained off, the teriyaki sauce is added and all ingredients are tossed and stirred until hot.

If using a microwave, the beef and vegetables are combined in a microwave-safe dish, covered with plastic wrap and cooked on high for 5-6 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. After draining off excess liquid, the packet of teriyaki sauce, after thawing under warm, running water, is added. All ingredients are then tossed to disperse the sauce throughout.

Two panelists found that sauce preparation using the microwave method was “cumbersome” and “messy.” Another negative with either preparation method was the need to drain excess liquid. Panelists felt this step entailed at least one more dirty dish to clean up.

Aurora Foods' Chef's Choice Beef Stir Fry clearly is a winner in packaging and taste. Convenience — something paramount in a convenience beef product — is lacking, however. Still, an 8.5 overall score leaves it solidly in the middle of the 20 convenience beef products the BEEF Taste Test panel has critiqued thus far.