The jolly Green Giant deserves a pat on the back for his Complete Skillet Meal Beef Stew.

The product rated an overall score of 8.6 (10-point scale) and a “Good” from our BEEF taste test panel of six Minnesota Beef Council and BEEF editorial staffers.

That positive overall review, however, wasn't unanimous among panelists. Overall scores ranged from a high of 9.5 to a low of 7.5, which points up the difficulty of pleasing wide-ranging palates when it comes to a dish as familiar to Americans as beef stew.

The 32-oz., four-serving package carries the “mark of beef quality” seal and sells for $4.99. It's available in frozen retail sections nationwide through Pillsbury and is part of an eight-product line that includes six chicken dishes and two beef dishes. The second beef offering, introduced in June, is Green Giant® Steak Teriyaki.

The beef stew entree includes pre-cooked potatoes, carrots and peas, as well as separate pouches of beef stew chunks and frozen sauce. The ingredients are mixed prior to heating on a stovetop or in a microwave.

Green Giant® Complete Skillet Meal Beef Stew scored a 4.1 or better (5-point scale) in all individual categories except for ease of preparation (3.8) and flavor (3.95). Panelists lauded the product's packaging for its clarity and attractiveness (4.3), its complete preparation instructions (4.4) and the completeness of its nutrition information (4.35).

Some panelists downgraded the product for its ease of preparation because of the multiple ingredient packaging. Interestingly, panelists who liked the flavor and crispness of the vegetables credited the individual packaging for those attributes.

In the sensory factors, the product rated a 4.3 both in visual presentation and tenderness, a 4.25 in both texture and juiciness, and a 3.95 in flavor. One unimpressed panelist rated the product's visual presentation and flavor both as 3.5. She said the product “looked a little too thin for stew and had a strong aftertaste.”

The other five panelists, however, largely indicated they'd buy the product again.

“This is the second time I tried this product, and it seems to taste better each time,” one said. “Very good flavor. I'd buy again,” said another. And a third said: “Seems like a ‘light’ stew, but I liked it.”