Knowing the average depth of a lake isn't a good indicator for someone who wants to wade across it. That's sort of the situation with Stouffer's Skillet Sensations Broccoli & Beef with rice and vegetables in an oriental-style sauce.

The product, which carries the Beef Brand Mark of quality, has two solid legs of a convenience beef product — packaging and convenience. It needs some work, however, on the sensory factors side, according to our BEEF Taste Test panel.

Still, the product garnered a respectable overall score of 8.39 on a 10-point scale, due largely to its packaging and convenience strengths.

The Stouffer's Web page bills its Skillet Sensations line as “complete, delicious homestyle meals for two made simple, with all the ingredients — even the chicken or beef — included in a single bag. So to get cooking, all you need to do is grab a skillet and stir.” Most panelists felt that claim was dead-on if you left out the word “delicious.” Maybe “functional” is more accurate.

That's not to say no one liked it. One panelist who thought the product had it all said: “Excellent taste. Add some bread and you've got a meal.”

Be that as it may, the product generated all of its lowest scores in the all-important sensory factors of visual presentation, flavor, tenderness, texture and juiciness.

Stouffer's Skillet Sensations eight-product line includes five chicken dishes and three beef dishes. Besides the Broccoli & Beef that we tested, there is also Beef Stroganoff and Homestyle Beef.

The 25-oz., frozen, two-serving package of Broccoli and Beef sells for $4.89. It consists of teriyaki-glazed and marinated beef strips seasoned with an oriental-style sauce with flavors of soy, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, onion and a touch of sweetness. It includes white rice, broccoli, red pepper and onion.

The packaging is first-class and attractive. The product's lowest score in that category was a 4.55 on a 5-point scale. In the convenience categories, it fared even better with a pair of 4.6s in serving size and ease of preparation, and a 4.85 in preparation time.

“The only thing that could make this product more convenient is if it came in its own bowl,” raved one panelist.

In the sensory category, however, the product fell off a bit. Its highest score was a 4.35 in tenderness, followed by a 4.1 in both texture and juiciness. The product fell to below 3.8 for visual presentation and flavor.

“This product looks better than it tastes,” said one panelist, which again points up a familiar challenge seen throughout the 21 BEEF Taste Test critiques thus far. The further a product strays from mainstream American taste preferences, the harder it is to please everyone.