Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $7.99
BUY THIS. A comfort food staple, near-and-dear to me (my mom packed it in a thermos for my school lunches) that Mountain House nails. Whether or not you miss home on the trail, you do miss home-cooked meals, and if you tasted this one blindfolded, you'd swear you were at the family dining table.
A simple combination of ground beef, red chili beans, and elbow macaroni is married well with a chili sauce that has a spicy kick. Widely reviewed as one of the best meals MH has to offer, I'd place myself in agreement with the majority and say this one knocks it out of the park.
- "Stick to your ribs" filling
- Nice spicy kick in sauce
- Feels like home-made comfort food
- Simple preparation
- Could afford more time to rehydrate than suggested (+10 min.)
- Spicy (only a negative to those who avoid spicy foods)
- Serving size an overestimation
The package is practically bulletproof, very lightweight for a two-portion meal (4.80 ounces), and the top flap folds down easily to minimize the volume this will take up in a pack. The re-sealable packaging is doubly effective, A.) allowing you to create a seal on the bag as the boiling water re-hydrates the meal, and B.) serves as a scent-proof trash bag after you've eaten the entirety of the contents.
I've read reviews ranking this among the top three Mountain House meals, and I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype, and try it for myself.
Here's a shot of the 2-serving bag:
Water: 2 cups / 16 ounces - to re-hydrate ingredients
Stove & Pot - for boiling water
Spork - for eating
INGREDIENTS AND NUTRITION FACTS
PREP AND COOKING
All I need to cook this is a stove and small pot: boil two cups (or sixteen ounces) of water, pour it inside the re-sealable pouch, and let it sit for 8-9 minutes.
This is what the contents look like prior to re-hydration, after you've removed the iron oxide pouch from inside:
Provided you've a water source and a way to filter it, this is about as simple as simple cooking gets. To be honest with y'all, freeze-dried meals are more about patience than anything. Boiling water requires 3 or 4 minutes, and add atop that the 8-9 minutes this needs to set, and you're looking at a 15-minute wait for your lunch or dinner.
Not as bad as pacing back and forth the in lobby of the local Steak 'N Shake, but still, not immediate or instant.
TIP: let this one rest inside the bag a little longer than the 8-9 minutes MH suggests. The macaroni and beans reconstitute just fine, but the freeze-dried beef requires a little longer than usual if you'd like to avoid it being chewy. It still tastes fine, but if you prefer a softer texture, let this one chill in the bag a couple more minutes than your typical MH meal.
Wait 8-9 minutes, open the bag, and here's what it looks like:
All I need to eat this is a spork: you can eat straight from the bag, and better yet, once you've finished eating, you can pack your trash into the bag and seal it up to keep the scents inside.
As many have mentioned, most sporks are shorter than these bags are deep, and in order to really dig in and get the last bite out of these pouches, you'll have to transfer the food to another container, or tilt the bag on its side and scrape the food toward the front. The latter method worked fine for me, and I only plated this meal to get a closer picture of what it looked like outside of the bag.
If you have a separate garbage bag, I'd suggest cutting a few inches off the top of the bag and turning it into a shallower bowl to eat from.
Mac? You betcha!
Alright! Done and done with that part of the review!
But seriously, apart from delivering on the obligatory components of the dish, Mountain House really does knock it out of the park with this meal.
The texture is dead-on, and it doesn't feel like a freeze-dried meal at all. That said, it does taste noticeably better than what you'd find in a can of Chef Boyardee, and has a little more "al dente" firmness than would most canned pastas.
My favorite part was the unexpected, spicy kick the sauce had to it. You could assume a meal in a bag (for lack of a better way to put it) would taste about as exciting as it sounds. Not the case, here. This one has a little bite than jumps out at your taste buds, and - if you've been eating bland food for most your trip - this will wake them back up.
Spicy? Yes. Hot? No. If you want a legitimate kick, toss a packet of hot sauce in to raise it up to your masochistic and desired level of heat intensity.
Here're the contents of the meal, shown plated, to give a better view of the serving size and ingredients:
SATIETY AND ENERGY
Great. A really generous helping of food. This was a full meal for me, and although it did make for a filling meal for one, I can't say this would be enough food for two people.
Being carb-heavy (heck, "mac[aroni] is half of the dish's name!!!) I would be mindful of when you eat this one if you don't want to feel compelled to nap after eating it. I'm the kind of guy who prefers a larger meal toward the end of my day, so this isn't something I'd make for lunch. This has "dinner" written all over it.
SEASONING AND TIPS
By itself, to be 100% honest, this dish is fine. It's already a five-stars-on-Trailspace meal. Being a Midwestern boy who spent his college years with a couple guys from Cincinnati, I can't help but top my chili (and chili mac) with a healthy sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese. On the trail, either grate a little bit off the chunk you're carrying around, or carve off a few pieces and let 'em melt in with everything else. It makes it gooey in a good way, and once you've got cheese atop it, you'd swear you were having a home-cooked meal. Yeah. It's that good.
Me being me, I - naturally - "made it rain" black pepper on this dish. It's my go-to seasoning. You can pick up packets for free at any fast food restaurant, and it's great for hikers with hypertension (high blood pressure) like myself. When you're eating high-sodium backpacking meals, you try and cut back on your sodium consumption where ever else you're able.
Much like the capacity rating on tents is usually over-estimated, the same holds true to serving sizes with these meals. I would consider this a filling meal for one average-sized male adult, but no more than that. If you wanted a lighter lunch, I would suggest splitting it, but as a satisfying dinner, this isn't feeding any more than one person.
Definitely a late fall or cooler weather dish, too. Not like you can't eat it another time, but I think it'd be especially satisfying in the late fall on a crisp night outside.
5 stars, and quite possibly the first things I've ever reviewed for Trailspace I have absolutely nothing negative to say about. I like spicy. Some may not. I enjoyed this as a one-person meal. Some splitting it may not consider it filling.
Would I eat it every day on the trail? Considering there aren't any discernable vegetables, well, no, I probably would not. Would I make this a "special occasion" treat to celebrate a milestone or my first/last night on a trip? Oh, most definitely.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: ~$5
Chili Mac with Beef on a backpacking trip, it's great and fits well with meals around the fire. I'd recommend this (higher than the Beef Stroganoff...though still good) on any outing.
- Quick meal
- 3 servings?...just one for me really
- Ingredients/additives can be overwhelming
Like most Mountain House meals, prep is very easy. Though similar to the Beef Stroganoff (meat and noodles), I prefer the Chili Mac because of the flavor and it filled me up more.
All of these flash frozen, dehydrated meals have a long shelf life; most are 10 years. Because of this, if you look at the ingredient list, it can be daunting...but isn't most of what we eat nowadays quite ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the 2 or 3 servings that is labeled really wasn't that for me. I can eat most of these meals in one sitting. While it wasn't my equivalent of being 2 or 3 servings, it did fill me up for what I ate.
I usually begin a day of backpacking with colder meals/snacks like bars and finish the night with warmer meals. Helps me to unwind and keep my body working the meal while digesting, keeping me warm.
Overall, this is a tasty meal. Great for long backpacking trips as it is lightweight and flavor and prep are top notch. I'd recommend this flavor to others.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $5.49
One of the best tasting foods they offer. Taste is really great, very light weight and super easy to make right in its own bag.
- Light weight
- Easy to make in its own bag
- Can't think of any
This is one of their best tasting meals and I have tried most of them. Very good flavor, you will hardly know you are eating dehydrated food. Filling and very easy to prepare in its own bag, just need to boil some water.
I would definitely recommend this one for a long hike or a backpacking trip. They are lightweight and don't take up too much room in your pack. They are well sealed so you can squish them in a tight spot. Killer for an energy boost.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: 6.50
Very tasty, but buy two per meal.
- Taste - Excellent
- Texture - Good
- Packages are small
This is one of the standards for dehydrated food. It's tasty and has a bit of a zing from the chili.
Nice texture - it's hard to tell the hamburger is reconstituted. Macaroni and beans make for a satisfying meal, and there's enough calories to get your strength back for another day of hiking. Be warned, the chili gave me a bit of heartburn, and you may be producing noxious odours later in the tent at night. Fine if you bring some Tums just in case, and if you're bunking alone.
Cooks up quickly and without any fuss. Just add boiling water, re-seal the bag and let it sit, then eat straight out of the bag 9-10 minutes later. Unlike that other standby, Lipton's Sidekicks, there is no simmering involved, so you really save on fuel.
I bought the freeze-dried Pro Pak version at 115 grams instead of the regular, larger one (135 gms), and I found it just wasn't enough food for me after a day of backpacking. My tentmate was fine with a single serving, though. Notes about the Propak; as well as taking up less space in the pack, the vacuum-packed bags don't expand at elevation, so you don't find your pack full of puffy bags when you get to 2000 metres.
One person suggested adding a can of black beans, and that would certainly help, and this would certainly make a good base for any number of dishes. I'm just not fond of having to carry the extra weight of canned foods. Kind of defeats the purpose of buying ultralite meals. In future, I'll just buy two of these for myself.
Whenever I am planning out a backpack trip or just a day trip, my husband always asks for this Chili Mac. Though it is not gourmet food, once it is rehydrated, you would never realize it was not fresh to start.
And bears like it too! I was making this for lunch on a day trip in Shenandoah National Park, and a black bear tried to join us. I guess it smelled good to him too.
Price Paid: $5
My wife and I were camping and tried this one night.
To my amazement my wife really liked it. We are leaving on a week-long camping trip and she asked my to pick up this for one night's meal. Excellent product.
Price Paid: $5
This is one of my favorite dehydrated meals. It taste great, is very filling and just a little spicy....not to much or to little. Also works great for warming up on cold nights.
I think Mountain House makes some of the best dehydrated meals available and the Chili Mac with Beef is my favorite from them.
Price Paid: $5 +/-
Try adding a small can of black beans in the mix, it's even better. I always carry a couple of pouches on my fishing boat, just in case.