ZDF-Zeit: How good are instant meals?

The great food check with the starred chef Nelson Müller

Germans spend 20 billion dollars for instant meals – yet numerous food scandals have caused  consumers to become skeptical. Starred chef Nelson Müller and ZDFzeit go into the question: How good are instant meals? Are they really too fatty, too salty, too unhealthy? Are they really as cheap as they seem? Nelson Müller and his guests put instant meals on the table and on the test bench.

Nelson Müller is a starred chef from Essen. In his restaurant he only uses select ingredients that are prepared à la minute. Yet, from his own experience, he is familiar with the problem that many Germans face: Too much stress, too little time to cook. That is why even he sometimes resorts to a quick meal from the freezer. “During my training as a chef, I basically lived on instant lasagne and ravioli from the can.”, Nelson Müller admits freely.

The prices seem incredibly low: rarely an instant meal costs more than three Euros per person, be it from the can, dried or from the cooling shelf. The industry has understood that there are few people in Germany who are willing to spend more than that. But how does that work? Where do they economize – and where do they trick us?

Nelson Müller examines the situation closely: He visits a factory and is told how the mass production of instant meals works. And how does that affect our health? The chef and expert Müller has several instant meals analyzed in the laboratory: calories, fat rate, vitamins. He compares the results with those of home made meals.

Which will fare better in this comparison?

Instant meals have a reputation of using a lot of energy. Fresh ingredients have to be available at all times, the cold chain has to be uninterrupted and the consumer has to heat it again. ZDFzeit does the maths and finds out how much energy is effectively used, until a serving of Texas stir-fry steams on our table.

And finally the starred chef, Nelson Müller invites us to compare. Which tomato soup tastes best? Which main dish can be recommended? And which tiramisu tastes almost as good as a homemade desert? Nelson and his guests will recommend a complete instant menu that tastes good and costs little.

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