09/02/2014 03:43 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2014

Dear Marie Callender's: If I Was the Kind of Person Who Had a Meat Thermometer, I Wouldn't Be Microwaving This Frozen Dinner in the First Place

Dear Whomever is in Charge of Customer Satisfaction at Marie Callender's,

About a week ago, I purchased and consumed one of your frozen, microwavable meals -- specifically, The Beef and Broccoli with White Rice.  It was tasty.  So, for that, I thank you. 

However, I feel the need to point something out to you, in the interest of serving your customers better, or just in the interest of helping your company operate under logical, common-sense assumptions.  

You see, the cooking instructions on the box direct the customer to microwave the product for several minutes, stir it, then microwave it again.  Then comes this:

Check that product is cooked thoroughly. Internal temperature needs to reach 165 degrees F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.

So, according to the directions, if the meat thermometer says the meat's temperature is greater than or equal to 165 degrees F, it's safe to eat.  (Please note that the directions for what to do if the meat has not reached the desired temperature are not to be found.  As a person with a modicum of intelligence, I would assume those instructions, were they to exist, might be something like, "Cook the meat some more."  But I digress.)

My point is not really to quibble with the particular block of instructions or the specifics therein, but more with the assumption lying underneath: namely, that I have a meat thermometer.  More specifically, the directions seem to assume that I have a meat themometer on me, or certainly within easy reach.  Allow me, one of your many customers, to give you a message: If I'm already at the point where I'm microwaving one of your meals for my dinner, you can go ahead and assume I am not in possession of a meat thermometer.

To expand on this point a bit, it seems to me there are two types of people in the world: people who have a meat thermometer within easy reach, and people who microwave a Marie Callender frozen meal for their dinner.

Having a meat thermometer implies a fairly elevated knowledge of how to prepare meals for oneself.  If I had such knowledge, why would I be microwaving a bowl of beef and broccoli that came in a box from the frozen section of the supermarket in the first place?  I think the answer is obvious -- I wouldn't.

By way of putting forth a possible solution, my humble suggestion, as someone with admittedly scant knowledge of the process of mass producing food products, would be this: requiring a meat thermometer to complete the cooking process of any one of your microwavable meals might be a bridge too far for the target consumer of these products.  That consumer wants to throw whatever item he has purchased in the microwave, hit cook and eat it three minutes later.  He's not worried about temperature, or texture or even appearance.  If it's done and it's hot enough, he'll eat it.  

(In fact, while I'm on the subject, that whole "let it stand for two minutes" thing?  That's too much, too.  Your target frozen dinner customer isn't letting anything stand.  He's eating whatever's in that bowl, right away.  Yeah, it might burn his mouth, but then, if he cared that much about what he put in his mouth, would he really be eating this meal in the first place?  Also, if you think he's lifting the scalding-hot plastic wrap and stirring the meal in the middle of the cooking process, you're out of your mind.)

I mean no disrespect.  As I said, the meal was very tasty and met my expectations.  But I couldn't tell you the temperature of the meat in that bowl, because I'm not the type of person who owns a meat thermometer.  I'm the type who just eats the thing.


Jerome Halligan - a satisfied but marginally confused customer