Sunday Times Food Awards 2018

Which supermarket's festive meats should be the star of your Xmas feast?

Gammons, stuffed chickens and more: we rate meats from leading retailers to help you make a wise buy this Christmas

09 December 2018 - 00:00 By Hilary Biller
Gammon with apricot glaze served with grilled apricots.
Gammon with apricot glaze served with grilled apricots.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

HOW WE CONDUCTED OUR TASTE TEST

IT'S FREE AND FAIR!

Ordinarily we purchase the same items from different supermarkets for our taste tests. For this one, however, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Woolworths each shared four products from their wide festive ranges. As we were not comparing like with like, each item was rated individually and given a score out of 10.

The judging panel for this blind tasting included a group of meat-lovers, including some esteemed chefs.

All the products were cooked to package instructions and served as is, except for the unglazed hams that were scored and glazed with apricot jam. The preparation of the food was done by the chefs of the HTA School of Culinary Art in Randburg, Johannesburg, under the guidance of head chef Kabelo Segone.

The meats were numbered and presented to the judges whole, without any packaging or reference to which store they came from, then sliced and served on platters.

Here are the results:

From top to bottom: Checkers gammon, roast beef, stuffed chicken and pickled tongue.
From top to bottom: Checkers gammon, roast beef, stuffed chicken and pickled tongue.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

CHECKERS

GLAZED GAMMON

Pre-cooked, apricot-glazed gammon with pineapple slices and red cherries

Price: R179.99 for 1.3kg

Score: 7/10

What the judges said: 

  • Lerato: I like the sweet/honeytaste of the glaze.
  • Dale: The glaze creates a chewy exterior, but a decent layer of fat adds good flavour.
  • Andrea: A little on the tough side and too dry for my liking.

ROAST BEEF

Pre-cooked beef topside rubbed with a spice blend

Price: R189.99 for 800g

Score: 7/10

What the judges said:

  • Nick: Lovely flavour and cooked perfectly.
  • Dennis: A good traditional roast beef with a hint of spice.
  • Dale: Lacking in flavour.

STUFFED ROAST CHICKEN

Partially deboned, pre-cooked chicken with cranberry glaze and stuffed with a buttery, rosemary-infused cranberry crumb

Price: R179.99 for 1.3kg

Score: 8/10

What the judges said:

  • Lerato: Loved the herbs.
  • Noni: Very delicious, crispy skin. Stuffing was a little dry.
  • Kenneth: Stuffing had too much rosemary, chicken good.

PICKLED TONGUE*

Price: R79.99 per kg

Score: 7/10

What the judges said:

  • Noni: Good texture and flavour.
  • Martin: I really enjoyed it, tender and flavoursome.
  • James: Soft and tasty.

*Boiled to package instructions, served plain.


From top to bottom: Woolworths festive hamper (gammon, pork belly and corned beef) and pork rib eye.
From top to bottom: Woolworths festive hamper (gammon, pork belly and corned beef) and pork rib eye.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

WOOLWORTHS 

FESTIVE HAMPER

This hamper comprised three full-flavoured meat cuts, which were each rated individually. 

Price: R89.99 per kg

1. Beech Smoked Gammon*

Score: 9/10

What the judges said:

  • Colleen: Good flavour, soft texture and tender. Not fatty.
  • Kenneth: Good flavoured gammon, I like the presentation.
  • Lerato: I just love, love it.
  • Martin: Gammon is not too salty but a little tough.

2. Black Pepper Smoked Pork Belly

Score: 8/10

What the judges said: 

  • Andrea: Great cut with tremendous flavour.
  • Kenneth: Nice and tenderI will certainly buy it.
  • Dale: A bit salty.

3. Corned Beef

Score: 7/10

What the judges said: 

  • Noni: Not enough flavour.
  • Reabetswe: Delicious and enjoyable.
  • Dorah: Chewy but pleasant.
  • Joanne: A little bland and needed some pizzazz for festive table.

PORK RIB EYE

Oven-roast ready, apple-cider-glazed smoked pork rib eye

Price: R139.99 per kg

Score: 7/10

What the judges said:

  • Joanne: Enjoyable but salty, delicious aroma.
  • Noni: Enjoyed the smoke on the skin but salty.
  • Dorah: I would buy it.

*Cooked to package instructions and glazed with smooth apricot jam and studded with cloves.


From top to bottom: Pick n Pay gammon, fillet, stuffed chicken and pickled tongue.
From top to bottom: Pick n Pay gammon, fillet, stuffed chicken and pickled tongue.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

PICK N PAY

BONELESS GAMMON

Lightly smoked with beech wood

Price: R67.99 per kg

Score: 8/10

What the judges said:

  • Peter: Lovely looking, good size and great tasting.
  • Nick: Lovely layer of fat though a little dry.
  • Jo: Tasty and well presented. Glaze was good.

PEPPER CRUSTED BEEF FILLET

Price: R249.99 per kg

Score: 8/10

What the judges said:

  • Kenneth: Very tender and tasty but needed more pepper.
  • Nick: Tender, not overspiced, cooked perfectly.
  • James: Pepper not coming through meat sufficiently.

CHICKEN WITH SAVOURY STUFFING

Price: R69.99

Score: 7/10

What the judges said:

  • Kenneth: Chicken nice, stuffing rubbery.
  • Christoph: Stuffing tastes a bit like an instant soup mix.
  • Noni: I like chicken, stuffing has too much thickener/flour.

PICKLED TONGUE*

Price: R85.99 per kg

Score: 6/10

What the judges said:

  • Dorah: Not a great fan of tongue, this is chewy and dry.
  • Andrea: Good texture but not a fan of the flavour.
  • Kenneth: Tender and tasty.
  • Peter: I enjoyed it.

*Boiled to package instructions, served plain. 

TREND SPOTTING WITH FOOD ED HILARY BILLER

This year is a tough one for consumers, so I found the emphasis of 2018's festive offerings to be on a selection of meat and chicken dishes with an eye on budget:

• Joints appear to be smaller — or am I imagining it?

• Chicken, SA’s favourite protein, is available in more convenient and exciting ways like deboned (or partially deboned) stuffed with interesting ingredients and some come with sachets of sauce.

• Turkeys appear to be available in limited quantities in selected stores which is unfortunate because the large bird makes a great centrepiece and good for a crowd and leftovers.

• It’s interesting to see things like pickled tongue making a comeback and served with a mustard sauce is a popular and more affordable option.

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