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Where to buy the best ready-to-cook dishes for a fuss-free Christmas feast

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Cooking up a Christmas feast can be taxing and tiring. Luckily, supermarkets now offer convenient, ready-made festive meats, sides and desserts to take the hard work out of catering for a crowd. The Sunday TImes put 16 of these dishes to the taste test.

HOW the taste test was conducted

It's free and fair!

Unlike previous tastings we’ve undertaken, this was not a competitive process where the same items were pitched against each other. Instead we asked four of the largest retailers to share four items for a Christmas celebration with a group of 40 hungry Sunday Times readers.

Chef Kabelo Segone and his team at HTA in Randburg, Joburg, oversaw the preparation of the food according to the packaging instructions.

We then presented the prepared items, without any packaging but with the prices, to our tasters. They were asked to rate each item individually out of 10 points and judge them on appearance, taste and suitability for the festive season.

Auditor Morne Kok oversaw the preparation, tasting and scoring process and tallied the scores, giving an average for each product.

THE RESULTS

Gammon, roast pork rib eye and Mediterranean vegetables from Woolworths.
Gammon, roast pork rib eye and Mediterranean vegetables from Woolworths. 
Image: Christoph Hoffman

WOOLWORTHS

1. EASY-CARVE MEDIUM GAMMON

Judges's comments:

  • Good flavour, slightly salty tones.
  • Nice and juicy.
  • I expected more flavour.

Price: R79.99 per kg

Score: 8/10

2. ROAST PORK RIB EYE WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE

 Judges's comments:

  • Nice balance of spices.
  • Looks amazing but taste doesn't match the look.
  • Smells porky.

Price: R129.99 per kg

Score: 7/10

3. READY-TO-ROAST MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLES

Judges's comments:

  • Weren't very festive but had great flavour.
  • Delicious, but I eat veggies every night so wouldn't have at my Christmas lunch.
  • Marrow out of proportion size-wise.

Price: R44

Score: 7/10

4. LUXURY FESTIVE DESSERT SELECTION

Judges's comments:

  • Delicious mixture, good portion size.
  • Fantastic idea, mini cheesecakes my favourite.

Price: R109.99 for 15

Score: 9/10


Festive meats from Pick n Pay.
Festive meats from Pick n Pay. 
Image: Christoph Hoffman

PICK N PAY

5. SMOKED BONELESS GAMMON

Judges's comments:

  • Tastes and looks good. Worth the price.
  • Looks juicier than it tastes
  • Love the extra fatty layer.

Price: R79.99 per kg

Score: 8/10

6. STUFFED CHICKEN

Judges's comments:

  • Great stuffed bird. Liked the stuffing.
  • Way too many herbs on skin, makes it bitter.
  • Roasted perfectly.
  • Lacked in flavour, stuffing OK.

Price: R62.99 per kg

Score: 7/10

7. ORANGE AND FENNEL PORK BELLY

Judges's comments:

  • Delicious with nice citrus notes.
  • Loved it.
  • Well cooked, tasty.
  • Tender, no crackling though.

Price: R109.99 per kg

Score: 7/10

8. CHEESECAKE PUDDING WITH PEAR AND CARAMEL

Judges's comments:

  • Not a cheesecake and overly sweet.
  • Too shallow for the container, looks stingy.
  • This is a good rich cold Christmas dessert, not a cheesecake.

Price: R69.90 for 560g 

Score: 6/10


Gammon, corned beef and veggie kebabs from SPAR.
Gammon, corned beef and veggie kebabs from SPAR. 
Image: Christoph Hoffman

SPAR

9. COOKED GAMMON

Judges's comments:

  • Good balance of saltiness and sweet.
  • Too wet and expensive.
  • Juicy, good smoky flavour.
  • Delicious.
  • Little tough, but good.

Price: R159.99 per kg

Score: 8.5/10

10. FRESHLINE SALT/CORNED BEEF

Judges's comments:

  • Bit dry and bland.
  • Never had corned beef for Christmas, it's a tasty alternative.

Price: R119.99 per kg

Score: 6/10

11. FRESHLINE VEGETABLE KEBABS

Judges's comments:

  • Tastes good, I would buy it.
  • A five-year-old could put this together!
  • No flavour, lacks salt.
  • Nothing to write home about!

Price: R32.99 for six

Score: 6/10

12. FRESHLINE TRIFLE

Judges's comments:

  • This is jelly and custard, not special.
  • Tastes better than it looks.
  • I enjoyed it.

Price: R39.99

Score: 6/10


Turducken, lemon thyme potatoes and venison pie from Checkers.
Turducken, lemon thyme potatoes and venison pie from Checkers. 
Image: Christoph Hoffman

CHECKERS

13. READY-TO-COOK TURDUCKEN

Judges's comments:

  • This is different. Interesting.
  • The turkey is moist but the glaze lacks oomph.

Price: R269.99 for 1.5kg

Score: 7/10

14. READY-TO-COOK LEMON THYME POTATOES

Judges's comments:

  • Potatoes looked amazing but had no flavour and the lemon made it sour.

Price: R60.99 for 1kg

Score: 4/10

15. READY-TO-BAKE VENISON PIE

Judges's comments:

  • Garlic-lover's paradise, lacks flavour, can't taste venison.
  • Meat is chewy, pastry OK although it has a soggy bottom.

Price: R109.99 for 1kg

Score: 5.5/10

16. APRICOT AND SPARKLING WINE-FLAVOURED JELLY BAVARIAN CREAM

Judges's comments:

  • Not too sweet.
  • I don't like the look of the canned fruit.
  • Wine in jelly is a hit for wine lovers. Cream part tasteless.
  • Jelly nice, but cream leaves an awful vegetable-fat aftertaste.

Price: R99.99 for 780g

Score: 6/10

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