Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

"Why do we eat garbage?"

Of all the questions pondered by snackologists since the founding of the science, this is the most contentious, its possible answers the fuel for many of the field's most fervent dance-offs. Some say the answer is convenience — what's easier to prepare, a pita filled with mayonnaise or Beef Wellington? Others argue it's economic — healthy food costs more than shitty food.

Me? I subscribe to the apathy school. Humans, as a whole, just don't give a fuck anymore. Need proof? It's right here.

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

Hot Pockets — a $2 billion a year segment of the frozen sandwiches and snacks category. Two. Billion. Dollars.

Invented by Paul and David Merage in the 1970's, Hot Pockets first hit the market in 1983. Capitalizing on the ever-growing prevalence of the microwave oven, these meat and cheese turnovers were embraced by a society that knew a time was coming when they'd be so enraptured by food reviews on the internet they'd have no time to eat anything the alien archaeologists visiting Earth three decades centuries from now would ever mistake for something one might ingest, even on a dare.

Fun Fact: In 2002 Nestlé purchased Hot Pocket parent company Chef America, becoming the owner of yet another variety of things we probably shouldn't put in our mouths.

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

What makes a Hot Pocket a Hot Pocket? For one, it has to be hot, at least eventually. It also has to be a pocket, or in this case a turnover. It's essentially a meat, cheese and vegetable Danish, made with only the highest quality things resembling meat, cheese and vegetables. It is cooked in the microwave in a cardboard sleeve specially created to make it somewhat crispy, while telling you about other horrible things you can eat.

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

The great Hot Pocket lie: You cannot cook a Hot Pocket in the oven. Perpetuated by the fact that the Hot Pockets package does not contain oven heating instructions, Hot Pockets can indeed be cooked in the oven. In fact, just about anything can be cooked in an oven. That's what an oven is for — cooking things, even things that don't wish to be cooked, like Hot Pockets and George Clooney. (Disclaimer: Do not cook George Clooney, mostly.) An oven-baked Hot Pocket requires no cardboard sleeve to achieve crispiness, though the sleeve is required if you want to start a fire in your oven. (Disclaimer: Set all the fires in your oven.)

How to Eat a Hot Pocket

The Actual Review, Actually

For the sake of having an actual review and not just a random collection of words followed by three lines of the word "shit" repeated over and over again, I bought and ate some Hot Pockets. Here's how that went.

Pepperoni Pizza (with Buttery Garlic Crust)

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

What the deuce? Buttery garlic crust? In an effort to confuse as many people as possible, Nestlé recently started segregating Hot Pockets by crust type. A single traditional flavor, like Pepperoni Pizza, can now be found in a couple of different crust variants. I went with buttery garlic because if every component of what I am eating isn't directly contributing to the ensuing heartburn I feel cheated.

Extremely buttery and garlic-flavored crust aside, Pepperoni Pizza is one of the more sensible Hot Pockets flavors. You want pizza, but you don't want a whole pizza. Or one made with premium ingredients. Or one that leaves you with your self-respect intact. What are you gonna pick? One of these.

If all pizza is to you is sauce, cheese, bread and some sort of spicy meat, than this would probably do. If all pizza is to you is sauce, cheese, bread and some sort of spicy meat, you're probably not particularly concerned about anything enough to care.

Ham and Cheese (with Buttery Crust)

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

I don't know why I split the Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket lengthwise, though I suspect it was for reasons of prolonging its imagined pain.

This is just fucking lazy, folks. Pizza I can understand — it requires some modicum of skill. This is ham. Ham and cheese. On bread. If you want to take it to the Paula Deen levels seen here, then slather some butter on that bastard, but come on — make your own damn sandwich.

And use Swiss cheese. Sharp orange cheddar-ish with ham-like reminds me of toddler vomit.

Philly Steak and Cheese (on Croissant Crust)

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

Having grown up on the outskirts of Philadelphia, fuck you, Hot Pockets. I'd sooner eat Steak-Ums, even though they sound like they are about to correct me on the internet.

Also, on behalf of my friends in France, fuck you, Hot Pockets. I am not privy to the exact recipe used to craft that country's most popular baked good, but I am pretty damn sure it's not a couple of layers of fillo dough.

BBQ Chicken (on Pretzel Bread)

Hot Pockets: The Snacktaku Review

I'm cheating just a little bit here. While a Hot Pocket version of the BBQ chicken in pretzel bread exists, this is the Lean Pockets variety, and it's the closest to edible-without-shame the brand gets.

These marvelous bastards are only 250 calories a piece, and while those calories don't contain much of anything useful, they almost — almost — taste like BBQ chicken. Not barbecue chicken, mind you, but BBQ, barbecue's slutty cousin.

Honestly the chicken flavor is incredibly vague, and the BBQ has a burn to it that doesn't seem like it should be there (syphilis?), but the pretzel bread is so wonderful they could stuff this with bits of ground glass and I'd — get my innards torn to shreds by ground glass. (Disclaimer: I got nothing.)


I'd suggest not eating these, but such a suggestion is probably beyond my power. As mentioned previously, Hot Pockets and their various spin-offs are a $2 billion business. I'm no mathematician, but statistically that means you are eating one right now. Look down at your hand. Slowly. Don't be obvious. Dammit, it ran away.

It'll be back.

Snacktaku is Kotaku's take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands. Past critiques can be found at the Snacktaku review archive.