I mostly prefer to make my own “lunch meats.” By that, I’m generally referring to cooking a beef roast, ham, or corned beef round and putting it through the slicer. When confronted with the selections at a service deli counter, I’m apt to opt for imported products, and of course I like the variety of selections.
But I’m leery of deli counter meats that I feel fall into the category of “pressed chopped and formed”, bits of meat bound together into a ‘roast’ or loaf’ producing identically shaped pieces with an identical look. Pre-package that in sealed cello, and I’m even more nervous, especially when faced with the phrase “contains xx% solution of…”.
There are actually three types of deli meats or processes that result in the meat you will find in your deli counter or packaged meat section: 1) whole cuts of meat, like a beef loin, ham or turkey breast, seasoned, cooked and ready to slice; 2) the heretofore mentioned sectioned and formed meat products, prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and are bonded together with non-meat additives to form a single piece; and 3) processed meats, like sausages and various types of lunch meats and loaves, beef, pork, or combinations, chopped, seasoned, made into an emulsification or slurry, and put into casings, natural or artificial, and generally smoked, and then sliced in chubs or individual piece packages.
If I’m in a rush, or I arrive at the store after the closing of the service deli, I’m faced with choosing from the pre-packaged meats, as happened last night. Dietz & Watson is a family owned, 75 year old enterprise based in Philadelphia that manufactures and distributes several hundred types of deli meat and cheeses nationwide. I’m a fan of their natural casing frankfurters, but I’m not sure I have ever had their prepared, packaged cold cuts. Last nite, I picked up a package of their “Premium Homestyle Roast Beef”, at $4.99 for 7 ounces. The subheading states “coated with seasonings, caramel color. Other labeling states it contains sea salt, is gluten free, and has no msg added. Ingredients list includes beef, water, and “less than 1.5%” of a whole host of the usual suspects, various types of sodium, , beef stock, onion and garlic powder, spices and lemon oil.”
No carbs, of course, low fat, but sodium content (12% for two ounces) is kinda high, if you’re watching that kind of thing. Further information from the label shows this product is made at USDA plant # 9574, which is one of Dietz & Watson’s facilities in Philadelphia.
So how is it? Fine, I guess. The package says “Tenderness Guaranteed”, and there’s no arguing that. Whatever process is used, as with any pre-packaged meats (in my opinion) takes all the ‘muscle’ texture out of the protein. As for taste, it’s probably just me, but it’s gotten so with this type of product, I can’t tell the difference between roast beef, corned beef, or ham, if it weren’t for the color and whatever seasoning is added.
So in conclusion, it’s fine for what it is, but a little pricey, not particularly a good value. Would I buy it again? Under similar circumstances, yes. Although it’s not a fair comparison, the other day I reviewed Mike Ditka’s Italian Beef, which is a much more “real’ sliced beef product.
If you’re curious about how some other types of deli meats are made, I found this video on YouTube, which happens to feature Dietz & Watson products. Below it is a pic of the discussed product, removed from the package.
dietz & watson roast beef