Gardein's Seven Grain Crispy Tenders stack up against the competition.
This is one time where I can actually say that the product looks at least as good as the picture on the package. In this case, it looks a little better. They really do look like picture-perfect little chicken fingers, and that excited me. And this was even before I cooked them! So I popped them into the oven (which I heated only to 425 degrees instead of the rather odd 430 degrees the package recommended), set a timer for 10 minutes, then flipped them over and reset the timer for 10 minutes, just like the directions said. By the time they were finished, I was really looking forward to the experience of actually eating them.
I was disappointed, however, by the fact that I couldn't actually cut through them, they were so tough! I had to pick it up and use my teeth to bite through it. I had a suspicion that 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven was a little unreasonable (even though the directions sternly reminded me to not overcook them!) so I was glad I didn't bake them all at once. I had some left over, which I cooked a different way.
The package also has toaster oven directions, and while I cannot set my toaster oven to any particular temperature, just a time, it's a real trooper, so I thought I'd give it a go with these. The toaster oven directions said to cook them for 15-20 minutes, so I immediately disregarded that and set it for five, then flipped them over to get a status check. They were hot but not yet sizzling, so I put them in for another five minutes. At the end of that, they looked nice and hot and were sizzling, so I took them out and laid them out on a paper towel to help absorb some of the grease (there wasn't a lot) and promote crispiness. After about 30 seconds of sitting there, I just had to test them out.
Luckily, they were nice and tender this time, with a delightfully crispy exterior. Not as crispy as most of the other nuggets I've tested out, but the interior made up for that. It wasn't mushy like many others, and it actually had some sort of flavor of its own. I can't say it was perfectly chicken-y but it was good. I admit it took a couple bites to get into it, but even the first bite was pretty okay. After tweaking the cooking time, these came out quite good.
Texture - a good balance of chewy and tender - surprisingly meat-like
Flavor - actually had some of its own flavor, and paired nicely with the ketchup
Final grade for this attempt: A-