Consumer Reports: Are frozen versions of chain restaurant's meals as good as the real thing?

We love frozen food!

In fact, Americans spent $224 billion on it last year and we are expected to buy even more, according to industry analysts.

Now, restaurant chains are jumping on the band-wagon putting versions of their dishes in the super-market freezer case.

Consumer reports ran side-by-side comparisons to see how they measure up from the restaurant to your microwave.

Many of America's most popular chain restaurants - including California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Fridays, Boston Market, and P.F. Chang's - are now selling frozen versions of their best-selling items.

But are they worth staying in for? According to consumer reports, sometimes.

California Pizza Kitchen's frozen BBQ recipe chicken thin crust is topped with similar ingredients as the restaurant version , and at $6, it's less than half the price.

"Our tasters found that the frozen version is worth a try, but the strong barbecue sauce overpowered the flavors," said Consumer Reports Maxine Siegel.

Consumer Reports' tasters were pleased with the frozen version of TGI Fridays cheddar and bacon skins. The restaurant dish costs twice as much and has three times more calories and fat.

P.F. Chang's frozen shrimp lo mein resembles its restaurant counterpart in both price and appearance. But the shrimp didn't quite standup to the restaurant version.

"The shrimp in the frozen version were noticeably small, and the tasters found that they don't have much flavor," Siegel said.

Boston Market's frozen chicken pot pie costs a little less than in the restaurant. But it's much different. Large chunks of rotisserie chicken in the restaurant dish versus small cubes of spongy chicken in the frozen version, although testers thought its crust was tasty.

Consumer Reports also says if you hope to enjoy Boston Market's popular meatloaf and fresh-tasting mashed potatoes at home, you might be disappointed - the frozen version is more like Salisbury steak and instant potatoes.

All in all, consumer reports found many of the restaurants' frozen choices were pretty good and worth a try.

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