There are some products which I buy with the full knowledge that they aren't as good as most of the alternatives. But I buy them anyway because of expedience, or price, or simply nostalgia because my mom used to get the stuff when I was a kid and they bring back fond memories.
Frozen fried chicken is like that, and when I buy it - which is very occasionally - it usually qualifies on all three points. It's drop-dead easy to prepare (just chuck it in the oven for 45 minutes); it's cheap (under five bucks a box - sometimes well under if you're shopping a no-frills place like Save-A-Lot); and it's nostalgic for me because when I was a lad growing up in a somewhat poor household, frozen fried chicken was one of the cheapest easy-to-make things an 11-year-old could prepare with few cooking skills, so it was a regular item. (Mom worked nights and I babysat my younger sibs; I learned to cook as time went on because I was tired of living on frozen box food.)
Anyway, it was a raw and rainy night last night when I stopped at ALDI on my way home from work, and I was having a peculiar jones for cheap fried chicken. A box of the frozen stuff would be just the thing, because I could take the chill off the kitchen by running the oven for awhile. So I picked up one each of ALDI's Kirkwood Brand Original and Southern Style "Crispy Chicken."
The chicken performed exactly to specifications, which is to say that it wasn't excellent but it was acceptable and satisfying in a way that reminded me of sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework while the smell of oven-fried chicken filled the room.
Objectively, though, I have to admit that it's pretty mediocre stuff. The chicken is a little on the dry side, especially in the spots where the coating has come off at the factory and the meat has kind of dehydrated into a sort of fried chicken jerky. There isn't much of a flavor difference between the two varieties, either. The "Southern Style" has a lot of black pepper in the coating, while the "Original" doesn't. On the other hand, each box contains six honest pieces of chicken - two drumsticks, two thighs, and two portions of split breast - and by "honest" I mean that they don't try to pass off a chunk of backbone with some spindly ribs hanging off it as "white meat." Unfortunately, they also leave out the wings these days. Back in the days before wings became a popular bar food, wings were plentiful in boxed chicken packs like these. Now, however, wings are hugely profitable for processors so they're saved out for specialty products.
When all is said and done, I would probably buy ALDI's house brand of chicken again. It was OK, and there really wasn't all that much difference between Kirkwood and ConAgra's Banquet frozen fried chicken. No surprise there, either: when I checked the USDA seal on the Kirkwood box, I found that the chicken had been prepared and packaged by Est. P-7131. ConAgra Foods.