Made from pork marinated in a tongue-tingling blend of herbs and spices, Hellers Hot and Spicy Pork Ribs are sure to be a hit with the whole family. Now in a handy tin, separate the ribs, poor the sauce over and slap them on the barbie or stick them under the grill in your oven.
Pork (78%), Water, Sugar, Salt, Modified Tapioca Starch (1422), Vinegar, Spices (includes Chilli, Pimento, Paprika), Dehydrated Garlic, Molasses Powder (Molasses, Maltodextrin), Vegetable Gum (412), Food Acid (331), Spice Extract (160c)
I've tried this product on two different occasions, and as you can see from the photos, the top photo (first try) is much different from the bottom photo (2nd try). I had not even eaten ribs before until last year, as the whole messiness and eating with fingers just never appealed to me (still never tried a pork riblet or McRib from McDonald's). But after being wowed by a rib product from a large scale supplier, I was willing to give this product a go and see how it stacked up. Unfortunately, I was a little let down by the product.
Everything started off well, and I followed the instructions to pour empty the packet into the foil tray that comes with the product and cover the meat with the remaining sauce, but there was none. There was a very thin layer of sauce still in the packet, but certainly not any true excess. I was a bit disappointed, to be honest. I was hoping for either a nice thick sauce or a good amount of sauce that would condense into a thick sauce. The sauce is where all of the flavours are.
The cooking went easy enough, but afterwards, my meat did not fall off of the bone as I had been led to believe. To their credit, you can see that the amount of meat has been drastically increased since the first time I tried it, and even just eating the ribs straight with no side dishes, I had to split it into two portions, so there is a reasonable amount of product there. The meat did not have the tenderness I was wanting, however, and as the meat was still firmly affixed to the bone after cooking, it became a very messy chore to eat them.
There is a bit of heat to the sauce. But nothing that would make me call it hot and spicy; "with spice" would be more accurate. Something is there, but no real kick in the pants. Instead, your focus is placed squarely on the flavour which had quite a tang to it. Almost enough that I would call it sour, you could probably put it down to the amount of vinegar present. I just didn't find it overly enjoyable as a flavour, so if these were to be put in my fridge again, I would look into other sauces to add a more palatable flavour to these ribs.
The product has definitely improved since I first tried them, and the amount of meat that you get is much better, but I need more sauce, more spice, and potentially a little less vinegar to get the most out of these. Hellers are on the right path though. Good enough to make me curious enough to want to try the "Sweet & Sticky" variety.
I have had these ribs twice - once with my daughter and son-in-law, and once with my cousins. Both times I enjoyed the experience although the accompaniments were slightly different. The first time I had them, I was prepared with copious amounts of water just in case - but I soon discovered that the "Hot & Spicy" label was not as daunting as it could have been. The heat is mild to moderate, nothing the average person could not handle, and I can see that it could even be acceptable to some discerning children!
I prepared them on both occasions as the packet directed, tipping the contents of the plastic bag into the tray which was supplied. There was not a lot of liquid in the sauce, so after heating the contents for a few minutes I removed them from the oven and turned them so they would not dry out. On the first occasion, my daughter prepared a tossed salad and cooked some oven ready bread rolls, which were a perfect match for the richness of the meat. The second time, I cooked some American style biscuits in the oven with them - these are a bit like a scone so go well with the ribs - and added some sliced tomatoes as we had a glut of them.
Both times I managed to stretch the helping to feed three people, although I have to admit that the ribs were so nice that I could have eaten more. According to the packet, a kilo is enough for ten people, but each packet is a slightly different weight so I am not sure how many people either of mine was meant to feed. However, I think I could happily eat half a packet at one sitting! The others agreed; my son-in-law said he thought a third was not quite enough, and my cousins said exactly the same thing. However, since I was supplying the food and doing the cooking, they really had no cause to complain.
Apart from the relative mildness of the spices, I did like the flavour combinations. There was not a lot of sauce but it was more than enough to coat the ribs. I cut them up before putting them in the oven so that they would heat evenly, and this seemed to work well. There was a surprising amount of meat and only one tiny piece of gristle in one of the packets, and none of us found any fat at all, so they had been well trimmed before being cooked.
My cousins live at the beach and have to travel some distance to their nearest butcher, so they were interested to see that they could buy this product and store it in the fridge without the necessity to take up freezer space. They always take a chilly bin when they are off to stock up on meat so there is no problem with the product getting too warm in transit. And the stickiness of the ribs did not matter either; we were sitting around an outside stove so a little bit of sauce here and there was unimportant. When we had them at my daughter's house, however, we ate inside so she supplied everyone with a finger bowl.
If you count up the cost of buying ready prepared ribs at a takeaway, the price compares favourably. And because the cooked ribs have not been sitting round for a while waiting to be sold, it is safe to have the leftovers next day. Except .. on both occasions, there were absolutely no leftovers!
I don't eat ribs that often, it needs to have a delicious sauce and be nice and soft and tender and I find that to be a hard combination to find. I like the fact that this comes in a dish that can go into the oven and then bin it in the end, though I do hope there are plans to make the plastic more eco friendly. The cooking and preparation for these isn't hard at all and I followed it to the letter, heating the oven up and then taking the ribs out of the plastic and popping them in the oven. The packaging states that there will be sauce to pour over the ribs but there was only about half a teaspoon of sauce to pour over it.
Getting this out of the oven, there was no delicious aroma to enjoy so I felt a little apprehensive about the meal but still sliced it up and settled down to share it with the kids. This cut up into seven pieces, so it does well portion wise, however the instructions say to pour any sauce from the meat back over the ribs before serving but there wasn't any to pour over... I took a bite of this and the heat hit me like a punch to the mouth, the more I had though the better it got. My kids decided to give it a try, my eldest took a bite and promptly handed the rib back to me. My youngest decided to wash off the sauce and kinda enjoyed it. My middle child ate half of one before scraping off the sauce and found that she liked the flavour but not the spice and when it was plain she thought it tasted horrible. I found beyond the spice, there was nothing fabulous to this meal, the meat was plain and didn't fall off the bone nor was it tender.
While this had a good kick to it, I didn't enjoy this and so I wouldn't buy this in the future.
I have a long and loving relationship with meat in general, but I must admit that it was only recently that spare ribs rose through the ranks to reach the Top 10 for me. I've never been a huge fan of eating overly-sauced foods with my bare hands... and after some time working in a supermarket butchery, where one of my daily chores was to prepare the ribs for the serve-over cabinet, I really did not fancy eating them. It was only last year at a food show that I was convinced to try the Sweet & Sticky ribs by Hellers that I found myself reconsidering my stance on them, so when these came up for review I wanted to try the spicy ones too.
When I opened out the packet, I didn't realise at first that there were actually two sections of ribs packed together. This greatly added to the value for me, as it resulted in about 10 very meaty portions - more than enough for two meals if had with side-dishes such as mash and steamed veges. However, I was ravenous at the time, so gladly just grabbed the lot and cut them down into singles then popped them in the oven.
Cooking them was a bit of a mission, not because of any fault of the product though. I use a small bench-top oven and that small cooking space means wild fluctuations in temperature. Because of that, I ended up slightly overcooking these I think, because they did not, as advertised, fall off the bone. I'm actually quite glad of that though, because having the meat stay on the bone until I was ready to bite it off, meant FAR less mess. My hands were still a mess, but at least my table wasn't.
The one thing that did disappoint me though, despite my desire for less-mess eating, was the lack of sauce. While the ribs were well coated with flavour, the "sauce" - traditionally some form of liquid flavouring - was not in evidence. Even after nearly 20 minutes of cooking, the greater majority of residue in the dish was liquid fat - NOT something I wanted to be pouring back on my meal - and even then, it was minimal. (That means they use good lean meat, BTW!)
Overall, this was quite tasty for me. I do like spicy, and these were spicy. However, the product didn't quite match up to the description and banter on the packaging. In my mind, there's two ways I could look at this - I could rag on a product that didn't live up to the hype, or... the option I prefer... I could say that a very acceptable product has packaging that misleads to a small degree. At least, in the case of the sample I got. The packaging needs to stop touting piles of sauce and fall-off-the-bone meat, and just tel it like it is. The product is definitely tasty, likely to be simpler to cook in a proper oven, and if you like spicy foods you will probably like these. However, that said - the flavour is all in the seasoning. Pork is a bland meat by nature.
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