Winning wings and pizzas with pizzazz for Super Bowl Sunday

Consumer Reports News: January 31, 2011 08:08 AM

The Super Bowl might as well be called the superlative bowl. Everything about it is supersized—the ads, the hype, the halftime show and sometimes even the game. And it's the second largest day for food consumption in the U.S. after Thanksgiving.

Even some of the side bets involve food. Republican senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have wagered a sample of the favorite fare from their states. If the Green Bay Packers win, Toomey will send Johnson sandwiches stuffed with French fries, coleslaw and tomatoes from Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros. If the Pittsburgh Steelers win, Johnson will pay up with an assortment of Wisconsin bratwurst, cheese and beer.

But we put our money on the chicken wings and pizza that came out tops in our recent tests. Our experienced tasters tried seven brands of frozen chicken wings, all of which can be prepared in less time than it takes to play a quarter of a football game. The wings from Bell & Evans had a pleasant broiled/roasted taste and were quite spicy but could have been crispier. The other wings that rated very good were T.G.I. Friday’s, Perdue and Cafe W (Walgreens).

Our champion tasters were also served 800 slices of cheese pizza from 16 different supermarket brands. Three very different but very good frozen cheese pizzas topped our tests, including the artisanal Amy's Cornmeal Crust 3 Cheese, the Chicago-style Home Run Inn Classic Cheese, and the Italian-style DiGiorno Rising Crust Four Cheese Pizza. If you're serving store-bought pizza at your party, here's how to get the best results:

  • Don't thaw the pizza before you cook it.
  • Use a hot oven and wait until it reaches the recommended temperature before putting in the pie.
  • Bake pizza directly on the oven rack. Using a cookie sheet can make the crust cook unevenly.
  • For the cleanest slices, use a pizza cutter.

What to drink
We also found some party-worthy beer at Costco that cost almost half as much as some premium beers and that was quite quaffable in our taste tests. A 24-bottle case of Costco's Kirkland Handcrafted Lager and Ales sells for just $19, compared with more than $35 for many top-selling brands. Each case contains four styles of beer: German Style Lager, Pale Ale, Amber Ale, and Hefeweizen, or wheat beer.

In our earlier battle of the light beers, we found that Miller Lite was more like a typical lager than MGD 64. And the tasters of Bud Light Lime and Miller Chill, found that the lime dominated any beer flavor.

Wine drinkers will find some pleasing varietals featured in our tests of wines that sell in the $10 range. We tasted four reds (cabernet sauvignon, chianti, merlot, pinot noir) and two whites (chardonnay, pinot grigio) and found more than 20 CR Best Buys. Try one with the lower-fat crackers and cheese from our tests. That's cheese as in Cheeseheads. Enjoy the game.


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