Frozen Salisbury Steak Isn't Made Of What You Think

If you're not familiar with the dish, Salisbury steak is essentially a seasoned hamburger patty that is fried and topped with onions and gravy (via Food Network). The food was invented in the United States during the American Civil War by Dr. James Henry Salisbury, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Dr. Salisbury believed that eating certain foods could cure various diseases and began experimenting with different diets where he and a few others would eat only one food for a month or more. After attempting this single-food diet with beans, porridge, and a handful of other foods, Dr. Salisbury settled on minced beef as his ideal food of choice. To be sure of his conclusions, the doctor decided to evaluate the diet using a wider audience and realized soldiers, with their famously poor rations, would be the perfect test subjects for his theories.

In 1888, two decades after the Civil War had ended, Dr. Salisbury published a book on his findings called The Relation of Ailments and Disease. In it, he asserted that fresh fruits and vegetables were unhealthy in large amounts, unsubstantial, and being overconsumed by the American public. He recommended eating minced beef to cure any stomach problems allegedly brought on by fresh produce. The book became a bit of a sensation, and led to one of the earliest fad diets in American history, which continued to be popular for about 20 years after publication.

What is really in Salisbury steak TV dinners

If Sailsbury steak sounds delicious and you'd like to see what all the fuss was about (although please, we ask that you do not eat a diet exclusively of minced beef for health reasons — Dr. Salisbury was most certainly wrong about fresh fruits and vegetables being bad for you), we would recommend thinking twice before reaching for the time-saving frozen meal variety. If you check the ingredients list from many major TV dinner brands, you could be in for a nasty shock — especially if you do not eat pork or soy products.

Across the board, most companies that make frozen Salisbury steak add not only a ton of stabilizers and fillers to this classic American dish, but also use a mashup of random ingredients in the hamburger patty instead of pure beef. The worst offender appears to be frozen food company Banquet, who's Family Size Salisbury Steaks & Brown Gravy frozen meal contains more pork, water, and mechanically separated chicken than actual beef. National brand Stouffer's Salisbury steak recipe is hardly better. In the nutritional information given on their website, the first four ingredients for their Classics Salisbury Steak are beef, pork, water, and soy protein concentrate. 

If you want to try the real deal and avoid all the unhealthy mystery ingredients hidden within the TV dinner versions on the market, it seems you'll have to simply make your own Salisbury steak from scratch.