After years of requests from soldiers, the US military has finally developed a combat-ready pizza for its Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE) packs. MRE Menu 23 features pepperoni pizza as an entree; other meals in MRE 23 include cookies, vegetable crackers, and powdered chocolate protein drink powders.
Experts have described Stars and Stripes’ long-awaited pizza MRE as “the Holy Grail of MREs.” Recently, Stars and Stripes flew it into Kabul for Soldiers to taste test the new MRE.
What is it?
US soldiers in the field have relied on MREs (meal, ready-to-eat) for decades – though until recently, none were known for offering pizza! Now, though, with an introduction of their first pizza MRE we decided to speak to one of those involved – food technologist who helped bring it about!
Bridgford Foods’ pepperoni pizza entree comes in a single-serve pouch designed for easy heating with either the MRE Flameless Ration Heater or hot water – giving it up to three years’ shelf life and up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit temperature storage capability.
As soon as it hits your plate, this pizza has a crunchier crust and milder taste than most. Packed with mozzarella cheese, green bell peppers, onions, and garlic as well as tomato sauce and seasoning packets – not forgetting its 280 calorie count with 12g of saturated fat (5g saturated), no trans-fats (0g trans fats) and 10g protein!
Combat Feeding Directorate at Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center in Boston has created the MRE Pepperoni Pizza as part of their MRE lineup; it should become available next year. A full MRE includes Italian bread sticks with cheddar and jalapeno cheese spread as an entree, cheddar jalapeno cheese spread, cookies, as well as a chocolate powder drink mix beverage mix.
How it’s made
Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) have long been relied upon by US soldiers in the field as a source of sustenance, though the self-heating rations may not always live up to expectations. That’s why the Army has been working to enhance its cuisine; its latest initiative involves pizza!
Paul Della Rocca, program integrator with the Combat Feeding Directorate, refers to pizza as being “the holy grail” of MRE development. For years it took Della Rocca and his team at CFD to perfect an MRE pizza recipe that met both shelf-stable ingredient specifications as well as being tasty enough for warfighters on deployment.
The new pizza is packed with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese and sealed in a dun-colored laminate pouch, providing 280 calories, 12g of fat with 5g saturated fat and no trans-fat, 10g of protein, and 2g of sugar. It comes with Italian bread sticks, cheddar-jalapeno cheese spread, cookies, and chocolate protein drink powder as accompaniments.
The pizza MRE began being field-tested in 2014, but production issues delayed its availability to units until at least this year, according to Army Times. It will likely be distributed via MRE cases alongside other food choices such as meatloaf entree with vegetables and gravy, Italian breadsticks, cheese spread with jalapeno peppers, and cherry/blueberry cobbler. Distribution will occur via the Defense Logistics Agency, which determines what goes in each case depending on available stock and what specific installations/units require.
What’s in it
Since World War II, military leaders have relied on Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) rations to feed troops on the go, though these compact self-heating meals may not always live up to Michelin star standards. But these meals have improved steadily; recently, the Army may have finally cracked the code when it comes to making pizza MREs that taste good enough to satisfy soldiers on deployment.
Defense Department food technologist who assisted in its creation said the greatest difficulty lay in isolating each component so they remained stable without touching each other, using basil and tomato films to act as barriers between cheese, sauce, and crust – each ingredient contains differing amounts of water that would migrate from sauce to crust upon mixing, leading to sogginess on both.
The final product is a pepperoni with cheese pizza entree on soft Bridgford bread that can be enjoyed cold right from its pouch or heated in an MRE flameless ration heater for 20 seconds for heating purposes. This version offers reduced calories and saturated fat levels than traditional MREs while maintaining protein levels comparable to conventional meals.
Stars and Stripes was proud to fly several slices of MRE pizza from Boston to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and ultimately Bagram where we delivered it directly to troops. It will eventually become part of an MRE menu alongside cherry-blueberry cobbler, oatmeal cookie, chocolate performance readiness bar, and vegetable crackers.
Does it taste good?
For decades, the US military has issued MREs, but these food rations are not widely renowned for their culinary merit. A soldier marches on an empty stomach so the army has worked on making MREs more appetizing; one such addition being pizza – something many had been waiting to taste before its inclusion!
Scientists have long struggled with creating an MRE pizza entree that meets its standards while being shelf stable, according to Paul DellaRocca of DoD’s Combat Feeding Directorate. MRE pizza requires many ingredients that must remain separate in order to maintain quality, according to Della Rocca – thus, the three years of storage at 100 degrees Fahrenheit requirement of such an entree must pass without issue.
Pepperoni pizza entree will soon be included in MRE No. 23 to be sent to troops this fall, alongside cheese spread, jalapeno peppers, Italian bread sticks, chocolate protein drink powder, and cookies.
While not as delicious as Domino’s pizza, MRE pizza offers an upgrade over older entrees like tuna with noodles and cheese spread with crackers. Each pouch provides 280 calories, 12g of fat (including 5g of saturated fat and no trans-fats), and 10g of protein.