There are few things more American than a hot pocket. Okay, that’s not completely true since they were invented by Iranians. But, you have to admit—a hot sandwich that can be ready in a couple of minutes, can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner? Truly the American way. They also come in a variety of different flavors like pizza, or if you’re feeling particularly fancy that day, chicken and broccoli. There are many ways to cook a hot pocket, but let’s be honest—we’re all just looking for the quickest route to that cheesy deliciousness.
The fastest and simplest way to cook your hot pocket is in the microwave, in the crisping sleeve for about 2 minutes. Depending on your microwave, they might need a little longer. A good tip for ensuring even heating is to shake the hot pocket pack and forth halfway through the cooking time.
How Did Hot Pockets Come To Be?
One could never have guessed that the origins for this American staple were actually not American at all. Hot Pockets were first created by Paul and David Merage, who were born in Iran to a Jewish family. After immigrating to America, the two brothers ran Chef America Inc, a billion dollar company founded in 1977 and absorbed by Nestle in 2002.
The original purpose of Chef America Inc was selling Belgian waffles, and it did so well (bringing in $12 million the first year) that it expanded its expertise into lunch and dinner foods as well. In 1980, Paul Merage was noticing more women in the workforce and the need for quick, easy meals for their families was skyrocketing. The first attempt at the microwavable sandwich was sold as a “Tastywich”, but the name was changed in 1983 to the now famous Hot Pocket.
Hot Pockets were advertised as a “hot meal without a big deal”, and could be cooked with nothing more than a paper towel. Even children could prepare it on their own, which was a huge selling point. As more women entered the workforce and household microwaves became more popular, Hot pockets gained a lot of traction. They expanded to sell Lean pockets, Pretzel pockets, Breakfast pockets, and Croissant pockets. After selling the company, the Merage brothers went their separate ways to pursue investments, real estate and philanthropy.
Hot Pockets in Recent Days
As you may have guessed, the packaged food industry was dramatically impacted by the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. People staying at home, restaurants closing, and financial uncertainty drove people to the cheapest and easiest foods to prepare and eat at home. Hot pockets was one of them, along with other popular brands like Kraft mac and cheese, General Mills cereal and Hershey’s candy.
In April of 2020, Nestle reported its fastest quarterly growth in over 5 years. Granted, this was certainly not all Hot Pockets, but they were a good chunk of sales to be sure. Unfortunately, 2021 did not have the same amount of luck, and over 760 tons of Hot Pockets were recalled due to contamination.
Alternative Ways to Cook Hot Pockets
While the easiest and fastest way to cook your hot pocket is in the microwave, that’s certainly not your only option. Maybe you don’t own a microwave, or just want to experiment with other household appliances. Using the oven is also a great option if you want to heat up several Hot Pockets at once. Here are some microwave alternatives for warming up your Hot Pocket.
Heating Hot Pockets in the Oven
If you’ve got the time, cooking your Hot Pocket in the oven will give you a naturally crunchy outer layer that the microwave can’t quite compare to. It also allows it to heat evenly all the way through.
Step one: Preheat your oven to 350°
Step two: Select a non stick baking sheet, or spray with pam or oil
Step three: Unwrap your Hot Pockets and place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart (no crisping sleeve required for this method)
Step four: Bake the Hot Pockets for 25-30 minutes
Step five: Use an oven mitt to remove the tray from the oven and allow them to cool before eating.
Heating Hot Pockets in the Air Fryer
If you’re looking for a more modern way of heating your Hot Pockets, the air fryer is a good option for you. This method gives you an extra crunchy crust and a thoroughly heated inside. This method is especially good for Croissant Pockets that have a tendency to sog.
Step one: Preheat the air fryer to 360°
Step two: Remove the hot pocket(s) from the crisper sleeve
Step three: Line the hot pockets along the bottom of the basket
Step four: Cook the hot pockets for about 10-15 minutes
Step five: Use tongs to remove the hot pockets from the basket and allow to cool before eating
Whether you’re on a tight budget, or you just don’t wanna take the time to thaw that chicken in the freezer, Hot Pockets are a great option for people in any class. They take many of us back to our childhood, and are considered a comfort food for millions of millennials.
They’re a super easy meal or snack, and the kiddos can make it all by themselves. Lean pockets are a great option for people trying to eat healthier, and breakfast pockets are super convenient when you’re running late to work and don’t want to starve until noon.
Hot Pockets have gotten many college students through the midnight hour, and many retail workers through the lunch rush. That little jingle you saw on TV 20 years ago will be in your head forever, and even Snoop Dogg is known for getting a little too into his Hot Pockets. Jason Segel says he went on a strict hot pocket diet to gain weight for a role.
Jim Gaffigan might have other opinions on America’s favorite snack, but all in good fun. In a world largely based on what’s convenient at the moment, you can’t get much better than a 2 minute lunch.