Marketed as a delicious and satisfying snack, Hot Pockets are a staple meal for every kid who’s parents aren’t home to make dinner, and for every broke college student. These microwavable pockets of cheesy goodness grace practically every freezer in North America, but how much do we really know about them? Here are the Top 10 Untold Truths of Hot Pockets.
10. Hot Pockets Were Invented by Iranian Immigrants
Brothers Paul and David Merage are the inventors of Hot Pockets, and they immigrated from Tehran to the United States as young adults. In 1977, the brothers founded Chef America Inc. The company started out by selling Belgian waffles to restaurants, as they were difficult to cook. The early days of the company was rough on both brothers: Paul had to take out three mortgages on his home to fund the business, and when that money ran out, the pair had to borrow cash from their parents. However, things quickly turned around for them, because by the end of the year they had $12 million in sales and was the largest mass-producer of Belgian waffles in the country. In 1983, Paul noticed that more women were entering the workplace, and deduced that there was now a need for an easy-to-make snack for children as soon as they got home from school. This newly emerging need also coincided with the growing popularity of the microwave oven, and so the idea for Hot Pockets was born. The brothers wanted to create a microwavable sandwich whose dough would remain crispy, and in 1980, they released Tastywich, the first incantation of the Hot Pocket. Evidently, that didn’t last, and so after some tweaking and a change to the name, Hot Pockets were born. In 2002, the brothers sold Chef America Inc. to Nestle for $2.6 billion, and in 2004, the Merage family opened the Merage Jewish Community Center in Irvine, California.
9. Were They Originally Called ‘Chunk Stuffers’?
Yes, this was a real rumor that was going around, and no, unfortunately, it is not true. On platforms such as Reddit and Tumblr – as well as informational food websites – people everywhere were claiming that the origins of Hot Pockets were called Chunk Stuffers. Upon the first glance, this claim seems to be passably believable. What are Hot Pockets if not sleeves that are stuffed with chunks? Is the name Hot Pockets even accurate, considering that most of the time, the middle of the pocket isn’t even hot? And what counts as a ‘pocket’ really? As always, the Internet was quick to spread this rumor, with many people commenting on how unappetizing ‘Chunk Stuffers’ sounded. However, in 2017, after an email inquiring about said rumors, an employee from the Nestle Pizza Division (yes, this is apparently a real thing) stated that these claims were false. The truth: Hot Pockets were never named Chunk Stuffers. As mentioned, while they were never named Chunk Stuffers, Hot Pockets were named Tastywich, based off of the original crispy-yummy sandwich concept. In either case, the company definitely did themselves a favor when they switched over to using the name Hot Pockets in 1983.
8. A Man Has Killed For Hot Pockets
Apparently these golden snacks are so good, they drive men murderous. On June 11, 2016, Nathaniel Mathis sent his sister and her boyfriend, Richard Benton, out to buy him some Hot Pockets. However, when they got there, they realized that the store didn’t carry any of his preferred frozen snacks (the pepperoni Hot Pockets). Upon seeing this, his sister then decided to call him to deliver the bad news, and the siblings proceeded to have an argument about the Hot Pockets as well as the EBT card (like a debit card) that Mathis had given her to pay for the food. When the couple came home empty-handed, Nathaniel was still livid. Filled with rage, he rushed out of his house and approached the passenger side of the SUV, where his sister’s boyfriend was sitting, and shot his gun eight times. This killed Benton immediately. After the murder, Mathis ran off to a nearby park. He approached a woman and asked her to tell his sister that he just snapped and that he loved her, that he never meant for it to be like this. Officers later found him in a wooded area, shirtless, with the gun pointed at himself. After several hours of negotiations, Mathis was shot with a beanbag gun and taken into custody. He was arrested, charged, and sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. It seems as though some people are willing to go way too far when it comes to Hot Pockets.
7. Hot Pockets Were Recalled In 2014
Food recalls usually happen for two reasons: when ingredients lists have undeclared allergens, or when microbial contamination takes place, both of which may or may not be related to actual illnesses. Usually, these things don’t necessarily mean that whoever eats the food will get sick, it’s just to make sure that all threats to consumers are eliminated. Many companies have had to recall their foods, and Hot Pockets isn’t exempt from that list. In 2014, Nestle recalled 238, 000 cases of Hot Pockets because they may have contained meat from a massive recall of about 8.7 million pounds of beef from “diseased and unsound” animals. The two varieties of Hot Pockets affected by the recall were the Philly Steak flavors (Philly Steak and Cheese and the Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese). This raises the question: what do you do if you’ve eaten recalled food? First off, don’t panic. Most recalls are due to issues at the manufacturing or processing facility, not because there’s evidence that the food is causing sickness. However, if you’re feeling sick, definitely go to a doctor or physician, and let them know you’ve eaten a recalled product. Luckily, in this case, no one reported getting sick. All customers were refunded for their purchase, so no harm, no foul, right? Still, hearing that Hot Pockets contained meat from unsound animals is sure to throw some people off of their products, maybe for good. The USDA described the food as “unfit for humans”, though they never specified why it was unfit for humans, which leads the mind down some dark roads. One can only imagine…
6. The Hot Pocket Sleeve Is Called The Susceptor
As anyone who’s eaten Hot Pockets before knows, the tasty snack comes with a little sleeve that helps make the pocket extra crispy. The perfectly-fitted sleeve, called a susceptor, is made out of cardboard, and it’s lined with metal. Its job is simple: make the Hot Pocket crispy, and it does it surprisingly well. Though it seems like magic, there’s actually some simple science behind it. The susceptor uses converted energy. Apparently, the susceptor converts microwave energy to radiant heat and allows the food to brown. In other words, it what gives Hot Pockets the crispiness that they’re known for. The first susceptor was patented in 1981, which was perfect timing for the Merage brothers. The invention of the susceptor gave them that well-needed boost to give their microwavable Tastywiches something that the country would fall in love with. And fall in love with them they did (well with the eventual Hot Pockets anyway), because by the time the brother sold their company to Nestle, they’d made $750 million in sales and had over 1,800 employees. Nowadays, Nestle suggests that for the ultimate Hot Pockets experience, the customer should use a paper plate under their crisping sleeve – sorry, susceptor. This is because a ceramic plate would absorb some of the microwave energy the susceptor needs to work its magic!
5. There’s A Reason The Temperature Isn’t Consistent
It’s widely known, that despite how amazing the susceptor is at making these pockets of gooey goodness crispy, the temperature of Hot Pockets is inconsistent. Either it’s frozen in the middle but a good temperature everywhere else, or the outside is scalding and the inside is just warm enough to be detectable, or the entire thing has just turned into molten lava and it’s impossible to eat. Everyone has experienced it: waiting for the microwave to beep, rushing to open the door, hungrily bringing that Hot Pocket to their mouth, only to have this delicious morsel scald their tongue. But don’t worry, there’s actually a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, and it’s quite fascinating. While the microwave is great at heating up leftovers, it doesn’t heat up frozen water molecules, also known as ice, as efficiently as it heats up regular water molecules. Imagine the Hot Pocket has layers of ice on it. When it’s put in the microwave, the outermost layers are melted off first, and become free to be heated up. It keeps going like this: after the outermost layer, the next layer of ice gets melted, and so on and so on. While the inner layers are just coming out of their icey phase, the outermost layers are just getting hotter and hotter, resulting in the Hot Pockets ode to Katy Perry, Hot N Cold.
4. There Are Currently 50 Variations of Hot Pockets
There are currently fifty varieties of traditional Hot Pockets out in the world, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner varieties. This means that theoretically, a customer could survive off of Hot Pockets for their entire life. And flavor variations isn’t even a problem: Nestle also offers Lean Pockets, Pretzel Bread Hot Pockets, Hot Pockets Croissant Crust (formerly called Croissant Pockets), Hot Pockets Breakfast items, Hot Pockets Breakfast/Snack Bites, and Hot Pockets Side shots. Even though there are so many options to choose from, the highest-ranked Hot Pockets flavor is the Pepperoni Pizza Garlic Buttery Seasoned Crust Hot Pocket. Surprisingly, there were once even more variations on this afterschool snack. Some of these variations included Hot Pie Express, Hot Pockets Pizza Minis (originally called Hot Pockets Pizza Snacks), Hot Pockets Subs, Hot Pockets Calzones, Hot Pockets Panini, and Hot Pockets Breakfast fruit pastries (really??). The reasoning behind some of these discontinuations wasn’t because they weren’t selling, it was because the dough used in these side pockets was different than what was used in the originals and more expensive to make.
3. The Hot Pocket Heiress And The College Admissions Scandal
The Merage family has been involved in many acts of philanthropy. For example, Paul Merage donated $30 million to the School of Business at the University of California, Irvine, as well as $3 million to his family’s community center in Orange County, California. He’s also an active member of the Business School’s Advisory Board, as well as a leading board member and donor to the Pacific Symphony. However, it seems as though this philanthropic spirit doesn’t get passed down through blood. While names such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were the most discussed in the 2019 college admissions scandal, another sentence was announced: Michelle Janavs, daughter of Paul and Lilly Merage, heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune, was sentenced to 5 months in jail after paying a total of $300,000 to get her two daughters into the University of Southern California. She paid $100,000 for someone to cheat on her daughter’s ACTs, and agreed to pay $200,000 to have one of her daughters admitted to the school as a fake volleyball recruit. Her actions had a devastating effect on the very people she was trying to help (though in a misconstrued manner, it should be said). Both her daughters, who were in high school at the time, were banned from the campus they’d been attending. Her elder daughter enrolled in a community college, while her younger daughter enrolled in a different high school to complete her final year. That’s not so hot.
2. They Were Revamped Multiple Times
Nestle believes in quality. They say that it’s critical and central in everything to do. The company even has a quote about how in order to make good quality meals, you must first start with good quality ingredients. This might sound surprising to some: these are Hot Pockets, notorious for being unhealthy, as was popularized by comedian Jim Gaffigan in his 2005 stand-up routine. However, in 2013, in an attempt to appeal to the millennial demographic of people who cared about the quality of their food, Nestle took another look at the Hot Pockets recipe. It was part of their “Better Taste. Better Quality.” campaign. The changes they made included adding premium meats (100 percent Angus beef, hickory ham, and white meat chicken), real cheese sourced from dairy farmers in Wisconsin, freshly baked bread, and sauce made from scratch. Two years later, Nestle decided that they wanted a healthier reputation for these nostalgic snacks, and so they changed the recipe again. They removed all artificial flavors and cut the sodium by ten percent, though they promised that they wouldn’t change the actual taste of the beloved meal. Given that in 2015, it was reported that 88% of customers were willing to pay more money for healthier foods and that all demographics preferred food with no artificial coloring or flavors, this change in recipe made sense. Really, it’s a win-win situation: Hot Pockets gets happier customers, and we feel less guilty about stuffing our faces with Hot Pockets.
1. Mascot Herbie Hot Pockets Met Snoop Dogg
It’s true, Herbie Hot Pockets is out there, somewhere, thriving in the imaginations of all Hot Pockets lovers. This brand mascot is featured as a grinning Hot Pocket with sunglasses, and he even has his own Facebook page, though it hasn’t been updated in a good nine years. In 2012, Snoop Dogg dropped a music video called “Pocket Like It’s Hot” (a play on Drop It Like It’s Hot). The black-and-white-and-red music video started with Snoop Dogg himself placing a Hot Pocket inside a red microwave. While spinning in the microwave, the camera zooms in, and the Hot Pocket turns into – you guessed it – Herbie Hot Pockets, complete with an aluminum foil cape and red sunglasses. Snoop Dogg even changed the lyrics to be Hot Pockets themed, stating that he’s checking applications for the Hot Pockets fan club, that pepperoni pizza is much better than some fish eggs, and that beloved Herbie is in the tub. At the end of the music video, Snoop Dogg opens his microwave and picks up the Hot Pocket, claiming that it’s ready. Within the first 5 days of the commercial being released, the video had already racked up to 2 million views. Who would’ve thought that Hot Pockets were that hot?