Gourmet Select Baked Onion Rings (Big Lots)

A stock image of Gourmet Select Baked Onion Rings, from Big Lots
A decent little snack for the price.

I shouldn’t have to tell you the myriad of ways purchasing an obscure brand from Big Lots can go completely wrong. First of all, unlike places like Aldi, these aren’t brands that work with Big Lots under stringent standards…they’re usually things that Big Lots just happens to get for really, really cheap. This can also happen for a variety of reasons: the product could be discontinued, could have gotten new packaging or a new formula (so they’re getting rid of the old stuff), or it could have just sucked so bad that the company is trying to cut their losses, so they sell it to Big Lots at a deeply discounted rate.

That’s what tends to make purchasing stuff from closeout stores such a risky proposition--you can’t really tell why those items are there specifically. I have had some less-than-stellar performance out of a couple different mock “onion ring snacks” before, and that didn’t set the bar very high for the plain-looking bag of Gourmet Select Onion Rings that I saw peering out at me from a mid-level shelf from the ‘Lots. I normally wouldn’t have thought twice, until I realized I was hungry, was craving something salty, and saw the price was a mere $.50. Granted, the bag was only 2.5 oz., but the small bags of the national brand are actually 2.25 oz., and are at least double this. To wit: the large bags are 6.5 oz., less than triple this size, and are WAY more than $1.50, so this is a great deal no matter how you look at it.

Unless, of course, the taste sucks. Because no matter how much you save on something, it’s simply not worth it if it tastes like complete crap. And my first red flag (besides the shoddy packaging) came right as I opened it, discovering that each "O" was roughly the same size, and looked nothing like the national brand. This, when paired with the uninspired packaging, already had me fearing the worst: If these couldn’t even get the look down, just how bad did they skimp on taste?

Thankfully, not much at all. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the national brand, but these have a different taste that might appeal to those that don't enjoy the original. It comes in the form of some added sweetness (almost akin to a "sweet onion"), which won't appeal to everyone, but that at least helps it to stand out as its own product, rather than just merely a national brand knockoff. Each ring has a generous amount of seasoning, ensuring that it’s evenly distributed throughout the bag. Of course, some have more than others, but even the ones with the least amount had a strong enough onion flavor, so that’s definitely a plus. I will say that I still prefer the national brand, which has more of a straight-ahead onion flavor, but if you want something different, these are a good, and much cheaper alternative.

Overall: 7/10. From its bland packaging and differing presentation (just about all of the “O”s are thin, and are almost entirely the same size) I was not expecting much out of these at all. But as we all know, you can’t judge a book by its cover! Flavorwise, these add an extra bit of sweetness to the formula, while still maintaining a strong onion base; while that causes the taste to differ from the national brand, it’s still close enough to appeal to fans of those (like me), while offering enough of a change to stand out as their own product, rather than merely as a knockoff. And for $.50 for a 2.5 oz. bag, which is what I paid for these at Big Lots, the savings are substantial enough for those on a budget--or those who just hate paying inflated national brand prices--a try. If you tend to like baked onion ring snacks, then you should definitely give these a try.