Swanson or Banquet Salisbury Steak Dinner

While Banquet (a former RCA subsidiary) and Morton frozen dinners were leaders, Swanson has taken the crown of being the official “retro” TV dinner.

And why not? They invented the name.

At right, the Salisbury Steak Dinner. Much better without the green peppers.

Pinnacle Foods Corp. now owns Swanson, and is keeping the brand around. They have done a solid job with their ownership of other classic American brands, including Duncan Hines, Mrs. Paul’s, Armour, Aunt Jemima, Celeste, Log Cabin, Lender’s, Vlasic and Van de Kamp’s. The company has collected the nation’s most famous brands as refuse from other foods companies, and remade and revitalized them.

The history of the TV dinner on Wikipedia gives the antecedents to the meals; they are not so much inspired by television as they are inspired by an airline meal, or so they say. I always did like the ones with the apple pie, though the cooked “bread” was never too good.

I do miss so many of the foods that need to be boiled in a bag. Do they still have those? Can I get some Salisbury steak from a bag? Or better to bake it in a plastic tray? Oh the problems people had in the 1970s.

TV Dinner Timeline

  • In 1944, William L. Maxson’s frozen dinners were being served on airplanes. Other prepackaged meals were also marketed before Swanson’s TV Dinner.

  • Later, in 1952, the first frozen dinners on oven-ready aluminum trays were introduced by Quaker States Foods under the One-Eye Eskimo label. Quaker States Foods was joined by other companies including Frigi-Dinner
  • Swanson adopted the clever advertising name of “TV Dinner,” which tapped into the public’s excitement around the new device.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website BrandlandUSA.com has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

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  1. Yep, Swanson Slilsbury Steak was the best. I liked mine with rye bread.
    Also good was the meatloaf in tomato gravy.
    Anyone remember before the desert section between the two vegetables ?
    The sides were bigger and with the beef dinner you got 3 small white potatoes at each corner of the meat section.
    Banquet had a Salisbury until recently but I cannot find it anymore.
    I am the only one who will eat it in my house but to me it’s a comfort food.
    I think the TV in the name came from the fact that with the advent of TV it was thought people did not have time for elaborate preparation. However, our mother would only serve them if she was pressed for time. It was always on individual aluminum “snack tables” – where else but in front of the TV. LOL

  2. Years ago I got small tv dinners in a melmack type plate. On the back of the plate it said Armour. I have used these plates for a lot of years and was wondering if there were any other type dinners out there using this type of plate now. I hate the ones that come in alumnin foil!!!

  3. I would have to say that professional wrestling came pretty early in afternoon in Virginia. Around 7 p.m., you just had to pick between Hee Haw or Lawrence Welk.

    Today, there are all sorts of easy meals to eat, but back then, it was TV dinner, pot pie, Ravioli in a can or vienna sausage, pretty much.

  4. Saturday afternoons watching professional wrestling in the family room was right up there with Sunday night Disney

  5. TV dinners were such a treat when I was growing up. Sunday nights, The Wonderful World of Disney, TV trays in the rec room. Bliss.

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