Chances are you’ve spent more time in the kitchen this past year than ever before. And the COVID-19 cooking craze hasn’t only been about putting dinner on the table; it has been a great way to tune out and decompress from the stress of living through a pandemic. Now that you have (almost) perfected your sourdough, it’s time to take your cooking game up a notch or two with a few simple tools.
Shelley Young, founder of Chicago’s famed recreational cooking school The Chopping Block has been teaching the basics to beginners and challenging seasoned cooks to expand their culinary universe since she opened in 1997. Her Culinary Boot Camps cover culinary school basics like knife skills, fish butchery and emulsions in just one week to help build a solid foundation. “Teaching virtually means that we are actually in the kitchens of our customers, so I can see quite literally what they have and what they don’t have and what their challenges are,” said Young. “It’s just fascinating.”
Here, Young shares a few tips on the kitchen tools that will take your cooking game to the next level.
1. A hand-crank pasta machine
Craving stinging nettle ravioli or ramp fettuccine? Infuse your pasta with the fresh flavors of the season with a hand-crank pasta maker. “There’s certain pasta you buy dried, even in Italy, and certain pasta you make fresh,” said Young. “I think that a lasagna made with fresh pasta — that is something that people don’t really even think about. That is a game-changer to me. The way that those layers adhere together. Oh my gosh, it’s like tight and right.”
The Marcato Atlas 150 Aluminum Pasta Maker puts out perfect linguine, spaghetti and lasagna noodles in minutes — and is a great countertop presence. $84.95, crateandbarrel.com
2. A razor-sharp chef’s knife
If you have ever tried slicing a ripe tomato with a dull knife, your tomato can quickly become tomato puree. “A sharp knife doesn’t mutilate your food, which is what people struggle with when their knife is dull,” said Young.
“It’s more than having a good knife; it’s actually the sharpening. A lot of people have good knives but they don’t know how to take care of them,” she said. “For example, when you chop your herbs and your cutting board is completely green at the conclusion, the goodness of the herb is now in your cutting board. A sharp knife doesn’t hurt the integrity of the food. There’s a visual component for sure, but people don’t care as much about that, people want things to taste good. So keep the juice in the food.”
The Shun Sora Chef’s Knife delivers smooth, razor-sharp cutting and a lightweight feel that’s easy to control. $79.95, williamssonoma.com
3. A multitask blender
Having tools that multitask, like a handheld blender, make kitchen work more efficient and save counter space. “I’m an avid gardener, and I grow a lot of tomatoes and I process a lot of them, so I use the blender a lot,” said Young. “If you get a high-powered hand blender or Vitamix, it purees the skin and the seeds. For me, that’s where I find it like a game-changer. We have a few great blogs on this subject, you know like making homemade pate in a Vitamix. I mean, that’s so cool. Ice cream just right in there.”
4. A cast-iron skillet
If you haven’t been able to get the perfect golden-brown sear on scallops or a charred crust on a steak that stays a perfect medium-rare inside, swap out your nonstick skillet for a raw cast-iron pan. “What I liked about cast iron is that they are affordable and heavy-duty and I can get a great sear on them,” said Young. “The nature of a raw cast-iron skillet is that it can be heated to a higher temperature. Most people are cooking with nonstick, which doesn’t handle a hotter temperature.“
Young also recommends investing in both a surface and meat thermometer. “Generally, people don’t own these, but they transform your cooking from here to there so quickly. A properly heated pan is what keeps your food from sticking and is what creates the sear — almost more than the pan itself,” she said. “For a home cook, I recommend a 425 to 450-degree pan for searing a steak, searing chicken and sauteing mushrooms. Put a surface thermometer in your pan and you know that it’s 425 to 450 degrees before you put your steak in.”
Lodge has been producing cast-iron pots and pans since 1896. Its heat-retaining Blacklock cast-iron skillet comes triple seasoned and ready to use. $29, williamssonoma.com
5. The chef-y finishing touches
Some of the most important tools come into play after the dish is cooked. A sprinkle of flaky Maldon salt brings out the full flavors of a grilled steak or fish and a splash of high-quality olive oil or vinegar adds brightness to a sauce.
“A good quality vinegar and oil take your food from A to Z with no effort,” said Young. “I use grapeseed oil to saute in, but for finishing — that’s where the quality matters. Ingredients used in the cooking process don’t have to be a $50 bottle of olive oil or vinegar, but, when you add a splash of that really great olive oil to a tomato sauce when it’s done, or a splash of really good quality vinegar in your soup toward the end of the cooking time, those kinds of things really make a difference.”
Frantoia Barbera extra virgin olive oil has a delicately fruity flavor, $24.41; O white balsamic vinegar has notes of apple, pear and almond, $12.83; Maldon sea-salt flakes add a slightly salty, slightly sweet crunch to everything from a steak to chocolate chip cookies, $6.19; amazon.com
Reviewing 9 popular meal delivery kits
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of Purple Carrot
Meal kit services have been around for years, but there are so many options that it can be overwhelming to figure out which one to choose. To help cut through the noise, I tried nine different meal kits that cater to various types of home chefs so you don't have to. I’ll be posting an honest review about my experience with a different meal kit every Monday.
Meal kits can be a great way to learn or improve upon your cooking skills — but you may be struggling to find the right one for you. Sure, there are the classics like HelloFresh and Blue Apron, but if you live a plant-based lifestyle, it's hard to find a service with enough options suited to your diet. Enter Purple Carrot. The 100% vegan meal kit service sends ingredients and recipes straight to your door for a weekly cost, and you can cancel at any time. I recently tried one week's worth of Purple Carrot's meals. This is what I thought.
Purple Carrot Details
Purple Carrot is known for its plant-based menu, which means no meat, dairy or eggs. The price starts at $71.94 per week, which includes shipping and three recipes that serve two people. Customers can also opt to receive three or four recipes per week for the two-servings plan. The four-serving option comes with your choice of two or three recipes per week.
Customers choose from a selection of eight dinner recipes per week. Purple Carrot also offers a couple breakfast and lunch options. Plans include high-protein, gluten-free, quick and easy or chef’s choice and the service also lets you filter its menus by dietary concerns.
Purple Carrot Experience
Although Purple Carrot’s recipe selections are smaller than some competitors, the options are far from boring. They take inspiration from different cuisines with dishes like smoky portobello tacos and crispy cauliflower pakoras, but also offer classic American comfort foods like soups and sandwiches.
After perusing the options, I settled on Mexican socca pizza, portobello mushroom BLTs and spiced chickpea stew.
The box arrived in good condition. It was lightweight and not too big, which made it easy to carry up to my fourth-floor walkup. When I opened the box, the contents weren’t very cold because Purple Carrot only sends one ice pack. I’d recommend making sure you’re home when it delivers so that nothing spoils.
The ingredients for each recipe came in separate plastic bags that kept everything organized. However, the use of unnecessary plastic was noticeable considering some other kits sent their ingredients in recyclable paper bags.
Instead of individual recipe cards, Purple Carrot sends a booklet with all of the week’s recipes. I appreciated this because now I can also make the meals that I didn’t end up selecting. The recipe cards have photos of each step in the cooking process but don't provide pictures of what the ingredients look like pre-chopping. This was a little confusing for ingredients that I’ve never worked with before.
In terms of the actual cooking process, the ease varies depending on the recipe. The mushroom BLTs were very simple to make and had few steps with minimal slicing and dicing. But the Mexican socca pizza was a completely different story.
Instead of receiving a ready-made crust, I had to make the crust from scratch with chickpea flour and use an oven-safe skillet to broil the crust for about 10 minutes. The pizza was topped with onions and sweet potatoes that I also had to bake. Overall, I found this recipe to be too complicated, and it took a lot longer than the listed cook time.
I also noticed that the ingredient proportions were a little off. For the BLTs, the tomatoes were very small and I was left with only one slice to add to the second sandwich. But for the arugula, the situation was the opposite. I was sent two bags of arugula for a small pizza and two sandwiches, which was way too generous.
Despite some of these little idiosyncrasies, the flavor for each recipe was spot on. As a non-vegetarian or vegan, Purple Carrot taught me how to go the extra mile with plant-based ingredients in a way that made them really shine. This meal kit would work well for people interested in living a vegan lifestyle, those wanting to incorporate more meatless dishes into their diet, or for people who are already plant-based but are in a recipe rut.
However, if you’re someone on a budget who wants recipe options with meat, Purple Carrot isn’t the meal kit for you.
Disclosure: The meal kit was purchased by The Daily Meal for review purposes, and all opinions are honest and belong solely to the reviewer
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of Dinnerly
Dinnerly advertises itself as the go-to meal kit delivery service for affordable, fuss-free weeknight meals. The zero-commitment service is one of the most affordable meal kit options available. Kits start at $38.93 per week, which includes shipping and three meals that serve two people. The service also provides a family meal plan option that serves four people. Customers can opt to receive up to six recipes per week.
Customers choose from a selection of 18 new recipes each week. Sometimes the menu even has recipes for breakfast and dessert. Dinnerly offers a few vegetarian options per week but doesn’t have specific meal plans for restricted diets.
With the usual suspects like pasta dishes, burgers and tacos, customers may not be particularly wowed by the selection of Dinnerly’s recipes.
After browsing the week’s options, I decided on the Greek meatballs with tomatoes and orzo, pumpkin French toast with candied walnuts and the Indian veggie masala with rice and yogurt.
The box arrived in good condition, and its contents were still cold upon opening. To limit packaging, the ingredients for each recipe were placed in the box together rather than in separate bags. This made it difficult to figure out which ingredients belonged to each recipe.
To keep costs lower, Dinnerly doesn’t send recipe cards with its boxes; users have to look up the recipes online, and there aren’t photos on the website that show what each step of the cooking process should look like. These things, paired with somewhat vague instructions, made the recipes hard to follow at times.
Be sure to read the recipes thoroughly before cooking. For example, when I made the Greek meatballs, the instructions told me to mix the beef and scallion whites together but didn’t instruct me to reserve some of the scallion whites, which I ended up needing in another step of the recipe later on. Despite some bumps in the road, the recipes were simple to make and never took longer than what was listed on the recipe cards.
It’s also important to note that you’ll need more than just olive oil, salt and pepper for Dinnerly’s recipes. For the pumpkin French toast, I had to provide five of my own eggs, as well as a decent amount of sugar. Be sure to read the “What You’ll Need” section on each recipe before adding it to your cart for the week.
Because Dinnerly’s meal kits are more affordable, the recipes are simple and require few ingredients, making it difficult for the dishes to stand out. So, Dinnerly isn’t great for people looking to create new, dynamic dishes. But, if you’re someone who wants to try an easy and affordable meal kit, Dinnerly is more than satisfactory.
For more meal kit inspiration, also see my review of Purple Carrot.
Disclosure: The meal kit was provided by the company, but all opinions are honest and belong solely to the reviewer.
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of Blue Apron
As one of the first meal kit delivery services, Blue Apron caters to a plethora of different home cooks. If you're a meat eater who enjoys the occasional vegetarian meal, or if you like flavorful but simple dishes, Blue Apron is a great place to start your meal kit journey.
Blue Apron Details
As one of the better-known meal kit delivery services, Blue Apron's meal kits start at $47.95. That price includes shipping and two recipes per week, and each recipe serves two people. But the service also has kits that come with three or four recipes per week and has a meal kit option that can serve a family of four.
If you’re someone who has specific dietary needs, Blue Apron offers vegetarian, pescatarian, diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved meals. But keep in mind that you choose from a selection of about 10 recipes per week, so there might only be one or two dietary specific options on the menu at a time. It’s also important to note that the vegetarian options can only serve two people, not four.
Blue Apron Experience
The kit arrived in good condition, and the ingredients were still cold upon opening. I sampled two recipes, and each recipe came in its own bag with the required, pre-portioned ingredients. The recipe cards were large and easy to follow and included photos for each ingredient so that I didn’t confuse one item for another.
You will need common pantry staples like salt, pepper and olive oil for Blue Apron’s recipes, as well as pots, pans and knives. It’s important to check the recipe cards before choosing your meals for the week to ensure you have the proper cooking tools.
The first Blue Apron meal I tried was Calabrian shrimp with spaghetti squash and kale. I noticed that some of the kale was a little brown, but otherwise, the ingredients seemed very fresh — especially the shrimp. Although I’m not a huge seafood fan, combining the shrimp with shallots and chili paste gave the crustacean a nice flavor.
The recipe had a total cook time of 35 minutes, but it took me about an hour to complete. My knife skills aren’t chef fast, so in the time it took me to chop up the onion, garlic, kale and lemon, the baked spaghetti squash had gotten cold. Little missteps like that made the recipes run overtime.
In addition to the Calabrian shrimp, I also tried udon noodles with spicy peanut stir fry. The mushrooms were a bit slimy, but the rest of the ingredients were in good condition. My favorite aspect of this dish was how easy it was to make. Aside from a cutting board and bowl to whisk the sauce in, I only needed one pan. This made cleaning up super easy, which is ideal after an eight-hour workday.
Overall, Blue Apron’s recipes are creative without being too difficult. The menu has diverse options from pasta dishes and seafood to seared steak and Chinese takeout dishes to make at home. The meal kit is a great option if you’re looking to work on your knife skills or multitasking, or if you enjoy trying different recipes.
On the other hand, with a selection of only about 10 recipes per week, Blue Apron isn’t a top contender if you’re someone who wants a wide selection of dishes to choose from. Furthermore, Blue Apron has a very limited selection of recipes for vegetarians and almost no choices for vegans or people on keto or paleo diets.
Disclosure: The meal kit was provided by the company, but all opinions are honest and belong solely to the reviewer.
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of Green Chef
If you're interested in signing up for a meal kit but you're not sure which one is right for you, consider Green Chef. The 100% organic company caters to people with different eating habits, from meat eaters and vegetarians to people on the keto or paleo diets.
Green Chef Details
Green Chef’s meal kit prices vary depending on which of the three plans you choose: Keto + Paleo, Balanced Living or Plant-Powered. No matter what you choose, every kit contains 100% organic ingredients that have no GMOs or pesticides.
Keto + Paleo is the most expensive kit. It’s catered to people who are gluten free, watching their carb intake or avoiding grains. For two people receiving three recipes per week, the kit costs $92.93, including shipping.
With meat, seafood and vegetarian options, the Balanced Living kit has the most diverse menu. It’s the same price as the Plant-Powered plan, which strictly offers vegetarian and vegan recipes. For two people receiving three recipes per week, these kits cost $86.93 each, including shipping.
Customers choose from a menu of about eight or nine recipes per week, but the number of recipes varies depending on which plan you choose. All of the meal plans offered through Green Chef have a four-serving option.
Green Chef Experience
Customers aren’t able to mix and match recipes from different meal plans. I opted for the plant-powered meal plan and was able to choose from a selection of eight recipes. Five of the recipes were vegan and the rest were vegetarian.
I tried the green pea falafel with tahini (vegan), teriyaki portobello rice bowls (vegan) and the butternut squash chili (vegetarian).
The box arrived in good condition and its contents were cold and fresh upon arrival. The ingredients came in their own recyclable paper bags, which kept things organized. Although some of the plastic bags holding the ingredients were recyclable, produce like cucumbers and scallions were wrapped in unnecessary plastic when they could’ve just been placed in the paper bag as is.
The recipe cards were large, colorful and easy to follow. Each card came with plenty of photos that gave me a clear visual of what every step of the cooking process should look like. Because most of the sauces and dressings come pre-prepared, the bulk of the cooking process is spent slicing veggies. The chopping was tedious, but overall I found that the listed recipe cook times were accurate.
In terms of taste, I found Green Chef’s recipes a little underwhelming. Some of the flavor combinations didn't work well together. For example, the sweetness of the butternut squash in the chili didn’t work with the Tex-Mex flavors from the roasted corn and adobo-seasoned tomatoes. I ran into a similar problem with the pineapple in the portobello rice bowls — the fruit just felt out of place.
Overall, Green Chef is a great option for people who want 100% non-GMO ingredients, healthy meals and plenty of keto, paleo, vegetarian and vegan options. But if you're more concerned about flavorful and inventive dishes and less interested in eating organic or adhering to a particular diet, Green Chef might not be for you.
Disclosure: The meal kit was provided by the company, but all opinions are honest and belong solely to the reviewer.
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of Home Chef
Home Chef Details
Home Chef prides itself on keeping things simple — that’s literally the company’s slogan. The service’s meal kits start at $49.95, which includes shipping and two recipes per week, each of which serves two people. But HomeChef also has kits that come with up to six recipes and has some meals that can serve up to six people.
Although HomeChef doesn’t have specific meal plans for people with different dietary needs, the site does give customers the option to list their preferences before signing up. Customers can specify if they’re vegetarian, or if they want to avoid certain foods, limit their carb or calorie intake and more. There are 13 recipes to choose from each week, and several of them are typically vegetarian. HomeChef also has “easy prep meal kits” that require minimal preparation.
Home Chef Experience
My HomeChef meal kit arrived via FedEx in an insulated cardboard box. The contents of the box were still cold upon opening, and each recipe had a separate zip-lock bag for its ingredients. The bags fit conveniently in the refrigerator, which I found especially useful because I share a fridge with three other people. But the extra plastic seemed wasteful, especially when considering the recyclable paper bags other meal kit services send.
I sampled three HomeChef recipes: teriyaki steak and peppers, pesto chicken thigh mini pizzas, and crispy prosciutto and white cheddar cream campanelle. I also tried the spaghetti and Italian sausage meatballs, one of the company’s easy-prep meals.
All of HomeChef’s recipes are broken down into different difficulty levels. I sampled two “easy” recipes and one “intermediate” recipe, although I thought all three were simple enough for any beginner cook to follow. The recipe cards were large and easy to read and the cooking process was streamlined. None of the recipes took me longer to cook than the time listed.
My favorite recipe was the crispy prosciutto and white cheddar cream campanelle. The dish was the perfect level of salty and savory and taught me the fundamentals of making a good, creamy sauce. Even though this was the most involved recipe, I still dirtied only a few dishes.
For just about all of HomeChef’s recipes, you’ll need olive oil, salt and pepper. If you don’t have those ingredients or common kitchen appliances handy, the easy-prep meals are a great alternative. For the spaghetti and Italian sausage meatballs, all I had to do was combine the ingredients in a provided dish, roll the sausage into meatballs and bake for about 20 minutes.
Overall, I enjoyed how easy HomeChef was. If you’re a beginner in the kitchen who likes comfort food, or if you want pre-prepared meals that require no slicing and dicing, then HomeChef is a great option.
However, if you’re someone who is willing to pay a little extra for organic products, or if you want a wide variety of vegan, paleo, keto or vegetarian options, a different meal kit service might be preferable to HomeChef.
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of HelloFresh
HelloFresh is a well-known meal kit delivery service. The company’s kits start at $62.93, and that price includes shipping and three recipes per week, with each recipe serving two people. But the service also has kits that come with four or five recipes, and all of the kits can serve up to four people.
When signing up for HelloFresh, customers can choose between a few different meal plans: Meat & Veggies, Veggie, Pescatarian, Family Friendly, Calorie Smart and Quick and Easy. The Family Friendly meal plan consists of kid-approved, easy-to-make meals, and the Quick and Easy plan is designed to limit prep, cook and cleanup time. Customers choose from a menu of 23 recipes each week that is equipped with a few options for every meal plan.
The best part about HelloFresh is that no two dishes are similar to each other. The menu has options ranging from Chesapeake steak and lobster tail to crunchy curried chickpea bowls. Although this makes it tough to decide what to order, you’ll likely never get bored with the selection.
The menu lists recipes with helpful labels that indicate if the meal is easy to prepare, low in calories, uses one pan, is a crowd favorite and more. Knowing the level of involvement and type of recipe before ordering sets you up for realistic expectations early on.
I chose the Gouda Vibes Burger, Pork Flauta Supreme and Bruschetta Chicken. The meals arrived undamaged in a curbside recyclable box and were still cold upon opening. Each kit came in its own brown paper bag and the meat was laid delicately underneath the ice packs.
To limit the amount of packaging used, items like tomatoes, onions and potatoes were placed freely in the bag, which I appreciated. Some of the produce was a little bruised and brown, but still usable. For all of the recipes, I needed my own olive, salt and pepper as well as some common kitchen appliances.
The recipe cards were large, easy to follow and had photos for each ingredient so that I didn’t confuse one item for another. There are additional photos that walk you through the cooking process on the back of the recipe cards, and important steps and ingredients are bolded.
All of the recipes were easy, and the listed cook times were pretty accurate. Sometimes it took me about 10 minutes longer because I’m a fairly slow cook, but nothing was overly tedious. HelloFresh’s instructions are well suited for people who have a hard time multitasking. When cooking the Gouda vibes burger, for example, the recipe card explicitly told me when to flip the burger, when to add cheese and what other steps to complete while I waited for the burger to cook.
Overall, HelloFresh is a great meal kit service if you enjoy and know the basics behind cooking, or if you want to try new techniques like how to add a Parmesan crust to chicken or make an onion jam. The recipes are creative, too. However, HelloFresh might be limiting for people who follow a keto, paleo or vegan diet. Despite a specific meal plan for vegetarians, most recipes on HelloFresh’s weekly menu are catered toward carnivores.
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of Sun Basket
Sun Basket Details
Sun Basket touts its organic, fresh and healthy ingredients. Its meal kit prices start at $59.95, which includes shipping and two recipes that serve two people. However, the price per serving decreases when you add more recipes and servings to your order, which is beneficial for families.
If you have a restrictive diet, Sun Basket is a great meal kit to start with. The service offers a variety of meal plan options including vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, carb conscious, pescatarian, diabetes friendly and more. Customers can choose a specific meal plan or mix and match any of Sun Basket’s weekly recipes, regardless of what meal plan they select during signup.
Sun Basket Experience
SunBasket’s menu is rife with fun and inventive recipes. Rather than the usual meal kit delivery selections like burgers, meat and potatoes and pasta, Sun Basket has globally-inspired meals.
After scrolling through the menu, I decided to try cauliflower macaroni and cheese; Mediterranean turkey kababs with carrot and squash ribbons; and tempeh burrito bowls with basmati rice, black beans and guacamole.
The box arrived in good condition, and the ingredients were still cold upon arrival. Each recipe had its own brown paper bag for the ingredients. One thing to note about the packaging is that ingredients like carrots and zucchini are wrapped individually in plastic, which seems unnecessary. But the service does provide a booklet with helpful information on how to recycle the kit.
The recipe cards are small and come without photos for the ingredients, and the directions are printed in a small font that made the cards difficult to read. However, the recipes were simple enough to execute and the listed cook times were accurate. For most recipes, you’ll need salt, pepper and olive oil. The required kitchen appliances are the usual suspects like a frying pan and small pot, but I did need a fine-mesh strainer for the tempeh bowls and a vegetable peeler for the turkey kebabs.
The recipes come with pre-prepared components, such as the guacamole for the tempeh bowls and the lemon tahini dressing for the turkey kebabs. Although I didn’t learn much in terms of technique, the limited prep saved me time during the cooking process and cleanup.
Be sure to pay close attention to the lightning bolt symbols under Sun Basket’s online recipes. The site labels its recipes with things like “Speedy,” “Fresh & Ready” and “Pre-Prepared.” This wasn’t clear to me when selecting my meals for the week, so I was disappointed when the cauliflower macaroni and cheese arrived as a “Fresh & Ready” dish. All I had to do was stick it in the oven or microwave, which was convenient, but the resulting dish was soggy and overloaded with cheese.
If you’re someone who wants to eat healthier and include organic ingredients in your cooking, Sun Basket is a great meal kit for you. I’d also recommend it to people with restricted diets who struggle to find an abundance of options on other meal kit sites. However, if you're more concerned about your fill of hearty American comfort foods and less interested in eating organic or adhering to a particular diet, SunBasket might not be the best option.
Meal Kit Monday: A Review of EveryPlate
Like Dinnerly, EveryPlate prides itself on its affordability. By using less packaging and simple ingredients, the service starts its meal kit prices at $38.92. That price includes shipping and three recipes that serve two people each week. Customers can also choose to receive as many as five recipes and each plan has a four-person serving size.
Customers choose from a selection of about 14 to 16 recipes each week. Anecdotally, about three of those options are vegetarian but EveryPlate doesn’t have specific meal plans for different diets or lifestyles.
EveryPlate’s menu options are pretty standard and may cater to picky eaters. You’ll see the usual suspects like pasta, burgers, chicken and pork chops. These are simple recipes with minimal ingredients.
After browsing the week’s options, I decided on the moo shu beef bowls, Korean chicken bibimbap and apricot sriracha pork chops.
The box arrived in good condition, and its contents were still cold upon opening. To limit packaging, the ingredients for each recipe were placed in the box together, rather than in separate bags.
Unlike Dinnerly, EveryPlate sends recipe cards with its meal kits. Although the cards are on the small side, they come with photos of the ingredients so that nothing gets confused during the cooking process.
To make each recipe, I needed to provide my own olive oil, salt and pepper, which is customary for most meal kits. But be advised that you’ll also need to provide your own butter for certain recipes. In terms of kitchen appliances, nothing was out of the ordinary, but if you select any of the rice-based recipes, you’ll need a fine mesh sieve to rinse off the rice before getting started.
I found the cooking process to be simple enough for beginner cooks to follow. Because EveryPlate is so affordable, there are limited ingredients, which keeps involved techniques and chopping to a minimum. The sauces were also pre-made, so I didn’t need to dirty extra dishes and spend time whisking up dressings and glazes. Overall, the prep and cook times were in line with what was listed.
The final product of each recipe was underwhelming. The flavor profiles were simple. Even recipes from cultures known for bold flavors, like the Korean chicken bibimbap and moo shu beef bowls, lacked dimension. Additions like soy sauce and sriracha were basic.
EveryPlate is a fine option for someone looking to try out an affordable meal kit and for people who admire classic comfort foods. But if you value creative dishes and you’re interested in eating organic or adhering to a particular diet, EveryPlate might not be the best meal kit for you.
Daily Harvest Review
Daily Harvest Details
Daily Harvest is a little different than your typical meal kit delivery service. The company offers pre-prepared, single-serving items like smoothies and harvest bowls instead of recipes.
There’s no weekly rotating menu. Instead, customers choose from a wide selection of 80 items and the box comes with those same items every week — or month — depending on your plan. After the first week, you can swap out items in your box for others you want to try.
The 100% plant-based meal kit has a few different pricing options. Boxes can come with either nine, 14 or 24 items, and the price of your box is dictated by what you fill it with. The menu items start at $5.99 for the chia and oat bowls, and go up to $8.99 for the harvest bowls and flatbreads.
Daily Harvest is catered toward people who live or are interested in living a plant-based diet, and the meals are 100% plant-based.
Daily Harvest Experience
For me, a single person living in the city, Daily Harvest’s individually packaged meals were incredibly useful. It’s not always easy to find time for breakfast, and cooking dinner every night can get old. On days when I was feeling a little lazy, it was convenient to pop a Daily Harvest flatbread into the oven or a smoothie into the blender.
The kit arrived in a recyclable, undamaged box and the items were still very cold upon opening. I sampled a variety of different items including smoothies, harvest bowls, flatbreads and ice cream, as well as a latte and the cacao nib bites.
There are plenty of items to choose from, like a ginger and greens smoothie, red lentil and cumin harvest bowl, kale and sweet potato flatbread, and blackberry and majik chia bowl.
The smoothies come with whole ingredients, all you need to do is fill the cup with your milk of choice and pour its contents into a blender. Sometimes the smoothies were hard to blend and a little chunky, so I had to add in extra milk, but the flavor was always spot on.
I also tried a few of the harvest bowls, for these, you just add water to the bowl and put it in the microwave for a few minutes. My favorite was the butternut squash and kale shakshuka, which had a nice blend of autumn flavors. I also tried the Brussels sprouts and lime pad thai harvest bowl, but it had a mushy consistency, and the veggie noodles didn’t replicate pad thai very well. Overall, I thought the bowls and flatbreads were good but not very filling. They work better as a lunch option.
My favorite part about Daily Harvest is the dessert — you would never know it’s vegan. I tried the Chocolate + Ooey, Gooey, Midnight Fudge and the Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote. The desserts have to be thawed for about 10 minutes, but the flavors are incredible. The consistency is more reminiscent of thick Italian ice, but I thought they were still a good option for dessert lovers looking for a healthy-ish alternative.
Overall, I’d recommend Daily Harvest to busy, single people who are looking for healthy, organic meals, as well as vegans and vegetarians who want easy, diverse frozen food options. But if you’re someone who enjoys cooking, are trying to feed more than one person, or just prefer hearty, filling meals, Daily Harvest is not the kit for you.
Disclosure: The products in this review were provided by the company, but all opinions are honest and belong solely to the reviewer.