Home chef subscriptions

Home chef

A good and a bad chef tried the Home Chef subscription. Here’s what happened.

Was the meal-in-a-box service a dream or a nightmare?

 

Beck Diaz

 

Danni Danger

Adulting

Posted on May 27, 2022   Updated on May 30, 2022, 11:49 am CDT

Everyone has their own signature cooking style. Meal prep isn’t just a matter of passion—it’s about your schedule, capabilities, and personal tastes. There are so many meal subscription boxes out there. So it’s not always easy to find the one that will keep you fed and happy. Two of our writers decided to try the Home Chef box to see if one service can please two very opposite cooks. Whether you’re cooking for you or for two, joy or function, can the Home Chef box meet your needs?

Keep reading our Home Chef review to find out.

What is Home Chef? 

Home Chef is a meal prep subscription box service that delivers pre-packaged foods to your door once a week. Your Home Chef box comes packed with freeze gel to maintain temperature, plus food and recipe cards. Your first box also comes with a binder where you can store your cards. Each meal comes in its own labeled bag with a handle and a bottom. They stand up or stack neatly in your fridge until you’re ready to cook them. Meat, of course, comes in its own bag at the bottom of the box because salmonella is bad. 

All of the Home Chef meal bags unpacked

How does Home Chef work? 

At a glance, Home Chef works like any classic meal subscription service. You go online and take a short survey to help them figure out what kind of chef you are. Then you choose your personalized plan and pick your meals for the week.  

Home Chef quiz asks users what kinds of meals they enjoy the most

What’s great about Home Chef is that it offers its members various options to suit their lifestyles. If you hate cooking or just don’t have time, that’s okay. You can choose the Fresh and Easy personalized plan which provides you with no-prep recipes. If you’re okay with going through the nightly motions of prepping a whole meal, they’ve got you. Just go with the standard Home Chef plan that simply pre-portions the ingredients for you. 

Once you choose your plan, you can also specify whether you have any dietary restrictions or lifestyle goals. What to cook calorie-conscious or carb-conscious foods? You can! You can also choose how many meals you’d like to receive weekly. In our case, we started out with five meal kits for the week. 

Home Chef also offers special extras that you can receive with or in place of your full meal sets. These can include breakfasts, sides, desserts, and drinks. Best of all, you can get started with 16 free meals and a free gift when you use coupon code DAILYDOT at checkout.

Home Chef Review 1: Beck, the chef who likes to cook 

Before I get into the cooking part of it all, I think it’s important to give a little background. I am a chef that likes to cook. Honestly, I am a chef that loves to cook. I like trying new things on my own, and I also like following a recipe (with improvisations, of course). It just depends on the day. 

I’m the type of cook that puts equal thought into the recipe and the ingredients themselves. I like shopping in obscure spice stores and reading about actual chefs’ favorite new items and pantry must-haves. So, while I do love cooking, I don’t normally like cooking from a box. Being tasked with a Home Chef review was an interesting change for me.

When my Home Chef box was delivered to me, there was a little mishap with my package room and they couldn’t find my package. I thought it had gotten lost in the mail, and all seemed to be lost. Alas, my Home Chef review was off to a bad start! Turns out, they had just stuck it in my building’s freezer for a week and forgot to let me know. Because of this, all my items were frozen rock solid which really affected some of my meal kits. Pro-tip: don’t throw your meal kits straight into your freezer. 

My Home Chef cooking adventure 

For my first week of meals, I chose to select four dinner meal kits and two extras. Two of them were pasta dishes. Those were the Southwest-Style Chicken Fricassee and the Creamy Sausage and Pesto Cavatappi. Two of them were veggie-heavy—the Chicken with Hatch Chile Ranch and the Spicy Korean-Style Beef Lettuce Cups. The other two were my extras—Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Bites and Spinach & Artichoke Pizza

I’ll start off by saying: Beware. Since my box was thrown in the freezer right after delivery, the beautiful butter lettuce meant for the Korean-style lettuce cups was frozen through and sagged after it defrosted. It was a huge part of the recipe so be on the lookout. It if happens to you, you’ll have to improvise or run out for some healthy butter lettuce. 

The two recipes that I personally loved the most were the two pasta ones. The Southwest-Style Chicken Fricassee and the Creamy Sausage and Pesto Cavatappi were the best. They were both labeled intermediate difficult. They took around the same time to prep and make, and had around the same amount of calories. 

The Southwest-Style Chicken Fricassee came with two chicken breasts. It also came with whole poblano pepper, fire-roasted corn kernels, sherry cooking wine, cotija cheese, seasoning, and cream sauce.  

While the recipe itself was not hard to follow, I’ll say it definitely earned its intermediate mark. It has you cooking pasta, chicken, and sauce at the same time. Which for more inexperienced cooks can be more than a handful.

I will say that this recipe did well with seasonings. It had me adding salt to taste throughout which made the end result that much tastier. I also took it upon myself to add some colored pasta to the provided bowtie pasta. The end result was a creamy, spicy, colorful dish I was dying to eat for lunch the next day.

The Creamy Sausage and Pesto Cavatappi were, in my opinion, slightly easier to make. Probably because it was sausage instead of chicken. I find that there’s a very fine line to cooking chicken. It has to be soft and moist but thoroughly heated through. Whereas sausage is better with a crispy crunch and requires less attention. 

Because of this, preparing my other ingredients—the spinach, tomatoes, and sauce—was a lot easier. I also found that I used one less pan than in the above recipe. Out of the two, I would say that the chicken dish was more to my liking. Partly because I’m a chicken girlie, but also because the seasoning for the sausage dish wasn’t on the same level as the chicken dish. I found that I had to add salt and pepper after the fact with the sausage dish. 

Regardless, I actually really enjoyed cooking these dishes with pre-portioned ingredients. It made the process so smooth and cut down prep-time by a landslide. I was also pleasantly surprised with the end result of the dishes. My partner (who ate the other half of the meals) also loved the taste of each meal.   

Home Chef Review 2: Danni, the chef who’d rather not 

It’s not that I hate cooking. In the right circumstance, I love cooking! It just takes me forever. I have ADHD, and my executive dysfunction goes berserk when I’m trying to put a meal together. It’s time to put the meat on the stove, but I’m still finely dicing my onions! Timing is everything when preparing a fresh meal, but to my brain, time gets a little loopy. To make things harder, I live alone, so portioning gets tricky. Many high-quality ingredients have been burned or died in the refrigerator under my care. Let’s have a moment of silence for them, shall we? 

I’ve tried a couple of meal prep boxes over the years. On paper, the instructions and pre-packaged (but fresh) food sound like a dream come true. But it quickly became clear that all boxes were not made the same. Freshly packaged food has a very limited life span, and even when I managed to get everything cooked. So if the meals weren’t freezable, I simply could not eat them all quickly enough. Between food waste and prep rhythm, I didn’t always manage to serve everything hot, and it was almost always a mess. I resolved with my last canceled box that I would go fully-prepared meals or not at all. And haven’t felt moved to research meal services since. Would being tasked with a Home Chef review change my mind?

My Home Chef cooking adventure 

I appreciated the selection process offered by Home Chef. I was able to shamelessly profess that I do not want to spend much time cooking. So my meal options were sorted by simplicity first. From there, I noticed that there were plenty of easy-cook options that were freezable. These are meals I can cook, cool, foil, and freeze. This was made all the easier by the included oven-friendly tray. When I chose two of these meals, I kept an eye out for recipes that didn’t include fresh herbs or spinach. Those typically don’t survive the texture test after freezing and reheating. I’ve got lots of kitchen hacks I’ve had to learn the hard way.

All of the pre-packaged ingredients freshly unpacked from my Home Chef box

Next, I picked two meals that I could store in the refrigerator. Like the freezable recipes before them, these meals came with nifty baking trays. They primarily relied on oven preparation to get the job done. These recipes didn’t require a cutting board for anything other than citrus. That helped a lot with my time and attention. While my oven did the heavy lifting, I mixed a few sauces and opened a few packages. Everything I refrigerated tasted incredible on reheat, and none of the foods lost texture in the process.

Finally, I picked a meal that could sit in for lunch, too. My lettuce wraps required a little more elbow grease and the use of the stovetop, which was okay. I’m more likely to enjoy cooking earlier in the day. My favorite part was the butter lettuce (sorry, Beck). The head of lettuce is served with roots still intact, which means they stay fresh and crisp a lot longer. This is great for my portioning problem. I genuinely love to eat green things. It breaks my heart when I can’t eat them while they’re at their most savory. I’m embarrassed to admit I waited until the absolute last minute to cook my meals. Still, I was very surprised my lettuce hadn’t turned into goop.

Home Chef review: Is Home Chef worth it? 

Chef 1 

If you want a quick meal that’ll satisfy your cravings and use the kitchen, Home Chef is for you. Like I mentioned above, it’s important to be at home when your Home Chef is delivered. You’ll want to make sure your ingredients don’t lose their integrity. Also, be sure to place each ingredient where they go instead of just chucking it all in the freezer.

My biggest deterrent from the Home Chef boxes after my trial run isn’t the way the recipes taste or how hard the meals are to make, it’s the ingredients. While all the meats and dairy products provided looked and tasted top-notch, that’s not enough for me. I’m just one of those people who only shop organic and farm-raised. It was hard for me to stop thinking about where my protein came from, no matter how good it tasted. 

However, all in all, I will say that the Home Chef box was definitely worth it. If you’ve got a busy schedule or picky kid eaters in the home, this box will be a crowd-pleaser. You can even make choosing your weekly recipes a family affair! I give Home Chef two thumbs all the way up. 

Chef 2 

I found this box to be the most accessible meal prep kit I’ve tried so far. Many of the prep requirements are easy to manage for a person with limited time, focus, and mouths to feed…me. I’m talking about me. Five meals for two people comes out to 10 meals for me, which came out to a little over $100. Those are some pretty great odds. Not only can I reasonably prepare these meals on my schedule, but I can also afford them. 

My only complaint with the service? I don’t have a microwave. An oven is the basest cooking appliance and honestly cooks everything better than a microwave does (yes, even popcorn). One meal I ordered had instant rice, which required a microwave. Fun fact, the “just add boiling water” internet hack does the trick, but only if you bake it afterward. My rice came out just fine in the end. Still, a settings option for microwave prep would easily address this issue for the old-fashioned subscribers.

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*First Published: May 27, 2022, 8:35 am CDT