*Update 6/23/2015: Check out my Reviews of Home Chef and Hello Fresh to see how they compare to Blue Apron and Plated (click the company’s name).*
In my last post regarding Food Delivery Services, I reviewed Blue Apron. In order to offer a holistic review of these services, I decided to also partake in Plated, a competitor. I know I am taking a hit for the team here, sampling and savoring different fare from companies that deliver the food to my door, but I will do what it takes to report good eats. Fortunately, my waistline has not reflected this taste-test reconnaissance, since the dishes have been considerably healthy and low in calories.
Plated first presented itself to me on my Facebook wall as a form of advertisement. It is my assumption that the search engine saw my interest in Blue Apron and had to meddle in my business. Well, their darn strategy worked and I purchased 3 meals for two people for only $24.00. The convenience of food delivery services like Blue Apron and Plated cannot be overstated. Fresh seasonal ingredients shipped to your home, tucked safely in a box, waiting to be unwrapped like a Christmas present. For a few nights of the week, you can set grocery-shopping and indecision aside. Let the recipes and ingredients in that package bring out your inner chef.
Like I mentioned in my previous post about Blue Apron (click to read), I live in a small isolated town in the middle of nowhere. Our local grocery store only carries the essentials: chicken, deli meat and broccoli. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard the Fed Ex truck pull up, knowing that legitimate food was being delivered. Is the delivery man looking at me? Oh shoot!
- $12/plate for regular recipes
- $18-$24/plate for Chef’s Table recipes
- Choose your quantity: 2, 4 or 6 plates per recipe
- Choose the day you want it delivered
- Arrives once/week
- Skip deliveries on certain weeks depending on your availability or interest in the menu
- They deliver to 95% of the US from the Plated facility closest to your home
- About 7 meals offered, 1 is a Chef’s Table special
- Select as many recipes as you want (must be a minimum of 4 plates)
- They will select a menu for you if you want
- You can select: Land, Sea or Veggie (or all the above)
- In your Taste Profile, choose ingredients that you want excluded from your recipes
- Taste Aversions
- Dietary Restrictions
The First Impression
The box arrived with three recipes. Each recipe had a separate bag of ingredients. This was helpful since each bag was labeled according to the dish’s name. Grab and Go style. Some of the “loose” ingredients were the meat, coconut milk and chives, each not labeled by the meal’s name.
Each ingredient was already measured and portioned out for ease of cooking. You will still have to cut, slice and mince the vegetables and meat, but most of the work is already done. To my excitement, my garlic was already peeled for me!
As you can see the box advertises “fresh ingredients”, yet to my disappointment the vegetables and meat arrived frozen. I am aware that the -0 degree weather we have been having may have aided in this issue.
The front of the recipe cards display vibrant photos of the final meal, background information about the dish, cooking tips to enhance the flavor, timing and calories.
The back of the card displays step-by-step written directions along with photos, aiding the home-chef in the cooking process. There is a note on the recipe card stating what cookware and ingredients you will need from your own home. These include pots, measured water, salt, pepper and oil.
The Taste Test
Pros: The spicy, sweet, coconutty sauce was so flavorful. The fragrance of the ginger, cinnamon and lemongrass swirled around my kitchen like snowflakes in the wind. Lastly, the jasmine rice seasoned with turmeric was soft and fluffy.
Cons: The steak for this recipe was completely frozen, so I had to use the microwave to thaw it out. Yuck. Furthermore, round steak is a tough cut of meat and cooking it for about 10 minutes, as suggested in the recipe, was not enough time to tenderize the beef. The result was, as predicted, tough. Perhaps I should have sliced it thinner. I will make the sauce again, yet will use a juicy piece of steak, grilled to perfection, instead.
Pros: The fennel seed and thyme spices added a fragrant crunch to the succulent pan-roasted pork. Carrots are always a delight, the cooking method of blanching then sauteing kept them simple yet elegant.
Cons: I appreciate the uniqueness of the German spaetzle, but would have loved it drenched in sauce. It was sauteed in butter, which is a similar technique with egg noodles from my late Grandma D’s German recipe, Sauerbraten (click for recipe). Trust me, the noodles were tasty, but were heavy and dry without a sauce.
Pros: Quinoa, peas, carrots, cabbage, onions, ginger and egg all fried together and topped with peanut-oil, soy sauce and sriracha; a delicious combination.
Cons: I was surprised that Plated did not provide the egg in the box as one of the ingredients. Instead it was on the “what you need at home” list. I added two eggs, instead of one, because this meal did not seem like it was going to satiate our hunger (I was right). It required extra soy sauce after for further flavoring, but I understand this is subjective. Lastly, this would have been an enjoyable side, but again, we were still slightly hungry hippos when it was all said and done.
Plated’s dishes are $2.00 more than Blue Apron’s. However, Plated allows you to only choose 4 plates totaling $48.00, whereas Blue Apron’s flat rate for 2 people is $60.00 for 6 plates (3 meals) per week. Obviously you save more in the long run with Blue Apron, but if you just want to try at least two different recipes from Plated, you will spend less money that specific week.
Plated and Blue Apron’s meals boast farm-fresh seasonal ingredients incorporated into healthy recipes. Both company’s dishes range from 550-700 calories per serving. As a health conscious foodie, I appreciate the hearty but healthful fare provided by both Plated and Blue Apron.
Plated allows its subscribers to select the recipes that they want delivered. It is important to note that as the week goes on, certain recipes will be labeled as “sold out”, thus limiting your options. On the other hand, Blue Apron selects 3 recipes for you, letting you change at least one of them after you submit your purchase. This is something that not many Blue “Aproners” know, as I have discussed this with different people.
Plated and Blue Apron offer a similar amount of meals for 2-person plans, 7 versus 6. However, if you have a larger family, Plated offers the same 7 plates compared to Blue Apron’s 4 family-inspired recipes.
Plated’s vegetables and meat arrived frozen, defeating the statement “fresh ingredients” on their box. I understand that it has been -0 degrees this weekend and this may have played a role in freezing the ingredients. Plated’s ingredients were helpfully divided into different bags, one for each recipe. The meat was packaged separately. Blue Apron’s larger ingredients were packed individually in the box, but the smaller items were divided in brown paper bag’s, cleverly labeled “(Recipe’s Name) Knick Knacks”.
Of the six different dishes I experienced from both companies, Blue Apron triumphed over Plated as far as unique ingredients are concerned. Blue Apron exposed me to king trumpet mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, miso paste, farro, garlic chives, mustard greens, okra and collard greens. Although I have tasted some of these vegetables/grains in other dishes, they were certainly new to my kitchen. Plated utilized more common ingredients like carrots, onions, eggs, garlic, ginger, pork, beef and rice. I was actually surprised that Plated required you to have an egg at home for the Quinoa Stir Fry, whereas Blue Apron provided the egg for you in its Mushroom Ramen recipe. Plated does offer some specialty ingredients, like quail, but that was on another week’s menu.
It is notable that Blue Apron focuses on attention to detail, as specific ingredients and cooking methods are utilized for garnishes. For the three meals purchased from Plated, garnishes were not on the menu.
Blue Apron’s recipe cards are a better quality and more professional in appearance than Plated’s cards. Yet, both companies instruct the home cook with simple written directions coupled with accommodating photos. While the two give background information on the dish, Plated incorporates an additional “cooking tip” on each of their recipes.
The Final Say
If my opinion matters at all, I would say that Blue Apron has the upper hand in this challenge. They offer more affordable meals, as well as a free week of dishes for you to give to a friend. Their ingredients were fresh (not frozen) and somewhat exotic, focusing on garnishes for plating.
If you do not like the option of 3 random meals selected for you, then Plated is absolutely an ideal contender. With Plated you can choose your own meals, as long as you do it quick…before they’re sold out! Furthermore, we enjoyed all of the meals that were purchased from Plated, where we only fancied 1 out of 3 meals from Blue Apron (click to see photos).
With all that being said, my husband and I decided that we will not be partaking in food delivery services very often. There is no doubt that the convenience of having the food delivered to you is beneficial, yet for the amount of money and limited portions, we would rather look up interesting recipes ourselves and make a special trip to Wegmans on the weekend. If, however, there is a super exciting meal that I can not resist, I will not hesitate to utilize these services.