Home Chef aims to corner its share of the meal kit delivery market by offering customers plenty of options, whether it’s meals delivered per week, portions per meal, or customizable proteins.
Combine this “as you wish” ethos with recipes that feel familiar and not challenging, and Home Chef seems like it’s the service for cooks of common denominator. We tested it to see if this middle-of-the-road approach resulted in delicious, fresh meals that are worth the price, or if a TV dinner would be a step up. Read on to find out if Home Chef hits a home run.
Home Chef Overview
Home Chef meal kits make it easy to feed a crowd. Subscribers can feed up to six people per meal, unlike most meal kit subscription services that limit servings to four. And the protein option for almost every recipe can be customized. The recipes are not trendsetting, but they are familiar, easy to follow, delicious, and some can be ready in 15 minutes.
How It Works: Sign Up In Minutes
Home Chef is a meal kit subscription service. Customers sign up for a plan based on the number of meals they want per week and the number of servings they want of each meal, then let the company choose the meals or choose from the weekly selection. The kits contain almost all the ingredients to prepare a meal, in addition to the recipe, and customers cook them at home. Signing up is easy, as is making changes, skipping weeks, or canceling.
Like most meal kit subscription services, Home Chef delivers meals once a week in an insulated cardboard box. We could choose between only two delivery days, Wednesday and Friday, and the box could arrive at any time. Ours came via FedEx in the late afternoon and was left on the porch. We didn’t have to sign. We waited until 6pm to open the box and the ingredients were still cold.
Home Chef Meal Choice – Many Ways to Customize
Choosing recipes is easy. Regardless of which plan two, four, or six people choose, everyone gets the same 14 different dinners to choose from, at least three of which are vegetarian. There are also Three-Minute Lunch” options that are $7.99 per serving and require no cooking. The company says there are 26 food options, but that’s a bit of a stretch. It sounds like you’re taking into account all possible meat customizations.
So what about those meat customizations? If you select a recipe with a “Customize It” symbol and most do, you can change the default protein. Just click the Customize It link and a dropdown menu will appear with other protein options that the chefs think will work with the dish. Some options cost extra, like doubling the meat, switching to organic, or adding meat to a vegetarian recipe.
Home Chef premium meals feature fancy ingredients and cost a bit more. Bistro Filet and Truffle Frites are $19.95 per serving, basically what you might pay at a restaurant. But most recipes are designed to make weeknight dinner easy and not fancy. Recipes labeled Home Chef Express are ready in 15 minutes or less. Recipes labeled Oven Ready mean that all you have to do is bake the dishes in their oven-safe packaging. Most of the dishes follow a fairly predictable format. “Gourmet” ingredients like some other services we’ve tried.
Symbols in recipes provide information such as calorie-conscious and vegetarian. Clicking on a recipe brings up all the details so you know what you’re getting into before you select it, including allergen and nutrition information, prep and cook time, skill level, and spice level. If you want the service to choose your meals for you, you can set your food preferences when you sign up and you can change them at any time in the Flavor Profile section, so you don’t get an ingredient you don’t like.
- Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Penne Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes that we “customize” with boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Summer Salmon Tostadas with Corn Sauce and Queso Fresco
- Enchilada Pulled Pork Skillet with Lime Cream a Home Chef Express Recipe
Supporting Materials: Recipe Cards, Apps, and Online Bonus Recipes
The Home Chef recipe cards are very informative and easy to follow. They even include a box with cooking instructions and internal temperatures for the alternate proteins that were available through the Customize It menu. The company even supplied a three-ring binder with our first order, where we could store the punched recipe cards in case that we would like to use them at another time.
All recipes, plus many additional recipes not available as kits, are searchable and downloadable on the website. The Home Chef blog includes articles like recipe roundups, ingredient highlights, and how-to guides. However, it is not very frequently updated and the short instructional videos are quite basic and minimal.
The app is very simple and straightforward. The main page just shows each week’s recipes as a slider carousel, with options to add or change just like you would on the website. The My Cookbook tab stores recipes that we cooked or bookmarked. The Account tab allowed us to change settings, pause the account, or send a message to customer service.
Packaging: Practical And Reusable
Home Chef’s packaging is a bit plastic, but at least some of it can be reused. All kits come with a couple of gel packs in a large cardboard box lined with recycled fiber insulation in a plastic bag. The box, of course, is curbside recyclable and the insulation can be recycled anywhere clothing can be recycled. But our city doesn’t allow curbside plastic film recycling, so we had to throw the plastic bags in the trash.
We appreciated that some of the products were loose in the bags, instead of also being wrapped in unnecessary plastic. And some ingredients, like black beans, came in nifty screw-top plastic containers that we washed and saved for other uses.
The Cooking Process: Fast And Optimized
The Home Chef Express dish was labeled “easy” and it really was a no-brainer. The other two were labeled “intermediate” but we found them quite easy even for beginners. The recipe cards were easy to follow and there were no complicated techniques or vague instructions. We used a minimal amount of dishes, usually a skillet and pot or baking sheet, however we did have to use about four or five small prep bowls to hold the ingredients we cut up.
The meals came with all the ingredients plus olive oil, salt and pepper. We found that the cooking times were accurate and there was enough food for four people, although we didn’t have any leftovers.
Flavor, Freshness And Quality: Pleases The Crowd
The creamy spinach and artichoke vegetarian pasta we tried was bright and flavorful with cream cheese and Parmesan in the sauce, plus sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
The Home Chef Express dish we tried, a pan of pulled pork enchilada with corn kernels, black beans and lemon sour cream, came together in minutes, as the only prep work it required was slicing tomatoes and green onions. .and the kids in the group loved it.
The most complicated dish was the Summer Salmon Tostadas. This time the corn was still on the cob and we had to peel and cut the kernels ourselves. The dish only took 30 minutes to make and the results were fantastic.
The key was the flavorful mojito lime seasoning that was sprinkled over the cooked and flaked salmon. The spicy, sour and salty fish paired with toasted corn and tomato sauce, cotija cheese and chipotle mayonnaise on a crispy flour tortilla was wonderful. Of course, two tostadas per person didn’t feel like a complete meal on their own, so we added a salad.
In general, the ingredients were fresh and in good condition. One ear of corn had some discoloration at the base of the kernels, but it tasted good.
What we like
- Very flexible plans can suit even large families
- Many options to swap, omit, or double the protein
- Delicious and easy recipes
- shipping is usually free
- Some of the containers are practical and reusable
What we don’t like
- Only three vegetarian options per week
- No options for restricted diets such as vegan, ketogenic and allergy free
- Organic, wild-caught, and antibiotic-free meats cost a bit more
- Shipping is not free for plans of two people and two meals
Home Chef is ideal for anyone who craves familiar yet tasty recipes and wants more control over their meals than most other meal kit services.
Customers who want organic, wild-caught, antibiotic-free meats will pay several extra dollars per serving, which is more than they would if they subscribed to other companies that use these premium meats by default.
There is no wine pairing option with Home Chef, but customers can add a rotating selection of smoothies for $4.95 per serving, or select the five-minute lunch options for $7.99 per serving.
The website also features a Marketplace page with Amazon links to cookware they recommend.
The FAQ page is informative, searchable and answers all of our questions.
There is no chat service, but customers can fill out a form online or in the app to reach a representative or call during business hours Central Time.
Making Changes And Cancellation: Without Problems
Because Home Chef doesn’t offer a ton of different niche plans, it’s very easy to make changes. After selecting the recipes that looked good and hitting “Save,” we clicked “Details” to bring up that week’s order summary. There we could change the serving amounts and even the delivery day, and see how much extra money we were spending by customizing a recipe with a more expensive protein. If we change our mind, we just click Delete on the main menu page and hit Save again to update the order.
A button at the bottom of each week’s menu page allowed us to skip that week’s delivery. Click another button to cancel. On the account page, we may click the “Pause” button to cancel our subscription indefinitely. To start over, we just had to log in and click “reactivate”. Clicking the “Pause” button also brings up the option to change the subscription frequency to bi-monthly or monthly, or pause for a specific period of time and choose a specific date to restart.
Any changes must be made by noon Central Time on the Friday before the scheduled delivery date.
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