Office Bites: Home Chef Food Box Review
Can one food box turn three clumsy kitchen goons into bonafide Home Chefs? Can our foodie freshman fry chicken without burning an entire house down? What the heck is rémoulade, anyway? We give you the answers to these questions and more this month as the clean plate posse assembles to test out a food box favorite — Home Chef!
As for setup, Home Chef was relatively quick and painless. The site gives you a moderate degree of control over the food you get shipped each week with the system’s personal “taste profile” that you complete upon sign-up. No pressure, though. If any of your preferences change, you can easily edit each selection at any time.
The taste profile contains options that you can sort into one of three categories: Like, Don’t Like, or Don’t Mind. These options include food group preferences, like beef, poultry, and vegetables, and dietary restrictions, like gluten-free, vegetarian, nuts, dairy, shellfish, spice and more.
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Home Chef’s box manager allows you to select which weeks out of the month you will receive your selected shipment and also gives you the option to indefinitely pause your shipments if you plan on being out of pocket for longer than a month (or if you would like a break from the service). With that being said, pausing your account is also the only option close enough to cancelling the order. This forces you to keep your account active, even if you decide it’s not for you. Fair warning!
After setting up preliminary preferences in our user profile, we were sent two recipes: N’awlins Shrimp Po Boy and Farmhouse Fried Chicken.
**Ease of Use: **Overall, the delivery and organization of the Home Chef box was definitely a step above what’s expected in a typical food box.
On Time: This box arrived as scheduled and was packed for protection, giving us plenty of time to get the ingredients home and stored for future cooking. Having had prior issues with late food boxes, we had already prepared for the worst, but thankfully we didn’t need our plan B.
Future Planning: Your first box comes with a nifty Home Chef recipe binder that includes introductory information on common cooking utensils and terminology used in the Home Chef recipes — super useful for beginners! The box also includes pre-hole-punched recipe sheets for the meals you’ll be cooking that week. Over time, the idea is that you’ll collect and store all of your Home Chef recipes in one place, creating a Mega Cookbinder of Doom or similar.
The recipe cards provided easy step-by-step instructions that included visuals and a list of all cooking tools needed. This might not seem like a big deal, but it was super helpful knowing how many plates and what kinds of equipment were needed from the start, rather than darting around the kitchen in panic as your burning food screams, “YOU NEEDED TWO PLATES, PATSY!”
Each recipe card comes with a section for nutritional facts and cooking information, including estimated prep and cook time, how many days the ingredients need to be cooked within, spiciness and the degree of cooking difficulty. This gives you a pretty quick snapshot of what to expect from the recipe as far as dietary needs goes, as well as how much effort you may have to put in.
Don’t get me wrong, this box had an overwhelming number of positives that easily made it one of the best we’ve seen. However, there were still a few features that could’ve been tweaked for a better user experience.
While the recipe cards themselves were incredibly organized, the actual ingredients were slightly less so. The ingredients for both recipes weren’t separated within the box, which doesn’t sound like an issue — until it is. Of course we have eyeballs and can tell the difference between a cut of chicken and a pack of shrimp. Two seemingly identical breading mixes though? Not so much. This unfortunately lead to a small mix up, which, in my opinion, only made the fried shrimp taste better. But an error is an error, and it could’ve easily been avoided with some simple labeling or separation.
Also, it should be noted that the box didn’t come with every ingredient needed for each recipe. Home Chef assumes that certain ingredients are a given in any home, such as salt, pepper and apparently olive oil. So, yeah, be prepared for that.
Considering our recipes were pre-selected for us (and it was our first time), we expected our options to be a little more Baby Chef. To that, Home Chef laughed and threw us into the Iron Chef flames with their “Farmhouse Fried Chicken” recipe. This was definitely in the expert realm of dish favorites and nearly left us with grease welts and a burnt kitchen.
In addition to chicken armageddon, we were also expected to do math. (Ugh!) But, in all seriousness, having to stop and convert milliliters to ounces is such a drag, especially when those conversions could have been provided. Besides, if your recipe is going to list ingredient amounts in one unit, shouldn’t you also measure your own ingredients that way, Home Chef?
I’m going to speak for the entire squad on this one: Home Chef packed a serious punch in the flavor department. Being a trio of sassy southerners who know a thing or two about good food, we thought for sure that Home Chef’s “N’awlins Po Boy” and “Farmhouse Fried Chicken” recipes would only result in sad recreations. Hot damn, we were wrong.
For starters, I was completely unaware of what actually goes into a rémoulade sauce, so shout out to Home Chef for finally teaching me by forcing me to mix my own. (It’s made of mayonnaise, pickle relish and Cajun seasoning, by the way.) Secondly, why are we not putting this sauce on everything? Because it deserves it, and we deserve it.
Despite our slight ingredient mishap with the shrimp breading, our pan fried prawns still came out hot and exceptionally tasty. (Honestly, I think our error made the recipe better.) The fried chicken recipe gave us a little bit more trouble as first timers, but even with that considered, the chicken came out crunchy and golden, just as God intended. Popeyes would be proud.
The Final Verdict
Overall, Home Chef gave us a pretty awesome cooking and eating experience, despite a few bumps in the road. It’s definitely a sound food box option for anyone dipping their toes in the kitchen for the first time, and provides you with lots of opportunities to learn simple mixes and techniques you can carry over to other recipes. Based on practicality and tastiness, this box gets a solid 8.5/10.
Give it a try, and let us know what you think!