An Experienced Cook Tries Blue Apron And Gave Us His Honest Opinion

 

Blue Apron is everywhere. For the last few years and an ever growing tide of my friends have tried it and everyone has good things to say. The company makes it clear in all their marketing that the meals are delicious and can be cooked easily and quickly by anyone. They stress the value of the service based on the quality of ingredients and cost. I’ve been cooking for myself for a long time and my approach to Blue Apron has always been “can’t you just get all of that stuff at the grocery store?” So when I was given the opportunity to review the service I jumped at the chance. I’ve also wondered how blue apron pricing compares to that of a local grocery store.  The box hit my doorstep and I immediately opened it and took an inventory of what was inside. I felt it was due diligence to compare the contents to what you would find at my local supermarket.  The box contained recipes for three meals and the raw ingredients necessary to make them. Seeing them all at once made it easy to break it down into a shopping list. I chose the shrimp rolls meal to do a price comparison and this is how it broke down.

Sweet potatoes – .99

Garlic – .60

Cucumber – .47

Dill – 2.49

Celery – .25

Chili – 1.75

Lemon – .79

Shrimp – 5.61

Vinegar – .62

Mustard – 3.00

Buns – 1.75

Total – 18.32

 

The Blue Apron price for this meal is 19.98 which makes the grocery store only 1.66 cheaper. It’s also worth noting that my prices listed above are for the exact amounts used in the recipe. I did the math. The grocery bill for this meal, in reality, would be quite a bit higher considering that you would have to buy a whole jar of mustard, not just 4oz., or a whole pack of hot dog buns, not just 2. The blueapron meal provides you with exactly the right amount of ingredients which is a big plus. A USDA report in 2014 states that “ERS estimates that 31 percent or 133 billion pounds of the 430 billion pounds of the edible and available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in the United States in 2010 went uneaten”. All of the Blue Apron recipes have several different fresh vegetables and I’ve noticed often when I’m cooking for myself that I end up with far more veggies than I need for the recipe and often they end up going bad before I can use them in another dish.

 

I thought it was also important to take note of the 40 minutes or less claim in actual practice. My meals clocked in at 28 minutes for the shrimp, 37 minutes for the chicken, and exactly 40 minutes for the steak. Like I said before I’ve done a lot of cooking and have a kitchen properly stocked with the all the necessary dishes, cutting surfaces, and bowls needed for these recipes. I also have a fairly expensive and well-maintained knife that I’m pretty adept with at this point. So when a meal takes me 40 minutes to prepare I can see how it might take a person just learning how to cook a lot longer. One thing that would help to mitigate that is to read the entire instruction card first. Blue Apron Recipes contain instructions detailing how several different parts of the meal can be prepared at the same time, and if you just start at the top you might miss out on some efficiency. For instance, there might be three different places where you’ll be chopping vegetables, and if you did them all together you save yourself a lot of time. It’s worth noting that the time estimates for cooking seemed a bit conservative, particularly on the chicken. The instruction card said to cook the chicken on medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on both sides. This was not anywhere close enough for the chicken to be cooked through. I thought, while reading the instructions, that cook time seemed a little short so I checked it with a thermometer at the recommended cook time and the internal temp was only about 120 degrees, it should be 165.

What Is Blue Apron Anyway?

Blue Apron above everything else provides meals. So I think the most important part of this review is how do the meals taste. Let’s take them one at a time.

First Blue Apron Review: Shrimp Rolls With Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Quick Pickles

The first meal I cooked was shrimp rolls with roasted sweet potatoes and quick pickles. This meal was the easiest of all three because of how easy the side dishes were and how quickly raw shrimp cooks. The sweet potatoes are meant to go in the oven and roast while the rest of the meal is being cooked. They are simple enough in that they just need tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Full disclosure I’ve done these a million times and they are WAY better when you add a pinch of smoked paprika, which I did. I have never done a quick pickle before, but the process was very simple and I was really surprised how well the dill and vinegar flavor infused into the pickles in such a short time. I will definitely be making these again which is another nice perk of Blue Apron. Everyone I talk to who have used the service, even if they don’t use it anymore, says that it’s worth it just for how much you expand your cooking repertoire. Finally, the shrimp is a quick fry in a pan with olive oil for 3 or 4 minutes, super simple. Then it’s tossed in a sauce made of lemon juice and mustard with a little celery and hot pepper. This meal was delicious. Everything worked very well together. The piquant flavor of the pickles really set off the mellow sweetness of the potatoes and shrimp. Shrimp is probably my least favorite of all shellfish because of the blandness of the meat itself, but the creamy mustard combined with the heat from the pepper left me wanting more when it was finished.

 

Second Blue Apron Review: Seared Chicken and Tomatillo Salsa

My second meal was seared chicken & tomatillo salsa. I was not as excited about this meal. The chicken to veggie ratio seemed a bit off and there’s nothing I dislike more than having a delicious portion of one thing and then something else that I feel I have to get through before I can enjoy it.  This meal was probably the most straightforward to cook, simply cook the rice, dice the veggies, cook the chicken, then saute the diced veggies in the pan after the chicken is finished. As I said before the chicken needed more time than was suggested on the Blue Apron card but not so much that I felt I was rushing to finish in under 40 minutes. I did find the pan that I had cooked the chicken in to be a little dry for sauteing the veggies, so I deglazed with a little white wine, but water would have probably worked just as well. This is perhaps a step that should be added to the instructions. I don’t think there’s any way you could cook that chicken to completion and have enough moisture left in the pan. My notions of how this meal would taste could not have been more wrong. It was probably the most overall enjoyable meal of the three, and that’s saying something. They were all delicious. I was worried that it would taste mostly like a pile of vegetables, but the tomatillo salsa and the sauteed veggies made the chicken sing, just the right amount of vinegary sweetness. It surprised me that the combination of flavors in the vegetables totally eclipsed the chicken which basically became a pleasant side dish to the such a savory mix. I actually cooked this meal for lunch so I was the only one eating it. The leftovers even kept surprisingly well in the refrigerator and I enjoyed it the next day as well.

 

Final Blue Apron Review: Chile Butter Steak With Parmesan And Kale

The final Blue Apron meal was chile butter steak with parmesan potatoes and kale. This meal was simple to prep and make but of the three it took the longest clocking in at exactly 40 minutes. The potatoes were made in a similar way to the sweet potatoes from the first meal, but I really liked the addition of the parmesan cheese, it seemed to add the extra layer of interest that the sweet potatoes were missing in the first meal. The steaks were flank steaks so they were thin and fairly lean, but still very flavorful. The instructions were to just season with salt and pepper and sear them in a cast-iron skillet. This is usually the preferred method for flank steaks. Anecdotally, I don’t know a lot of people who are learning to cook who have cast iron cookware, but I don’t think they would cook up as nicely as they did in stainless or non-stick. After the steaks were cooked the instructions called for wilting the kale in the same pan with a little lemon juice and some coarsely chopped garlic. I have never been a big fan of wilted greens but the combination of the peppery flavor of the kale and the tart combination of the citric and garlic was superb. The only thing I found disappointing about this meal was the chili butter. I’m a fan of spicy food, but I found the butter mellowed out the chili such that it didn’t add the layer of interest that I was hoping for, and thus it just added a little extra fat to a steak that was already flavorful enough.

Final Thoughts: Blue Apron Cost vs Buying At The Grocery Store

So in the end, blue apron exceeded my expectations and even surprised me to a certain degree. The cost of the food is basically the same as buying it fresh in the grocery store, it comes directly to your door, the recipes were interesting without being overly fancy or complex, and they don’t take an exorbitant amount of time to prepare. I think anyone whose schedule is pretty settled and doesn’t find themselves running out for dinner with friends on a regular basis to try it. If you’re the type to meet friends out for dinner most evenings this isn’t for you, mostly because it will become something that you’re tied down to doing or you’ll end up throwing away some really beautiful ingredients, and be missing out on some superb meals. The company also misses out on advertising one of the greatest benefits of the service, the skills you gain by using it, and that’s something that sticks with you even if you don’t continue the service. A little time with Blue Apron and even a non-experienced cook will have a bag full of tricks that they can reach into anytime they want to impress friends or family with their cooking prowess.

The Kitchen Advisor
 

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