Have you yearned to cook for yourself or your family, but are short on time or kitchen skills? A meal-kit delivery service can help by shipping you the recipes and exact amounts of ingredients you need to make home-cooked meals. The differences between the various companies who offer these services lie in features such as instruction clarity, ingredient quality, freshness, packaging, and maybe most importantly, the end product: Are you happy with the food you’ve made and what you’ve learned? Plated does relatively well in most of these areas, though Blue Apron, our Editors’ Choice, still holds the edge among the services we’ve tried.
Signup is quick and easy. You start by choosing the day you’d like to receive your boxes. Like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, delivery is available seven days a week. Plated says its boxes stay cold until midnight, so there’s no need to be home to receive the delivery. Once you enter your billing info, you select which kinds of meat you eat or whether you’re a vegetarian. Then, the recipes for your first box appear onscreen; you can swap out the meals for other choices.
Plated offers a lot of options for weekly meals, including one for two dinners per week for two people ($47.80 per week or $11.95 per serving, plus $7.95 shipping). Some services, such as Sun Basket, don’t offer anything comparable. All of Plated’s other options include shipping, and most combinations bring the per-serving cost down to $9.95. You can play around with the options on your account page to find out which works best for you. These per-serving prices are a bit higher than competitors like Blue Apron, which charges about $2 less for the most basic plan.
Dessert is an additional $8 ($4 per serving); none of the other services we tested offer this except for PeachDish, which occasionally has something sweet, like crepes, on its menu. If you add one dessert to Plated’s Two Dinners for Two plan, you qualify for free shipping. The cutoff date for any changes is six days ahead of your chosen delivery day.
We went with the Two Dinners for Two option. Plated supplies a whopping 20 recipes to choose from as well as two desserts. Based on your dietary preferences, it will suggest two recipes for you to start. Some recipes have labels such as Encore Recipe and Fast + Fun, and you can get an idea from the picture and the few listed ingredients whether it’s to your taste. Click on any recipe to get the full list of ingredients and required equipment.
After a bit of swapping, we went with the Ginger-Miso Long Life Noodles and Peruvian-Style Grilled Chicken for our first order, and Bok Choy Fried Rice and Broccolini Grilled Cheese for the second. Each recipe has a “story” that lists each shipment’s contents, what you need to supply, how much time you need to prepare and
The Plated Experience
We received the first box on the day promised. Like other services, there’s a lot of packaging. Plated uses environmentally friendly compostable jute instead of inflated plastic to cushion the box contents. Its website offers suggestions on how to recycle the other package components.
Also, like other services, Plated gives you large, colorful recipe cards that contain an ingredients list, preparation information, and tips, such as what to do with your meat if you don’t own a grill or an explainer on pepperoncini. Your recipes are also available online, in case you spill food all over the cards like we often do. Ingredients specific to a recipe are bagged together, which makes it easy to round them up when you’re ready to prepare the dish. In our delivery, some ingredients were already prepped, including shredded cheese and carrots, and two tiny pieces of ginger were packed separately, which was a little odd, but probably makes assembling the kits easier. Some recipes require just one tiny piece.
As someone who cooks a fair bit, we found the recipes easy to follow, and none took us longer than promised. Helpfully, the recipe cards include pictures of the chopped vegetables, so you know how thin to slice a shallot or how minced garlic is supposed to look. The only trouble we had was finding and discarding the whole garlic cloves and head of ginger from the Long Life noodle dish before serving, but they were easy enough to find while eating the dish.
All of the recipes were delicious. Some were comfort food with a twist, such as grilled cheese and noodles in miso broth. Others were an excellent spin on a takeout dish, such as fried rice that wasn’t greasy. The portions were generous. We were leery that the broccoli (which Plated had to swap in for broccolini) would fall out of the grilled cheese, but the recipe suggested placing a medium pan or a plate on top of the sandwich while it was cooking, which kept everything intact.
After testing, we canceled the service simply by going to our account setting page and unsubscribing. You can reactivate your subscription at any time.
Help and Extras
Plated has an FAQ page on its website that does a fair job of answering questions about your account, what to do with the packaging, how to skip a week, and so on. The service also offers an app that lets you manage your orders and view your recipes. And it has a related blog, Morsel, with recipes and tips—cooking newbies may want to check there for “Knife Skills: How to Slice, Dice, and Mince Like a Chef” and other posts.
Customer service is omnipresent and effective. Online chat is available throughout the website, and you can call or email for help seven days a week. Plated even sends an email before your first delivery, letting you know what to expect, to clear room in your fridge, and to cook seafood first, which is helpful. And of course, Plated is on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks, accompanied by many, many photos of food.
A Tasty Plate—With Dessert
We like that Plated offers an option for dessert. And the service goes out of its way to let you know how much it supports locally sourced, organic, and otherwise good-for-you ingredients. We also like the jute packaging, which makes us feel a bit less like a climate despoiler. The option to order just two recipes at a time is another bonus, though the $12 price per meal for that plan is on the expensive side. The meals are tasty and the recipes easy to follow, and we appreciate the vegetarian and vegan options offered. All around it’s a great service, but Blue Apron remains our Editors’ Choice with its helpful app, which has video tutorials on a variety of cooking techniques.