Thursday, August 1, 2013

Blue Apron Review

      As most people who follow my blog or know me in real life know, I love cooking. I've always enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes and I make homemade meals for my family at least six nights a week typically. But as I've gotten more pregnant (you know, bigger, obviously I can't get more pregnant), finding the time to plan meals, grocery shop, and then stand in the kitchen for near to an hour cooking has started to wear on me. So when I recently had the opportunity to try and review the ready-to-prepare gourmet meal subscription Blue Apron, I was over the moon! You can ask Tim. I doubt I have ever been this excited to try a subscription box before. 
      Blue Apron describes itself as a "new concept in grocery delivery, built around incredible cooking experiences. We offer a once-a-week subscription service where we deliver all the fresh ingredients you need to make three meals, in exactly the right proportions. We've designed our service to teach you fun new recipes, save prep time and also reduce unnecessary waste. By letting us shop for you, we can bring you fresher and higher-quality food than you can get on your own in the supermarket, and for better prices!"
        The name Blue Apron comes from the age-old French tradition of young chefs wearing blue aprons while they master the art of cooking. In America, master chefs such as Julia Child and Thomas Keller have adopted the blue apron to symbolize the importance of lifelong learning. The company is named Blue Apron to remind that amateur and expert chefs alike can always learn something new.  
       To subscribe, you choose the type of plan you want (meat and seafood or vegetarian) and the number of people you want to feed. Your package of ingredients and recipes will be delivered for free on the same day every week (we received the two-person box and had enough for both of us and our two-year-old Owen). You can cancel any time before the weekly cut-off , which is typically 6-7 days before your next delivery. You don't get to chose your recipes each week, but each one is designed to be healthy (between 500 and 700 calories a serving) and delicious. And preparation and cooking time should take less than 35 minutes. The price of the subscription is $9.99 per person, per meal. Our box was worth $59.94. 
          My favorite thing about this subscription was the quality and variety of the meals. I get bored making the same recipes over and over and I was really pleased that I received three recipes that I've never tried before, each containing a different meat and other ingredients. There was hardly any overlap in ingredients and each meal was completely unique and delicious in its own way. Obviously taste is most important in a subscription like this (otherwise why would you buy it?), but the convenience is another really great benefit of this subscription. I didn't have to spend any time scouring the Internet for new recipes, making a grocery list, or driving all the way to town to grocery shop with a toddler. And they pack practically everything you need for the recipes. The only ingredients they assume you have on hand are salt, pepper, and olive oil.  
      My box arrived last Saturday afternoon and I quickly had Tim bring it in so that I could open it. The box was rather large and super heavy. Typical deliveries are made Thursday through Sunday, though additional delivery windows like Monday and Tuesday and evening deliveries are available in some areas. Delivery is included in the price of your subscription. 
          The Blue Apron meals come packaged in a huge cardboard box protected and cooled by insulated packing materials and frozen gel ice packs. Blue Apron uses special biodegradable insulated liners that are more eco-friendly than the foam that many other perishable products are shipped with. I think even in the summer heat, this packaging would keep the food nice and cool until you come home from work and bring it in and refrigerate it. Though in ordering, you can choose a delivery time that works best for you, including evening deliveries in some areas. Blue Apron is working on being able to delivery nationwide, but currently is available in CT, DC, DE, IL, IN, KY, MA, ME, MD, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, VA, VT, and WV. They also deliver to some parts of the following states: AL, AR, GA, IA, MI, MO, MS, NC, SC, and WI. 
       Inside the box was also a letter from Blue Apron, listing the recipes for the week and some helpful tips for preparation. The company was also offering a giveaway for its subscribers to win cooking supplies. 
The three recipes for the week are presented on full page thick colorful cards. The front of each page includes a photo and description of the meal and a list and photo of the ingredients. I used this to quickly sort through the food and group items needed for each recipe to store in the fridge together. This made it easier for me once I was ready to cook, to just quickly grab the ingredients for that recipe.  
The backs of the recipe cards featured the instructions for cooking the meal with step-by-step photos. I really liked how they detailed how to prep each of the items at the beginning, which helped me cut down on cooking time and stay organized while cooking. The recipes were very easy to follow.  
All of the ingredients were layered carefully in the box to prevent anything from being squashed. Each ingredient was in a labeled plastic pouch, bottle, or bag. With the exception of one item (I'll discuss that later), everything was super fresh and lovely. I was especially pleased with the appearance of the meat. 
It was so much fun pulling out each of the ingredients and sorting them with which recipe they belonged to. 

Like I mentioned earlier, Blue Apron assumes you have basically nothing in your kitchen. A bag labeled knick-knacks had all the condiments and spices you need for the recipes. 

The knick-knacks in my bag included soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, Korean chili paste, sesame seeds, garlic, and even butter, sugar and mayonnaise. I couldn't believe they didn't just assume you had sugar in your house, but was impressed that they included even common ingredients like these just in case. 

I laid out all the ingredients on my kitchen counter and then sorted them based on what was needed for each recipe. Then I stored them in the fridge. Afterwards, came the hard choice of deciding which recipe to make first. The three recipes that were featured in my box (from the week of July 22) were: Beef Bibimbap, Salmon Burgers and Corn on the Cob with Basil Butter, and Chicken Paillards topped with Endive, Radishes, and Haricots Verts. I was very pleased with the variety in the meals and they all looked super delicious. 
Each of the recipes included foods that we don't normally eat and I was surprised at how adventurous this box had us eating. Particularly my husband and my toddler son. If you are super picky, a box like this would probably not be the best idea (particularly if you don't like seafood), but I was really pleased at how delicious every recipe was even when using ingredients I don't typically enjoy, for instance mushrooms. 
  To better be able to review each meal, I made them exactly as the recipe instructed (except in the case of the recipe where one of my ingredients was bad), though you could always adjust things based on personal preferences. 

Here is my review of each of the recipes we made:
1. Beef Bibimbap: Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish whose name arose from the Korean word for "mixed rice." This delicious meal traditionally consists of white rice topped with sauteed vegetables, marinated meat, hot chili, sesame oil, and other condiments. These ingredients are then all mixed thoroughly along with gochujang, a sweet-spicy soybean-based chili paste. Sometimes bibimbap comes in a sizzling hot stone bowl called a dolsot. 
I began by getting all my ingredients together. I love how everything is labeled. Well, except the carrot. But if you can't recognize a carrot, then you've got bigger problems. The beef was super fresh and sliced beautifully to be really tender. I used their tip to slice the meat after sticking it in the freezer for a few minutes so that it was really cold and it helped me get really nice thin slices. The only additional item I needed to make the meal was olive oil. 

I prepped all my ingredients by doing all the chopping and slicing and marinating first while waiting for the water for the rice to boil. This recipe exposed us to many ingredients that we don't typically use or have never eaten before, including shitake mushrooms, bok choy, and bean sprouts. This meal probably took me the longest to make because of all the chopping, but even with pausing to take photos and all that, it took me well under an hour to make. 

The finished product was so delicious and flavorful. I was surprised to like every part of it, including the mushrooms, which I am generally not a fan of. The gochuchang was a little too spicy for Owen, but since it was mainly on the bok choy, I just let him eat everything else. And eat everything else, he did! Who has a toddler that eats bean sprouts and mushrooms? I do! 

This was probably both mine and Tim's favorite recipe from the week. It was so different from what I normally make and really delicious. I typically avoid Asian recipes because they include so many specialized ingredients that I don't normally have on hand (rice vinegar, sesame oil, etc.) so this was really fun to be able to make. And I would definitely make it again! 

2. Salmon Burgers and Corn on the Cob with Basil Butter: This easy recipe for succulent salmon burgers requires no breadcrumbs or binders for the mix. Using freshly chopped salmon and cooking the burgers slowly over low heat keeps them moist and juicy. To get the nice, round shape of the patties, we used a ring mold. You can experiment with shapes by using your hands, a cookie cutter, or a small dish or bowl. 

I started once again by gathering all my ingredients together. Check out that salmon! It was so fresh and beautiful. And way better than what I normally buy at our local Kroger. The only ingredient that I needed in addition to what came in the box was olive oil and salt and pepper. 

This recipe was the only one where I ran into a problem with the freshness of the ingredients. All of the ingredients were fresh and delicious, except the shallot for the salmon burgers. It was mushy and smelled bad. So I substituted a very little bit of onion for them in the recipe though onion typically has a stronger flavor so I didn't use much. I think they would have been extra delicious with the shallot. 

I had no problems shaping the salmon patties or having them stay together. And they browned up beautifully, though I did turn the heat of my stove up to medium to cook them because they were cooking way too slow on low. They still turned out great though. 

The salmon burgers were our second favorite meal from the week. They tasted so fresh and  the combination of flavors was so delicious and summery. It was so awesome to have seafood that didn't taste super fishy. I normally have problems finding good seafood in our area so this was a real treat. We will definitely try to make this recipe again sometime if I can find some good salmon at our grocery store. The corn was also delicious, since I don't really bother putting anything special on corn other than butter and salt and pepper. This was a perfect summer recipe. 

I was super impressed with my son Owen. He ate up the part of my salmon burger that I shared with him and really seemed to enjoy it. He also ate some tomato on the side and some of my corn, which I cut off the cob for him. 

3. Chicken Paillards topped with Endive, Radishes, & Haricots Verts: Belgian endive is a prize vegetable not just because of its smooth, crunchy leaves and unique tangy flavor, but also because it's one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow. The two-step process involves growing the roots in a field, then growing the leaves in a dark cellar. Like white asparagus that's also grown in the dark, endives maintain their pale color due to lack of sunlight. 
This was another fresh and summery meal. We preferred the other two recipes, but this one was still very good. It was definitely the quickest recipe to prepare and took us less than 30 minutes to make. Again, the only additional ingredients we needed were olive oil and salt and pepper. 

I loved the color of this dish, and while I probably won't win any awards for plating, I thought it looked really appetizing. I was also surprised at how delicious the chicken was considering it was just seasoned with salt and pepper. The dressing for the vegetables was also very simple, but really brought out the flavors of the individual ingredients. 

Again, Owen happily ate most of this dish. He wasn't a big fan of the radishes, which are a bit spicy, but he did eat most of everything else. 

      Overall, I was so very pleased with Blue Apron. The convenience of such a service is so very fantastic and I think it would be especially perfect for someone who works a lot or for a new mother who doesn't have the time or energy to leave the house with a toddler and a newborn, but would still love to prepare healthy meals at home for her family. (Sound like anyone you know?) Or it would just be fun for anyone who loves cooking and trying new recipes. Particularly if they are an adventurous eater. I loved trying the new recipes (and new foods) and being able to skip going to the grocery store and save time by not having to plan what we ate for the weekend was so great. 
       The only negative I can see to ordering from this company would be if you are incredibly picky about what foods you like or if you have any food allergies. At the moment, they don't offer any plans that take allergies into account or specific food preferences like for people who don't eat seafood, but like other meats and don't want the vegetarian option. They do plan to expand their options in the future though. The price is also a little high, but considering you are paying for convenience and the fact that shipping is included in getting that huge, heavy box to you, it really isn't a bad deal at all. 
      If you are interested in trying any of the above recipes, Blue Apron has them listed on their website. This is another great feature of Blue Apron. Here is a link to the page with their recipes. And if you want to sign up for Blue Apron and get 30 percent off your first order, you can click HERE. That would make the box that I received just $41.96! 

This box was provided to me by Blue Apron free of charge for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. All thoughts, opinions and photos in this post are my own and are 100 percent honest.


  1. Great review. Thanks

  2. Thanks so much for this review! I'm also pregnant with a toddler at home, so this was a gem to read

  3. My husband and I signed up for Blue Apron meals. I'm really looking forward to receiving our first box.

  4. I just signed up and was so happy to see your post with pictures. We aren't picky and I feel like I'm stuck in a rut recipe wise so I cannot wait to try new things in the kitchen. I can't wait to get my box now!