If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot (like, an unhealthy amount) of time connected to the digital world. Article sites, podcasts, Youtube; and that’s just what’s open on my browser at this exact moment. During that time, you might have noticed a lot of companies and services promoting their wares, over and over, until you know their websites by heart even if you don’t know what they do. I decided to add a new feature to the blog where I give this well-promoted services an actual shot, and see whether their goods live up to their hype.
For my first bite at the apple (Get it? It’s a food reference. Right… we haven’t gotten to the part where I tell you what I’m doing yet. My bad.) I decided to use Blue Apron. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid their ads across the internet then A) Tell me your secret and B) I’ll do a quick rundown. Basically how it works is that every week they send you a box of ingredients and recipes, promising delicious, easy to cook meals that are healthy, balanced, and so simple even a culinary dunce could handle them. I picked Blue Apron because it piqued my interest, and I felt it was one I could give some valid opinions on. While I’m nowhere near a real chef, I do cook frequently, watch Good Eats on repeat, and have at least a cursory understanding of food knowledge.
So, with the preamble out of the way, let’s dig in (GET IT?) to how it went.
Blue Apron does a really good job of telling you that shipping is free and you get one meal on the house with certain codes during their ads. What they’re a little less happy to divulge is the fact that every meal costs $20. On the smallest option, that’s 3 meals per week, meaning you’re shelling out $60 for things you have to cook.
I don’t know about y’all, but $20 can easily buy two people dinner down here (every meal is calculated to feed two people, so it’s $10 per person) and half the reason I cook is because it’s cheaper than eating out. This was a pretty big sticking point, but I had a code to knock $20 off thanks to How Did This Get Made, so I pushed on and ordered. The next week, I was sent a menu preview of what I’d be getting, and then a box full of shit showed up at my door. Credit where it’s due, the process was smooth and easy to get the goods, which for the price is pretty much what I’d be expecting. Now that I actually had the supplies, it was time to go to work.
I actually took some pictures of the first dish I cooked, in an effort to document the process. I’ll toss those in at the bottom of the blog, probably with some semi-funny captions, but first I want to talk about the actual cooking experience. Blue Apron says that any of their meals can be prepared in just an hour, I think, or at least the ads I heard did, and that’s probably true. Here’s the thing though: like I said, I cook a lot, so I am well-acquainted with doing prep work, and I still came in pretty close to that hour threshold every time. If I were a culinary novice, I highly doubt that would have been the case.
Also know that they while pretty much every ingredient (except olive oil, which they assume you have a shitload of) is included, Blue Apron makes some pretty bold assumptions about the tools you’ll have on hand. Of my three recipes, two of them required zesting a lemon and a lime, respectively. For those of you who don’t know, zesting a fruit is when you take off the colored, flavorful part of its peel (the zest) without getting the bitter white part (the pith). The instructions did try to walk me through getting the zest by peeling, but here’s the thing: that is really fucking hard to do. If you’re the kind of person who actually can get the zest from the pith by hand, then I guarantee you own a zester (basically a very small, handheld grater), which is what I used. Not a big deal for me, but a major pain if I didn’t already have some more than basic supplies.
Odd tasks aside, there is a pretty fair amount of prep work in these recipes, almost all of it chopping and dicing. The ads make it sound like you just throw shit in bags into a pot, but you do have to handle the knife work yourself. This, believe it or not, is actually a positive in my book. From the moment you cut, flavor only goes down, so doing the prep work just before cooking makes for a better overall meal, even if it does take a little longer.
The actual cooking part of all the recipes was very straightforward, nothing more complex than boiling or searing. At one point I had to make rice, which can be tough for people who haven’t done it before, but the instructions do a solid job of walking you through the steps precisely. Once or twice the needed time for compiling ingredients was tighter than I would have liked, but I always managed, so I guess they knew what they were doing.
The food was really good on every dish. Even on the steamed bun tacos with radish and cucumber kimchi slaw. I fucking hate both cucumbers and radishes, but damned if it didn’t help tie the dish together. On this point, I really have to tip my hat to Blue Apron; their dishes were well-balanced and flavorful. Then again, if I’d spent $10 to have someone with actual cooking skills prepare me something, that likely would have also been the case.
To me, how easy a service is to stop is almost as important as the service itself. The harder it is to cancel something, the less faith it shows me they have in what they’re doing. After all, good companies don’t need to rely on complicated cancellation policies to try and squeeze another week or so out of you. So, as part of my testing, I decided to see how hard it was to cancel Blue Apron.
This part pretty much tanked all the good will their flavor had built up. There’s no cancel option anywhere on the main site, only the option to suspend deliveries for the next month or so. After googling about, I found their cancellation page, which was on their site but not linked anywhere, only to discover they didn’t allow me to close my account with a click. Nope, I had to send them an actual e-mail requesting to cancel, after which they would send me a link to go through the process. Granted, it’s not making me call a phone number, but holy shit Blue Apron, that is a lot of pain in the ass.
Once I did the e-mail thing (because their cancellation policy alone made me want to leave) the link came quickly and it was relatively painless.
Overall, Blue Apron provides a neat service at a good quality, and I can understand why their prices are so high. For me, it isn’t worth it; I can just look up recipes and do the ingredient gathering myself. If you have different circumstances, then it might be a good investment.
But you also might want to invest in a damn zester.