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Can These Five Gourmet Meal Kits Beat a Home-Cooked Dinner?

We tested five new services that promise to help you make a fresh, fast, foolproof gourmet meal in your own kitchen.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby

Illustration: Tara Jacoby
 

Here’s the pitch: All the fixings for restaurant-caliber meals delivered to your door, along with the promise that even the unseasoned home chef will ace the execution.

So are gourmet meal delivery services truly the ticket to dinnertime delight?

Here’s a taste of the offerings from five recently launched companies.

 

  WHO’S BEHIND IT WHAT YOU GET CAVEAT COST
(delivery included)
BOTTOM LINE
Most Family Friendly
Hello Fresh
hellofresh.com
A two-year-old European company A box stocked with ingredients for meals kind of like Mom used to make (balsamic glazed steak with zucchini; penne pasta with chicken meatballs). Photo directions help you cook. You must sign up for a subscription, which—while easily paused or canceled—is offputting. $8.28 to $11.50 a serving; six-serving weekly minimum Meh. Points awarded for stellar customer service, but time savings are minimal.
Most Delicious
Madison & Rayne
madisonandrayne.com
A six-month-old local biz. Josh Jones, who served as chef de cuisine at the former fine dining restaurant Spring, creates the meals. Superfresh seasonal produce and meats come from local farms like Slagel and Mick Klug, with directions for preparing sophisticated meals such as butter-poached halibut with plum-studded farro and asparagus. You’ll need a fair amount of kitchen equipment. $12 to $18 a serving; two-serving weekly minimum A great farmers’ market substitute. It’s ideal for the timepressed locavore with cash to burn.
Healthiest
Meez Meals
meezmeals.com
Jen Moore, a Northwestern MBA who started the service three years ago Ingredients for one-dish vegetarian meals (veggies are presliced!); choose from five rotating weekly menus in various cuisines. Recent choices have included Italianized quesadillas and savory oatmeal with root vegetables. Meals are meatless, but there are suggestions for making them omnivore-friendly. $6.40 to $16 a serving; two-serving weekly minimum A winner. Meals are fresh, foolproof, and ready in 30 minutes.
Prettiest
Plated
plated.com
A year-old NYC based service that taps pro chefs and nutritionists to curate recipes Makings for a wide variety of gourmet dishes, from grilled skirt steak to shrimp and grits. Results are lovely, if borderline fussy. Be prepared to chop, mince, and zest—time-consuming tasks for a novice. $10 to $15 a serving; four-serving weekly minimum Impressive. Try this if you’re aiming to woo a love interest.
Simplest
Factor 75
factor75.com
Nick Wernimont, a Chicago-based super athlete who lives by the mantra that nutritious eating (not dieting) is the key to wellbeing. “Factor 75” refers to research showing that 75 percent of your overall fitness is a direct result of what you consume. Your choice of TV dinneresque single-serve meals such as “lasagna” with ground turkey sausage, marinara, and sliced butternut squash standing in for carby noodles. The menu includes 20-plus options and is divided into categories such as gluten-free, Paleo, and vegetarian; choose from two portion sizes and peruse nutrition and ingredient info before you commit. Unless you count microwaving and stirring as DIY (hey, nothing wrong with that!), these don’t qualify as home-cooked meals. Think Lean Cuisine gone gourmet. $10.95 to $13.95 a serving; three-serving weekly minimum for new customers and five-serving weekly minimum for returning customers A God-send for athletes and those with dietary restrictions. Skip shopping for expensive gluten-free ingredients or take the headache out of Paleo meal-planning. If you’re simply looking to get a handle on your eating, this eliminates prep work and costs but a hair more than a lunchtime trip to a chain sandwich shop.

 

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