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Home Chef “Oven-Ready” Meal Kit Review + Coupon – January 2021

Home Chef is a meal kit subscription that delivers a weekly box of the pre-portioned ingredients needed to make 2-6 meals that feed two, four, six, or eight people. Home Chef advertises easy recipes that can be made in about 30 minutes. They offer vegetarian, gluten-free, and calorie/carb-conscious recipes.

This is a review of my customized delivery that includes three 2-serving dinner options (3 x $9.95/serving) with free shipping. I customized one of my menu items for an additional cost of $1.99 per serving, bringing the cost of this box to $63.68.

Delivery is free for orders over $49.00. Shipping is $10.00 for orders less than $49.00. (Please note: these shipping thresholds were what I was able to find by tinkering with my account—Home Chef’s FAQ is opaque about this.)



This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)

About Home Chef

The Subscription Box: Home Chef

The Cost: Meals for 2 start at $6.99 per serving, and delivery is free for orders over $49.00. Shipping is $10.00 for orders less than $49.00. 

COUPON: Save $80 off your first four boxes! No coupon needed - just use this link.

The Products: Fresh ingredients and chef-designed recipes — everything you need to make restaurant-quality meals at home.

Ships to: 98% of the U.S. You can check to see if Home Chef delivers to your zip code while signing up.

Home Chef January 2021 Review

When you first sign up for Home Chef, you take a short quiz about your meal preferences and dietary restrictions. They ask what you like to eat, as well as what you tend to avoid. Based on your answers, Home Chef will choose recipes for you to receive each week. As is the case with most meal kit services, you can log in and hand-select the recipes you’d like to receive. Note though, that the more particular you are with your diet, the fewer options you’ll have.

Before we look at the meals I picked, let me point out the extras that came with this delivery:

 

I received an envelope with promotional materials for Grove, Vitacost, Bright Cellars, and Geico. Now, on to the food!

 

Meal #1: Mozzarella-Ricotta Stuffed Meatballs with Marinara and Cavatappi

Calories: 760 per serving

Time to Table, According to Home Chef: 30-40 minutes

Actual Time to Table: 40 minutes

Cook within: 5 days

Difficulty: Easy

Spice Level: Mild

 

The week I’d scheduled this box for delivery was a busy one for me, and I knew I wouldn’t have as much time as usual to prep and cook dinner. I’ve been eyeing Home Chef’s weekly “oven-ready” offerings, so this seemed like a great week to take them for a test drive. Here’s a quick description of these meals from Home Chef:

Oven Ready meals come with fresh pre-portioned ingredients inside an oven-safe tray, so dinner is ready in no time, and clean-up is a piece of cake.

These meals won’t always get dinner on the table more quickly than the traditional meal kits, but the prep is quick and there’s no cleanup. There aren’t a ton of “oven-ready” options available each week, but all of this week’s offerings looked delicious to me so I had no problem filling my box!

My first meal pick was Mozzarella-Ricotta Stuffed Meatballs with Marinara and Cavatappi. This dish truly was quick to get in the oven. All I had to do was transfer the pasta ingredients into the provided baking dish (correctly layering the pre-sliced peppers over the pasta and topping them with marinara) and form the meatballs. These meatballs are stuffed (one of the reasons why I found this dish so tempting!), and I prepped them by combining ricotta and mozzarella, flattening little discs of ground beef, and shaping the meatballs around the filling.

 

This dish baked covered for 15 minutes and then continued cooking uncovered for another 20 minutes. I pulled it out of the oven, topped it with grated Parmesan, and dinner was ready!

Overall, I was pleased with this dish. First of all, as promised, my hands-on cooking time was only about 5 minutes. I loved the cheesy filling in the meatballs, and the peppers were a great addition to an otherwise very simple marinara pasta dish. Here’s the thing: I think some flavor was sacrificed to keep the prep time low. If I’d made this dish myself from scratch, I would have done a couple of things differently. First, I would have sautéed the peppers before adding them to the dish. I think this would have brought out some more of their sweetness and helped them cook down slightly to melt into the dish. Second, I would have browned the meatballs in a skillet to develop a nice crust on them before transferring them into the oven. Now, was this dish tasty? Sure! I just think it could have been better with a few tweaks and slightly more hands-on time. Of course, more prep time would have disqualified this dish from getting the “oven-ready” title, so I get it.

 

Meal #2: Steak Strip Tacos with Creamed Corn Elote and Jalapeño Ranch Slaw

Calories: 771 per serving

Time to Table, According to Home Chef: 30-40 minutes

Actual Time to Table: 40 minutes

Cook within: 6 days

Difficulty: Easy

Spice Level: Spicy

 

I am always down for tacos, and I wanted to see how Home Chef would make these fit the “oven-ready” parameters. Unfortunately, I made a slight error in judgment when ordering this meal. The advertised recipe was Steak Strip Tacos with Creamed Corn Elote, but Home Chef allows you to customize the proteins in your meals. I was browsing the available substitutions, and shrimp was one of the options. My thought process: “Oh, cool. I like shrimp. Shrimp tacos are the best! I’ll sub in shrimp.” Well, I didn’t really think that decision through very well. You’ll see what I mean in the next step.

Customizing my meal with shrimp meant that instead of receiving beef strips, I got a bag of shrimp. Nothing else about the recipe changed. (Duh.) As I prepped, I started to see the error of my ways. To make the elote corn filling, I began by spreading cream cheese along the bottom of the pan. I topped it with corn, peppers, and shrimp before baking. Now, it’s not a hard and fast rule in my kitchen, but I tend to follow the cooking guideline that suggests keeping cheese and seafood separate. There are exceptions, of course. (I make one heck of a cheesy crab dip.) But nine times out of ten, I just don’t think the flavors work. When I started prepping the different components for these tacos (ranch-slaw, cheese, and creamy elote), I couldn’t help but wish I’d stuck with the beef.

 

When the shrimp corn elote was done cooking, I took it out of the oven and stirred to coat everything with the warm cheese sauce that had been created during the baking process. To assemble the tacos, I divided ranch slaw, shrimp corn elote, and cheese between the tortillas, and topped each one with a garnish of crispy jalapenos. My thoughts on this dish? The tacos were fine, but they would have been much better with steak. Lesson learned, I suppose. Note to self: keep future substitutions in the same ballpark, like Beyond beef for ground beef or organic chicken for the standard offering.

 

Meal #3: Basil Parmesan Chicken with Zucchini and Grape Tomatoes

Calories: 432 per serving

Time to Table, According to Home Chef: 25-35 minutes

Actual Time to Table: 30 minutes

Cook within: 5 days

Difficulty: Easy

Spice Level: Not Spicy

 

My last meal pick for this week was Basil Parmesan Chicken with Zucchini and Grape Tomatoes, and as soon as I unpacked my box I knew there was an issue. Even though my box arrived on time and the ingredients were kept cool in transit, the zucchini for this dish was in rough shape. Since the “oven-ready” meals are designed to be quick, a lot of the prep is done in advance, and most of the veggies I received were pre-chopped. Everything arrived in good condition apart from the zucchini, which was soggy and sad.

Note: I received this box at no cost in exchange for a review, so it didn’t feel appropriate to seek out a refund for the zucchini; however, if you run into issues with ingredient quality or freshness you should reach out to Home Chef’s support team. In my experience, their customer service is great and they’ll quickly issue you a credit for the inconvenience. 

I tossed the icky zucchini and decided to sub in a yellow pepper I had knocking around my fridge. Prep for this dish was really easy. I placed the veggies on one side of the baking tray and chicken breasts on the other. I topped the veggies with garlic salt and the chicken with Parmesan and popped them into the oven to bake. About halfway through the cooking process, I added panko breadcrumbs and additional Parmesan to the vegetables and returned the tray to the oven to finish baking.

After the dish was done cooking, I removed the tray from the oven and topped the chicken with a pesto/lemon juice/butter mix.

This was not your average weeknight baked chicken. For how easy it was to make, I found this dish utterly delicious. The panko and Parmesan mix made the veggies seem indulgent, and the pesto butter on the shrimp was rich and divine. I even have to call out how tender the chicken was. I’m not sure if that’s down to the cooking method or the chicken itself, but it was fantastic. My only complaint is that I would have appreciated a little bit more food. The chicken was pretty filling, but it felt like this dish was missing either more veggies or another side dish.

Verdict: For this Home Chef box, I decided to explore the “oven-ready” meal options, and they were as quick and easy as promised. All three of the meals were in the oven in 5 minutes or less, and the hands-on cooking time was very low. Despite my shrimp substitution debacle (which was my own dang fault… can you tell I’m still annoyed with myself about it?), the food was pretty good. The meatball dish could have been a bit better with different cooking techniques, but I understand that an emphasis on quick prep means something has to give. Still, it was tasty, and I was happy enough with how it came together. The chicken was the standout dish for me this week; it was outstanding! In terms of value, this box cost $63.69, or $9.95 per serving + an upcharge of $1.99 per serving for customizing my tacos with shrimp. I’ve been trying to limit my grocery store trips this past year, so I appreciate the convenience of having meal kits delivered to my front door. I may be able to spend a little less to create similar meals myself at home, but for me, there’s a lot of value in what Home Chef provides.

To Wrap Up:

Can you still get this box if you sign up today? No, this week’s meals have passed. But, you can sign up for Home Chef today and receive meals next week!

COUPON: Save $80 off your first four boxes! No coupon needed - just use this link.

Value Breakdown: This box cost $63.69, or $9.95 per serving + an upcharge of $1.99 per serving for customizing my tacos with shrimp. Shipping is free on orders over $49.00.

Check out all of our Home Chef reviews and our list of the best meal kit subscriptions! And check out our weekly meal kit menu round-up to see what’s coming up on the Home Chef menu.

Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist.

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Written by Lindsey Morse

Lindsey Morse

Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

Posted in Food & Drink Subscription Boxes, Home Chef Reviews, Meal Kit Subscriptions, Subscription Box Reviews| Tags: Home Chef | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. I’m surprised this review summarizes this as something they’d recommend when it sounds like there was something amiss with each meal!

    • Im on the quest of converting all my “I hate cooking” friends to make more home meals. I think Lindsey was very honest with the review and I can see how, despite the miss, this would be a service appealing to some people that want to start cooking more but don’t have an idea of where to start or just want to stop feeding their family takeout but need simpler things.

  2. We get Hello Fresh and zucchini is literally the only thing we ever get that isn’t perfectly fresh.
    It must not travel well.

  3. I was hesitant to try the “oven ready” meals as they looked kinda puny in size. I was amazed when I plated them though. They seemed to be the same as a regular meal kit.
    CS is really good at HC. I’ve rarely had to mention an item that didn’t make it intact or fresh. They credit me and say they’ll make sure the procurement people know which I appreciate.

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