What We Like
20 dinner choices each week
Can order up to 7 dinners per week
Shipping is usually free
Proteins can be upgraded to organic
Support materials include recipe cards, an app, and a blog
What We Don't Like
Recipes aren’t quite as delicious as they look
Very few options for restricted diets
Most recipes take longer than 30 minutes
Only add-on is dessert
Plated was one of the original three meal kit subscription companies to launch in the U.S. in 2012, and it’s still going strong, carving a niche in the meal delivery sphere for people who genuinely like to cook. We recently cooked through three kits to see if the interesting twists and multiple components were worth the extra time and effort. Read on to find out.
How It Works: Lots of flexibility
Plated is very easy to use. Once you create an account you can pick a delivery day. We had the option to choose from Wednesday to Saturday. Most meal kit subscriptions are limited to weekdays, so it was nice to have a Saturday option. It also lets you opt for every other week deliveries right off the bat. Most companies either don’t offer this option or only offer it once you try to cancel.
Most meal kit subscriptions are limited to weekdays, so it was nice to have a Saturday option.
The kits come once a week, anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Our box arrived midday and even though we didn’t open it until after 6 p.m. the contents were still cold. The kits include everything you need to make the recipe except for olive oil, eggs, salt, and pepper. You can order the kits to serve two, three, or four people, and you can order from two to seven kits a week. Since most companies limit users to three or four kits, it was nice to see Plated offer this extra bit of flexibility.
When signing up the company had us vote on recipes to try to get a sense of what we like. It was a little annoying to jump through this hoop, but it only took a minute. After that, we could choose our food preferences so that if we decided not to pick out meals one week, the default choices wouldn’t be something we didn’t want. The preferences can be edited at any time in the settings.
Choosing Meals: Recipes With a Twist
Plated offers 20 recipes each week, four of which are vegetarian options. The recipes mainly rely on Mediterranean ingredients in familiar forms such as pasta, sandwiches and sliders, and seared proteins with salads or roasted vegetables. A smidge of Mexican, Indian and Asian ingredients offer a few nods to more global flavors. For many recipes, it’s possible to upgrade to organic protein for an additional fee. Just click the button next to recipe in cart.
There are also two dessert recipes each week, such as cinnamon churros or mini goat cheese cheesecakes, in case you have an urge to bake or a special occasion planned.
What seems to really set Plated apart from many other companies is how the company tries to incorporate chef-y twists and techniques to make things just a little more interesting.
You can easily filter the recipes to see just what you’re looking for, such as vegetarian or seafood. But unlike other services, the photos of the recipes didn’t include many labels or symbols to quickly clue us in as to which recipes were gluten-free, low-carb, under-30 minutes and the like. You have to click on “Quick Facts” to get those labels and pertinent details such as cook time and calorie count. And if you do want to see more detailed nutrition info with the carb count, you’ll have to click the photo. Sadly, you won’t get to see the whole recipe, or download and print it, unless it’s one you’ve already ordered.
What seems to really set Plated apart from many other companies is how the company tries to incorporate chef-y twists and techniques to make things just a little more interesting. Teriyaki chicken gets served with rice that’s been crisped in a skillet, chicken breasts might be stuffed with brie, fish baked in a pouch. The recipes feel slightly gourmet though not challenging, incorporating components commonly found at restaurants, such as the burrata cheese, truffle salt, fruit compotes, and romesco sauce. As a result, we found most recipes took 35 to 45 minutes, which is a bit longer than the usual 30 minutes or less most other companies strive for.
- Flounder en Papillote with Israeli Couscous, Broccoli and Gremolata
- Roasted Tomato Pasta with Mushroom “bacon” and Lemon Pesto (vegetarian)
- Seared Steak with Romesco Verde, Caramelized Onion, and Roasted Potatoes
Support Materials: Recipe Cards, App & Blog
The recipe cards that come with each kit are well-designed with clear instructions and step-by-step color photos. They even show what things are supposed to look like when they’re done cooking. There are a few recipe tips, and a list of cookware and ingredients you need from your pantry and a list of what you’ve been sent, so you can make sure you have everything gathered before you begin.
The cards include estimated cook time and calories per serving, but they don’t include other nutrition or allergen information. You’ll have to consult the web or app version for those details.
We could manage all aspects of our account through the app, but it feels a little more cluttered than others we’ve used. There are prompts for things such as rating recipes, and stats about how many recipes have been cooked, plus links to surveys and blog articles, getting in the way of useful stuff like selecting recipes. In the app we also got a note that we couldn’t access the full database of recipes until we had placed three orders. Perhaps that’s why we couldn’t see full recipes online either.
Packaging: Heavy on Plastic
While we appreciated how the insulated liner was made from recycled denim, which can be taken to a clothing recycling center or will decompose in the garbage, it was of course wrapped in plastic. The ingredients for each recipe were bundled together, so it was easy to grab and go when it was time to cook, but the bags were plastic bags as well. And within the plastic bags were more plastic bags and tiny clamshells for individual ingredients. In areas that have collection centers that take film and clamshell plastic for recycling, all of this plastic may not be a big deal, but in our city, we couldn’t recycle these. The box, however, was easily recycled at the curb. But the website offers helpful recycling instructions.
The Cooking Process: A Bit Lengthy
Since the recipe cards stated the cook times, we knew we were looking at about 45 minutes in the kitchen. For people who like to cook, this is reasonable and not unwelcome, though beginners might feel a bit daunted. The cook times were accurate, but one recipe took longer because it required caramelizing onions. If we had followed the recipe to the letter we would have had wilty and barely tanned onions, so we let them go longer until they could truly be called caramelized.
We found most recipes took 35 to 45 minutes, which is a bit longer than the usual 30 minutes or less most other companies strive for.
Each recipe was broken down into six steps and they were simple enough to execute. But since the recipes included several components we did feel like we were using quite a few pots and pans. One recipe used two sheet pans, a skillet, and a food processor. Another recipe used two sheet pans, a foil pan, a pot, and a bowl. Our kitchen wasn’t a disaster afterward, but it was definitely a bit more cookware heavy than other kits we’ve tried.
Flavor, Freshness and Quality: Good Ingredients, Pretty Good Flavor
There was plenty of food for four people, and with a couple of exceptions, the ingredients all looked fresh and high quality. Even the steak was a cut (coulotte) we know to be a chef and butcher’s favorite. We were happy to see oyster mushrooms for one dish, instead of the usual button mushrooms, but they did start to go soft quickly. They were in the last dish we cooked and they didn’t look so great after three days in the fridge. But they were just sad, not slimy, so we cooked them anyway and they turned out fine. Our biggest disappointment? A packet of parmesan cheese looked promising since it was in big shavings, not a fine processed dust, but it completely lacked flavor.
Speaking of flavor, we were expecting a bit more from these recipes. With their restaurant-y ingredients and multiple components, we thought we’d be wowed, but none of the recipes hit that level of deliciousness.
Our favorite was the Steak with Romesco Verde and Caramelized Onions. The steaks were very beefy and tender, with the exception of one that had a fat vein of gristle that made it nearly impossible to chew some bites. We’ll chalk that up to a fluke. Otherwise, they were great, the nutty sauce was tasty, the roasted potatoes turned out perfectly, and the onions were a delicious counterpoint after we took the time to let them really caramelize.
The steak was a cut (coulotte) we know to be a favorite among chefs and butchers, and we were happy to see oyster mushrooms for one dish, instead of the usual button mushrooms.
The Flounder en Papillote was pretty good and pretty healthy at under 600 calories per serving. The fish stayed moist in its foil packet with butter and wine and the topping of buttery fried almonds added much-needed crunch. The large pearls of Israeli couscous combined with broccoli were fun to eat though bland. The only real flavor in the dish came from the gremolata of parsley, lemon, and garlic. It was good, but it had to carry a heavy load. It would have been better if one of the other components offered a little more flavor, too.
The Roasted Tomato Pasta with Mushroom “Bacon” looked amazing but had some flaws. The sauce was simply cherry tomatoes and crushed garlic roasted in oil, plus a packet of pesto enhanced with fresh lemon. This is a great combo but just didn’t work with the chewy Gemelli. Maybe if this was served with a more delicate pasta like capellini, or had more tomatoes or a creamy component this would have worked. Instead, it felt like a bunch of different ingredients sliding around on Gemelli. The roasted tomatoes tossed in smoked paprika didn’t really taste like bacon, but they added a nice textural component. We had some leftovers of this dish and ended up tossing it in a quick sauce of tomatoes sautéed in butter until collapsed, then mixed with goat cheese. The thicker sauce made the whole dish work far better.
With their restaurant-y ingredients and multiple components we thought we’d be wowed, but none of the recipes hit that level of deliciousness.
Who it’s Good For?
Plated is good for people who legitimately like to cook and want to try new techniques and recipes.
Who it Isn’t Good For?
People who don’t like to cook, or don't totally know how to, might be frustrated with the level of effort required.
Add-Ons: Just Desserts
In addition to 20 dinners, Plated offers 2 dessert recipes each week.
Customer Service: Pretty Basic
Customer service is available by chat in the app and online, as well as by phone and e-mail, from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Eastern time, seven days a week. We had a good experience chatting online with a customer service rep.
The Frequently Asked Questions area is a bit bare-bones compared to other companies we’ve tried, but it answered most of the questions we had.
Making Changes and Canceling: Easy to Do
Plated makes it easy to skip weeks and change the delivery address right from the main page, so you don’t have to go hunting around in the settings. In the menu page, you can add more meals, upgrade the proteins, swap recipes and change serving size. And in the settings, you can change your preferences and delivery day, or cancel the service completely. Just make sure to make any changes and cancellations by noon six days in advance.
It’s important to note that unlike most other companies, Plated doesn’t send an e-mail or text notification six days in advance, reminding you it’s your last chance to make changes to your delivery. There aren’t any deadline dates listed on the main page when you log in either. Instead, you only get an e-mail two days ahead letting you know the box will be on its way soon. By then it’s too late. If you want to skip a week or change your recipe selection, you’ll need to plan way ahead or stay vigilant and set your own calendar reminder.
The Competition: Plated vs. Blue Apron
Plated and Blue Apron are two of the oldest meal kit subscriptions in the U.S., and they have a lot of similarities. Both offer dinners for an average of about $10 per serving with shipping usually included. However, Plated essentially penalizes small households because it charges $11.95 per serving for kits that serve two people, no matter how many dinners you order that week. Blue Apron doesn’t, and it charges less for four-serving dinners ($7.50 to $8.99) but Plated doesn’t go lower than $9.95.
Plated is more flexible, allowing users to order three-serving meals and up to seven meals in a week. And with Plated users can upgrade the protein to organic. Both offer full-color, step-by-step recipe cards, and both offer dinners that go a little above the ordinary. However, Plated relies more on techniques and Blue Apron relies more on international ingredients. Plated also offers 20 recipes each week — far more compared to Blue Apron’s six or eight choices. And Plated’s plans are simpler to navigate, Blue Apron offers more add-ons such as wine. Overall, though, we are bigger fans of Plated.
Great selection recipe, fun to cook and decently tasty.
We really enjoyed the little twists Plated offered both in its ingredients and in its techniques. Though the recipes took a little longer than some other services we’ve tried, the process was easy and we enjoyed it. The dishes ultimately didn’t turn out as delicious as we expected, but they were still quite tasty. We'd definitely recommend trying them out in the kitchen.
- Product Name Plated
- Price $47.80
- Minimum Price $55.75 including shipping (2 meals for 2 people)
- Standard Plan 3 meals for 2 people: $71.70 (free shipping)
- Shipping $7.95 or free when ordering 3 or more dinners per week, or 2 dinners for 4 people per week
- Typical Cost Per Serving $9.95
- Lowest Cost Per Serving $9.95 (must order 2 or more meals for 3 or more people)
- Weekly Meal Options Choose from 20 dinners and 2 desserts per week, for 2, 3, or 4 servings per meal
- Promotional Deals New subscribers get 25% off their first four weeks.