I'll just start by saying I'm no slouch in the kitchen, but I'm not an educated chef. I have a few dishes I know by heart that are really good, and enough skills to wing it for a few more. I've taken a few cooking classes and I also watch more Food Network than I should (I always have a few episodes of Barefoot Contessa on my DVR). I do actually try to incorporate some of the tips and techniques I see. And I obviously love to eat out, but I definitely want to be known as a good cook.
Plated turned out to be perfect for someone like me, looking to expand my repertoire with new dishes in an easy way. I didn't have to research recipes and the go to the store to track down the ingredients, I just had to select what looked good and wait for it to arrive. Their tagline is "Reconnect with your kitchen," and that's seriously just what I was able to do with my first order!
Before I get into the cooking, let's discuss ordering, which is super easy. Plated.com lists out meals by land, sea and veggie, so its easy to address any dietary restrictions. There are a few options available each week in each category, and the descriptions are ultra clear. Menus are posted for a few weeks out, so if you're planning a dinner party you can order everything and take that trip to the grocery store off your list.
The main selling point with Plated is the idea that you get a complete meal in one package—everything is included, save a very few ingredients that EVERYONE has in their kitchen. But to be sure, Plated lists out what they are sending you AND what you need at home, just to eliminate any confusion.
Each order needs a minimum of four plates for shipping, and they run $15 each. Make sure you take advantage of this great deal, because you want to give this a try!
My Plated order arrived at the perfect time. My good friend Leslie was visiting our new home for the first time, and just after she arrived UPS came with the box, so rather than going out to eat she offered to help me whip up the spicy pulled chicken recipe. The box arrived with an insulated liner and a huge ice pack.
Plated feels like a self guided cooking class in the comfort of your own kitchen. Everything is clearly labeled, the instructions are concise yet easy to understand, and each step is in order so all the components of the meal are hot and ready to go at the same time. I was impressed with how well everything was packaged—and considering my box included four pieces of chicken, I was extra happy that they arrived as cold as if I'd just taken them out of my own fridge.
Leslie prepped the chicken—Plated meals are great for cooking with a friend or two—while I turned on the beans, made the rice, and chopped everything for the pico de gallo, a very dice-intensive condiment!
One of those random cooking tips I picked up from Food Network is using two forks to shred. Works like a charm! And the recipe uses roasted chicken, a Barefoot Contessa stable, so I felt extra fancy making dinner.
Once the chicken was ready I started on the barbecue sauce, a pile of jalapeños and the Plated spice mix turning into a rich, spicy dark red sauce.
My order included four plates and I made them all for the three of us, so the adults had plenty to eat AND leftovers for the next day. The sauce was too spicy for the baby, but she loved the beans and rice. And yes, I made my own barbecue sauce! Honestly I can't imagine ever buying store-bought sauce again—it was so easy and SO delicious.
In the end I found myself standing over a bevy of bowls and serving dishes full of piping hot and spicy food I'd made entirely from scratch.
The recipe was flexible enough to get creative, as my husband demonstrated with his custom made burrito. I had one with the leftover chicken the next day and it was delicious.
VERDICT: Plated is a definite winner in my house. Everyone loved both the package and the final result, which was a delicious home-cooked meal. The preparation process was just involved enough to feel accomplished when dinner was served, and now I have several new techniques and dishes under my belt to beef up my cooking skills.