Sunday, June 23, 2024

CookUnity Review 2024: Is This Prepared Meal Delivery Service Worth It?

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I’ve tried several meal delivery services—including some that ship partially-prepared meal kits, some that provide ready-made entrées, and others that double as online grocery stores. But there’s only one meal delivery service I continue to use on the regular: CookUnity. The New York City-based food company focuses solely on fully-prepared meals that are credited to award-winning chefs (many of whom we’ve featured here at Bon Appétit, like Teranga’s Pierre Thiam, Mokbar’s Esther Choi, and FieldTrip’s J.J. Johnson). Those names initially piqued my interest. Would I really be able to get a big box of restaurant-quality meals delivered to my door?

I was impressed after my first peek at the menu, which was more robust than what I’d seen from other boxed meal delivery services. This one featured a huge variety of dishes across so many different cuisines, and I was delighted to see options that went beyond the typical “meal kit style” grain bowls and sheet-pan chicken. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ol’ grain bowl and sheet-pan dinner, but I was really excited to see dishes like thieboudienne, beef birria tacos, and slow soy-braised pork shoulder with yu choy and soy-marinated eggs among the offerings.

I also appreciated that, unlike most other pre-made meal delivery services, CookUnity doesn’t place a strong emphasis on “health food.” While you definitely can choose options that cater to specific dietary needs and preferences, the top priority here is quick, satisfying, and delicious ready-made meals. As of this writing, I’ve been happily subscribed to CookUnity for about a year. This isn’t just my favorite pre-made meal delivery service, it’s my favorite food delivery service period.

The menu, ordering, and delivery

To get started, you’ll enter your zip code to see if they deliver to your area. CookUnity doesn’t currently deliver nationwide, but it does cover most states (excluding Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and some cities in Wyoming and Nebraska). During the signup process, you’ll be asked about your dietary preferences and eating habits. Here, you can let them know if you want to see options that are paleo, vegetarian, vegan, keto, Mediterranean, or if you’re open to seeing everything. They also ask about your favorite types of protein and ingredients you’d like to avoid (like nuts, milk, or shellfish, etc). Then you’ll select how many meals you want to receive every week: you can choose four meals, six meals, 8 meals, 12 meals, or 16 meals. The prices improve if you opt for more meals. For instance, if you go with four weekly meals, you’ll pay about $14 per meal, and if you select 16 weekly meals, you’ll pay about $8 per meal. The subscription itself is free, without any recurring fees. You’ll only pay for the meals you receive, plus a delivery fee for each order. I believe this fee varies depending on your location, but for me, this has been about $15 per order.

Once you’re signed up, you can browse the upcoming weekly menus and place an order. With over 100 meals to choose from, CookUnity has the largest weekly menu I’ve seen from any meal delivery service. And I appreciate that (unlike with a lot of the other programs) all the dishes aren’t switched out every week, so I don’t have to wait weeks or months until my favorite dishes appear on the menu again. You can “star” your favorite meals so you can easily find them to reorder, and filter the options in order to see sandwiches, pasta, salads/bowls, tacos and burritos, pizza, or dishes you’ve tried before. Additionally, I like that the menu allows you to read ratings and reviews for every dish—I haven’t seen this feature at many other other meal delivery services.

For each order, I’ve been able to choose a day of the week and time window for dropoff. I’ve always received notifications when the courier is en route, so I can track exactly how far away they are. My CookUnity meal deliveries arrive neatly packed with ice in reusable insulated bags, which are a lot easier to handle than big cardboard boxes most other meal deliveries arrive in. That said, the company has two different delivery methods, depending on where you live. In most areas, the meals will arrive with said courier in an insulated bag—in other areas, the meals will be delivered by a national carrier such as UPS or FedEx and will arrive in an insulated box. Over my year of subscribing, I have found the ordering experience easy and enjoyable, and I’ve never received an incorrect order or had trouble with delivery.

The food

The truth about pre-made meal delivery services is that the food usually isn’t that good—it generally ranges from bad to just okay, and it’s rarely tasty or filling enough to justify the cost. I think CookUnity is an exception to this rule. Their meals are flavorful and generously portioned, and they appear to be made with high-quality ingredients. I’d compare these single-serving meals to the takeout orders I receive from my favorite restaurants, which I can’t say about other pre-made meal services. One of the first dishes I tried was the short rib with herby mashed potatoes and burst cherry tomatoes, and it quickly became one of my repeat meals. The short rib was melt-in-your mouth tender, and I could really taste the red wine in the braise. The accompanying potatoes were the ideal combination of rich and creamy and light and fluffy. The grilled chicken yassa with jollof rice and plantains was another instant fave: with deep, well-rounded flavors, it was perfectly sweet, tangy, and spicy.



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