I'm sick of cooking. Not so long ago, I enjoyed it. Cooking was a welcomed way for me to unwind from my workday and slide into my evening.
But lockdown changed things. Work from home meant my home kitchen became less a retreat and more a prison, chaining me to the dogged drudgery of meal prep, cooking, washing dishes, rinse, repeat. I was already using make-your-own meal delivery kits. But the rut and work of them became frustrating, so they rotted in my fridge as I favored takeout or whatever was just on hand and easier. It was in hunger for something else that I found CookUnity, a gourmet meal delivery service that has become more dear to me than DoorDash could ever.
What is CookUnity?
Quinoa and Veggie Enchiladas Credit: CookUnity
Forget the meal-planning kits that send you ingredients and recipes. This is the next step in reclaiming your mealtime. CookUnity allows subscribers to pick from a vast menu of meals, which are then delivered once a week (you pick the day), and arrive ready to be reheated. Most meals only require a stove or microwave and take minutes (like 8-20) to get ready to serve.
The name "CookUnity" points to the chef-centric focus of this particular prepared meal service. Local chefs design the menu of small-batch meals with sustainably sourced ingredients, and every package includes their names and pictures. So, you can start getting a feel for whose recipes really speak to you.
Founded in 2016, CookUnity is a self-described "chef collective" (Opens in a new tab)that counts itself as the "first chef-to-consumer platform."(Opens in a new tab) Currently, there are more than 60 on CookUnity's roster, including up-and-coming chefs, established restaurateurs, and cuisine innovators like Akhtar Nawab, Larry & Marc Forgione, Esther Choi, Jose Garces, and Leah Cohen. To hone and prepare their meals, CookUnity provides its chefs with state-of-the-art kitchens in Miami, Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City. Available nationwide, this service allows subscribers to support their local chefs while enjoying great meals at home and low stress.
CookUnity means variety
K-BBQ Skirt Steak Salad Credit: CookUnity
When I got fed up with the Hello Apron of it all, I researched a bunch of prepared food delivery services. I wanted something that gave me the variety of getting takeout, but without the cost or daily need to call in an order. While a lot of these services offer varieties on a grain bowl over and over, CookUnity that and much, much more. There are salads, pasta, meat and potatoes, vegan cuisine, and soups. Right now, in the app, I have 170 dishes to choose from for my next delivery. 170!
If this many options seems overwhelming, fear not. The easy-to-use CookUnity app allows you to sort the menu by dietary categories, among them: Gluten-Free, Low Carb, Low Calorie, Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Mediterranean, and Pescatarian. Additionally, there are featured selections each month, that include seasonal recipes, holiday-inspired selections, and chef specials — which come with a bit of a price bump.
What does CookUnity cost?
Braised Lamb Sabzi Credit: CookUnity
The meals start at $10.49 per meal but adjust depending on the subscription plan. Subscribers can choose between four, six, eight, 12, or 16 meals/week. If you pick a meal with a fancier item, there'll be a notice of an additional charge, ranging from $1.99 to $7.99.
For myself, the standard meals have been terrific enough that I'm rarely tempted to go for the gusto with the Chef Specials. However, sometimes you just want something special, like cedar-planked trout with a pumpkin seed pesto. And I can tell you from experience, that extra cash is worth it in flavor.
How does CookUnity work?
Split Pea Falafel Bowl Credit: CookUnity
Pick a plan. Download the app, and you can begin picking your meals. Thanks to the app's design, it's incredibly easy to do. Each meal has a picture, and you can click through for details on each dish, including its ingredients, calorie count, and reviews from other users. If you love a meal, click the heart to favorite it, and now you have an additional category to help you choose from that plethora of menu options the following week. Pick your delivery day, confirm your order, and your meals will be on their way. You can even get notifications for when they'll be delivered, complete with tracking information.
Personally, our delivery person never rings the doorbell. But there's no need, as the alert on my phone tells me my food has arrived.
CookUnity means less mess.
CookUnity packaging is recyclable and compostable Credit: CookUnity
Forget all that takeout trash and that pile of dishes. Each CookUnity meal comes in a container that is oven and microwave safe. So, if you don't want to plate it after it's cooked - you truly don't need to. The containers are recyclable(Opens in a new tab), but check your local recycling restrictions to assure your center will process it. Plus, the isolated cooler and ice pack that your meals arrive in can be set out for pick-up on your next delivery day, so it can be reused!
Another advantage to the microwavable container is that if you don't finish the portion a meal awards (some are quite generous!), it's easy to pop the slim cardboard cover back on top your leftovers and stick it in the fridge. I don't know if this is CookUnity's goal with the packaging, but it's worked grand for me, and even kept dirtied Tupperware from invading my kitchen sink!
Why I've made CookUnity a habit
Al Pastor Tacos Credit: CookUnity
CookUnity has made meal prep one less thing I need to stress over day-to-day. I can make my decisions on my phone, while I'm binge-watching TV or commuting to work. The photos, chef profiles, and variety of dishes make meal prep a chore I actually look forward to. It's fun to pick out meals for me and my partner. And once I've confirmed my picks, I know that my fridge will be full of easy, yummy, and even healthy options for lunch and dinner.
Forty different cuisines are offered through CookUnity, which invites subscribers to explore flavors and foods they might not be familiar with. But also, being able to pick individual meals means you and your family don't need to be in the same food mood to be satisfied. On any given night, my partner might go with the Pork Al Pastor Tacos (a big favorite around here) while I might go with the Baked Catfish with Collard Greens. It's like ordering from multiple incredible restaurants without the hassle.
CookUnity has made mealtime something I enjoy again, instead of dread. It's turned my fridge into a treasure trove, reliably stuffed with fresh and delicious food. I am no longer condemned by the rut of routine, be it in cuisine or cooking or stacks of damned dishes. And it's easier to eat better because I have at my fingertips not only a bunch of options but also the nutritional info needed to make mindful choices.
I've been relying on it for months and haven't looked back. My pans are gathering dust, and I'm fine with that.