Firstchop Meal Plan Review: My First Sous Vide Exp…


Cooking meat can be tricky business. There are so many diseases that can be spread when you undercook. Overcooking, on the other hand, means you have to sacrifice on taste, but, at least you don’t get sick, right?

Great food is one of the true pleasures of life, and you shouldn’t have to overpay for quality meat cooked right. That’s what makes sous vide such an innovative way of cooking. If you’re not familiar with it, we’ve written a detailed sous vide guide that will help you understand just how it works.

As a mom, I’m all about saving time and making dinner as simple as possible. If you’re thinking of incorporating sous vide into your culinary repertoire, keep reading to see how my first experience went with Firstchop Meal Kit.

About Firstchop

So, just who is Firstchop and what do they do to make your life healthier and more convenient? Founded by CEO Ajay Narain and Executive Chef Marc Rasic in 2016, it’s been the goal of the company to share the secret of making the hardest part of dinner the easiest.

While microwaves have made it easier to take food from a frozen to hot state, they also tend to leave meats very dry and tough. Using the sous vide method, it’s Firstchop’s goal to offer everyone the ability to achieve flavorful, juicy meats quickly and just right every time.

Ajay first discovered sous vide when he cooked too much for a party. When he was able to effectively reheat the leftovers for another party using the sous vide method, he quickly saw the many situations in which it can save both time and money.

It’s Like Having Your Own Personal Chef!

If you’re like me, the thought of having a personal chef is pretty laughable. When you consider hiring someone with qualifications, it’s just not in the budget. However, that’s exactly what you’re getting when you order from Firstchop as your food was prepared by a chef who:

  • Cooked for the royal family of Luxembourg
  • Ran kitchens for Google
  • Launched multiple restaurants and cooking products

Marc Rasic also has a family to cook for just like many of us, so he understands the importance of convenience.

When you use this service, you’re getting meats that are delicately seasoned, seared, and cooked. They’re then frozen and shipped to you quickly and efficiently. My food was very well insulated and still frozen at my doorstep. All you have to do is reheat using the sous vide wand. Your dinner tastes freshly made every time

Firstchop Meat Sourcing

All meat used by the Firstchop meal kit is conventional. While we hear a lot about grass fed and organic meat, the reality is that the vast majority of consumers actually don’t have a preference.  

Firstchop wanted to ensure they were giving their customers what they truly wanted, so they conducted a survey and found that:

  • 80% of consumers would opt for grass fed/organic meats,  but only if it cost the same as conventional.  

Unfortunately, the cost to consumers would be a minimum of 50% higher. Considering the majority of the market would be unwilling to cough up the extra money for organic, it makes good business sense to use conventional meats. All meats are USDA-approved.

Ordering & Unboxing

Ordering is very simple. Keep in mind when you order that they do ship on Tuesdays. Orders placed after Monday at 5 p.m. will be shipped the following Tuesday. You should expect your order to show up that Thursday or Friday depending on your location.

Bulky Packaging

When your order shows up, you’ll notice the box seems pretty bulky for what’s inside. Keep in mind that the Firstchop meal kit has to ensure safe, cold transportation. They put a lot of effort into designing the most compact box possible to get the job done. You can recycle the box, but the mylar liner and plastic pouches that cover the meats are not. You’ll need to throw those in the trash.

I would like to see more effort going into making the packaging more compact. There was quite a bit of trash. However, my food did arrive fresh and frozen. You’ll want to get your food in the freezer or refrigerator immediately. When your starter box arrives, you’ll receive:

    • Firstchop sous vide wand
    • Four proteins with the choices of
      • Beef chuck short rib
      • Petite medallions
      • Tuscan pork shoulder
      • Osso buco lamb
      • Sriracha chicken breast
      • Peruvian style chicken breast
      • Pork loin with black garlic
      • Spicy hot green curry chicken breast

 

Your initial order will consist of two boxes. The larger box contains your meats while the smaller houses your sous vide wand. Once you have the wand, you can then opt for Firstchop’s 4-Pack or 8-Pack options.

I like that Firstchop allows for you to order their products as gifts. We all eat, right? What better gift than one of a delicious, convenient meal delivered at your doorstep? If you want to order Firstchop as a gift with a different shipping address, email support. They will even put in a card with anything you want written on it.

Corporate orders receive a custom quote. Just send an email to info@firstchop.com with the details of your request.

The Sous Vide Wand: How It Works

The Sous Vide Wand really was simple to use. I love how the system is set up to where you never have to touch raw food. Aside from the yuck factor, this can also cut down on the spread of disease.

If you’re familiar with Anova, this looks similar. The main difference is that Firstchop’s wand isn’t WiFi-compatible, so you can’t use your smartphone to control it. On the other hand, the Firstchop wand is about half the price. For me, this is preferable.

Step-by-Step Setup

  • Clamp the adjustable ring clip onto your sous vide bath. Bath size is not to exceed 15 L and must allow at least 4.25 inches of water.
  • Fill your bath container to a level that won’t exceed the MAX fill line on the wand.
  • Slip the wand vertically into the handle on the clamp. It will fit securely. Make sure water doesn’t pass the MAX line or exceed the MIN line.
  • The top of the wand has three buttons:
    • Temperature- allows you to set the desired temperature
    • Time- allows you to set a timer
    • Play/Pause- allows you to select and initiate settings
  • To set temperature:
    • Push the Temperature button
    • Turn the knob on the side of the wand until you reach desired temperature
    • Push Play/Pause button to initiate this temperature setting
  • To set timer
    • Push the Timer button
    • Turn the knob on the side of the wand until you reach desired time
    • Push Play/Pause button to initiate timer

It’s super simple. In our experience, it took about the same amount of time to heat up the water as it did to cool down. Cool down happens naturally and is not achieved through the use of the sous vide wand.

Remember that you can’t overcook. This means you don’t have to wait for the target temperature to be met before dropping in your meat.

To make heating as quick as possible, use the hottest tap water you have when you initially fill your sous vide bath. When your wand is activated, you’ll hear the soft whir of the machine churning the water as it heats up. You’ll notice a small fan at the tip of the wand. This spins when the wand is on to circulate the water and change the temperature.

Again, since you can’t overcook using the sous vide cooking method, you can drop your meat in the bath before the target temperature is met.

What’s That Sound?

If you’re worried about the noise, I thought it was actually quite pleasant. When the wand is functioning properly, it sounds like a light babbling brook. A whistling sound is also normal. The following sounds, on the other hand, are indicators of problems:

  • Grinding
    • Pump housing may be loose- see manual to correct
  • Hissing or Beeping
  • Bubbling or swishing

The best part is that, as long as your temperature is set correctly, you can’t overcook your meat. This is something I sometimes struggle with, so this is an excellent feature. Just try not to leave your meats in the bath longer than two hours.

The sous vide wand will fluctuate within a half a degree higher and lower than the set temperature, so it cooks very steady. Don’t attempt to reheat your Firstchop foods without using the wand. You will ruin your meat because the wand works to heat the proteins back to the precise temperature required for the best taste.

What to Do If Your Wand is Beeping

A beeping wand typically indicates you don’t have enough water in your container. Make sure your fill line is at least to the MIN line on the sous vide wand.

This happened to us when we were cooking two meats on the same day. The cooking temperatures of the two varied too much to cook together, so they were cooked one after another. When I removed the first, the wand began to beep due to the displacement cause by the meat in the bath. This can also occur as the water evaporates.

Our Meals: Opinions from the Whole Family

Firstchop offers numerous recipes you can enjoy. If you choose, they will even send new recipe ideas to your inbox.

For the course of this review, we’ll be taking a look at the following recipes recommended by Firstchop that I tried out using the four meats I selected.

  • Spicy Green Curry Chicken
    • Served over rice to help dilute it some of the heat
    • Spicy flavor means this meal goes great with an off-dry Riesling
      • HEATING INSTRUCTIONS:
        • From Thawed 25 min @ 150°F
        • From Frozen 45 min @ 150°F
  • Beef Chuck Short Ribs– a hefty cut of roast slow-cooked in port wine
    • You’ll get a great gravy when you open your package, and this paired very well with our garlic mashed potatoes and salad.
    • Goes great with Cabernet Sauvignon
      • HEATING INSTRUCTIONS:
        • From thawed – 25 min @ 167°F
        • From frozen – 45 min @ 167°F
  • Peppercorn Beef Medallionsthick cut from shoulder coated with crushed, smoked black peppercorns and cooked medium rare.
    • After reheating, give the medallions a quick sear in butter to give a little more heat and color
    • We paired our meal with roasted potatoes.
    • Consider pairing with martini or bottle of Rioja Reserva
      • HEATING INSTRUCTIONS:
        • From Thawed 25 min @ 132°F
        • From Frozen 45 min @ 132°F
  • Boneless Osso Bucco Lamb Shoulder with Root Vegetables– cooked in a flavorful sauce with pearl onions and carrots that have impressed even people who don’t have a taste for lamb.
    • We served our Osso Bucco with potatoes, a polento-inspired gravy, and risotto.
    • Consider serving with a Barolo, Barbaresco, or other Piemonte red
      • HEATING INSTRUCTIONS:
        • From Thawed 25 min @ 167°F
        • From Frozen 45 min @ 167°F

Make sure you use tongs when removing and open your meat carefully when it’s done reheating. It’s hot!

Heat Disclaimer

If you don’t like spicy food, the Spicy Green Curry Chicken can be a little harsh. However, if you’re like me and appreciate spicy food, I think you’ll really enjoy it. If you’re not sure, keep a glass of milk on hand!

How do You Like Your Meat Cooked?

When it comes to cooking meat, we have different preferences. For example, I like mine well done. Some meats like the Peppercorn Beef is cooked to medium rare and can be reheated up to well done. For each level of doneness, just increase the temperature by a few degrees. For example, in the case of the Peppercorn Beef, the following applies:

  • 132°F for medium rare (this is the instructed temperature and how the meat was originally cooked)
  • 136°F for medium
  • 140°F for medium well
  • 145°F for well done

A Look at Our Favorites

Let’s take a look at what we each thought of the meats. We’ve provided a little insight into the types of food we like so you can get a feeling of whose preferences may match yours more closely.

We have listed the meats from favorite to least favorite for each person.

Jessica: Team Short Rib

Age: 33

Favorite Food: Roasted potatoes slow cooked with carrots and roast beef

Least Favorite Food- Seafood

 

  • MY TOP PICK: Beef Chuck Short Ribs
    • Very savory. You can tell this was cooked professionally. There is a rich flavor, and the resultant gravy was awesome on our garlic mashed potatoes. Excellent seasoning.
  • Spicy Green Curry Chicken
    • I loved the pairing of spicy with a hint of kafir lime leaves. It wasn’t quite as tender as the lamb or beef, so that made me a little sad. However, I think it went very well with the rice. Rice + Spice = Nice! If you like really spicy food like I do, and I’ve eaten ghost peppers, it may not be quite as spicy as you’re looking for. However, the average person may want to eat with a glass of milk!
  • Peppercorn Beef Medallions
    • I’m not a fan of any type of red in the middle, but I did like the flavor. If you like your meat well-done, increase the reheat temperature to 136 degrees F. I also wish it were a bit more tender like short ribs.
  • Boneless Osso Bucco Lamb Shoulder with Root Vegetables
    • The sauce is very flavorful, and it was tender due to the slow cook. It has a very pleasant aroma, and I think serving with the riscotto paired well.

Jacob: Team Lamb

Age: 13

Favorite Food: Lasagna

Least Favorite Food: Chicken Alfredo

  • MY TOP PICK: Boneless Osso Bucco Lamb Shoulder with Root Vegetables
    • This is my first time eating lamb, and I think the carrot and onion juice marinates the meat very well. This is a really good first impression. If you think you want to try lamb, this is really good.
  • Beef Chuck Short Ribs
    • Very tender. I like the way the meat falls apart in your mouth. Perfectly salted. You can taste a hint of wine. Marinated perfectly. Compliments to the chef!
  • Spicy Green Curry Chicken
    • Could be a bit more spicy. Well salted. I wish it was cooked a little slower so it would be more tender. Overall, impressed that he made a piece of chicken into such a delicious hunk of meat!
  • Peppercorn Beef Medallions
    • I like that it’s medium rare, but this was my least favorite because it was a bit lacking in salt. I also would have liked it if it were more tender. I think it could have been marinated a little longer.

Jenna: Team Beef Medallion

Age: 11

Favorite Food: Green Bean Casserole

Least Favorite Food: Flan

 

  • MY TOP PICK: Peppercorn Beef Medallions

 

    • Really good. Chewy… less tender. Kind of reminds me of steak cooked outside on the grill. The outdoorsy taste and texture makes it my favorite.
  • Beef Chuck Short Ribs
    • Tastes good. Very hearty.
  • Spicy Green Curry Chicken
    • Has a lemony flavor. Not too spicy, but a hint of spiciness. Tender. Juicy.
  • Boneless Osso Bucco Lamb Shoulder with Root Vegetables
    • Flavorful. Very good. So many flavors I don’t know what to say! Tender.

Other Options by Firstchop

Firstchop offers a variety of meats aside from the four I chose. You can also select:

Many people are skeptical buying food over the Internet. It is a relatively new concept, and you don’t get to see what you’re buying until it arrives at your doorstep. That’s why Firstchop offers a very fair guarantee.

If you aren’t happy with any of the items you receive, they will provide you with a refund. Using their 30 day money back guarantee and one year replacement warranty on their sous vide wand, you have the confidence you need to at least see if sous vide is right for you. If anything’s wrong with the wand, just let them know, and they’ll provide a prepaid shipping label to return it.

If you’ve ever tried to return meat to the grocery store, you were likely turned away. In this case, you’re better protected buying your meat through Firstchop.

All Firstchop’s products have been inspected and approved by the USDA. Keep in mind the portions are enough for two adults. If feeding a family, you’ll need to order accordingly.

We’ve provided our honest opinions, and I ensured everyone’s feedback was provided confidentially to eliminate potential influence. Overall, our experience with Firstchop was very positive.

To ensure we provide you with an in-depth and reliable idea of what to expect should you decide to order, I took a look around to see if my experience was reflective of what other customers report. Here’s what I found:

PROS

  • I’ve seen complaints that you don’t get to pick your proteins, but I was able to pick mine. As someone who doesn’t eat pork, I appreciated this. If you come across similar misinformation, keep in mind this was changed in March 2018 shortly following the feedback. This shows the company is quick to implement change and values what customers have to say… always a big plus in my books!
  • Cooking the meats is effortless
  • Sous vide wand is less expensive than some top competitors
  • Meat is consistently very tender
  • Whole cuts of beef, poultry, pork, and lamb are used
  • Excellent seasoning
  • Plenty of variety
  • Under $5 per serving

CONS

  • Box is bulky
  • Mylar liner and the plastic pouches around the meats are not recyclable
  • No WiFi compatibility with sous vide wand to heat up water while you’re out of the kitchen
  • No organic option. Although the majority of customers aren’t willing to pay the necessary extra amount over conventional meat, I have seen customers who say they’d be willing to pay extra if this were made to be an option.
  • No temperature instructions for various levels of doneness
  • The meat sizes vary, but this doesn’t make a difference in cost- if you like items that weigh less like the Peruvian chicken at six ounces, there isn’t a lower cost than if you pick something like the spicy chicken at 14 ounces.

Whether you’ve already received your order or are excitedly awaiting its arrival, there are a few things you’ll want to know as a customer.

  • How do I manage my subscription?
    • Log into account and click the Manage Subscription button
    • To cancel subscription, just email info@firstchop.com
  • Is meat USDA approved?
  • How long can you refrigerate meats?
  • How long can you freeze meats?
  • Can I overcook using sous vide method?
    • With the correct temperature set, you can’t overcook, but Firstchop recommends limiting the bath to no more than two hours
  • Can I cook more than one meat simultaneously?
    • If heating times are similar you may
  • Is meat safe to eat if bag fills with water?
  • Do I need to sear the meat after reheating?
    • No, but you can if you want to
  • How much time total should I set aside to prepare my meats
    • One hour to consider preheating time

As you can see, Firstchop takes a lot of the headache out of dinner, so what’s the cost? Considering the quality of the meats and the fact that they’re all prepared by a professional check, it’s pretty reasonable.

Firstchop understands needs and budgets vary. Whether you want to make Firstchop your go-to dinner solution every night or just need a small amount to supplement your weekly menu, there’s a plan to meet your needs:

    • Starter Box- 4-Pack and Sous Vide Wand
    • Custom 4-Pack Box of Sous Vide-Ready Meats
    • Custom 8-Pack

Once you’ve purchased your starter box, you won’t need to repurchase the sous vide wand. At that point, it’s up to you to decide between the 4 or 8-pack options. I found these options make it easier to fit into your budget.

Firstchop Review: Our Final Verdict

As someone who’s always been a fan of the convenience of crockpot food and loved the slow-cooked tenderness of meat, Firstchop was a new and exciting method that delivers the same quality in a fraction of the time. It’s great for busy people.

When cooking, meats can be the most time consuming component with the highest degree of error in cooking. I love that Firstchop takes the complication out of dinner and allows me to eat in style without ever leaving the house.

I was surprised that my family’s favorite meats included so much variance. I think this shows they have something for everyone.  The sides that constitute a whole meal are inexpensive and typically only consist of some vegetables or rice. I love that you can cook more than one protein at a time, and, since the meat comes pre-cooked, there’s no need to sear it before applying the sous vide cooking method. All you have to do is serve!

 



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