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ButcherBox Unleashed My Inner Chef on a Budget

Illustration for article titled ButcherBox Unleashed My Inner Chef on a Budget
Image: ButcherBox

Classic Box | $149 | ButcherBox
Big Box | $270 | ButcherBox

Now that we’re all relegated to our homes until at least spring 2021, I’ve been getting into cooking. I love takeout as much as the next person, but it’s, as you can imagine, expensive. I happen to live in a food desert (what’s up Eastern Queens!), so honestly, even when I do partake in takeout, I’m not getting a cute little poké bowl unless I’m driving up to Flushing, Astoria, or my old stomping grounds of Brooklyn (oh how I miss you). Not to mention, I own a home with my mother who, because of the lingering dangers of the pandemic, is newly retired, which means we all have to conserve our coin.

These specific circumstances led me to test out ButcherBox. I had heard about it from my sister’s boyfriend, which lent to my curiosity—what exactly was is and how can it help me eat more meals at home?


For those not in the know, ButcherBox is a subscription food service that provides all the protein you’d ever need for a month at a time. You can choose between beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. Depending on the size of the box, (Classic or Big Box), you’ll also be able to select more or less of each option. And, for the sake of this review, I chose a custom box comprising a little bit of everything besides beef. I’m allergic, so naturally, I wouldn’t cook it. After I ordered, it took a couple of days to receive the actual box full of meats just waiting to be cooked. It was a tad heavy, but filled with dry ice to keep the protein cool so it wouldn’t spoil. I found it such a simple yet innovative idea for a meal kit service, especially compared to delivery services like Fresh Direct or even InstantCart.

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Like I said before, I sampled bit of everything, including chicken drumsticks, boneless chicken breasts, bacon, a fresh ham, breakfast sausage, sockeye salmon, cod, and as a special treat, lobster claws.

Illustration for article titled ButcherBox Unleashed My Inner Chef on a Budget
Image: Ignacia Fulcherb

The first real meal I made was stewed chicken with the legs. It’s a simple family recipe, one that my mother and I had yet to perfect since my grandmother passed awa in 2018.

You’ll need:

  • Chicken legs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Adobo
  • Flour
  • One green pepper
  • One onion
  • One red pepper
  • Butter
  • Vegetable oil

I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, and adobo. You should let the chicken legs marinate in it for at least a couple of hours after washing them with a bit of water and vinegar. I did all of this during my lunch break and let it sit for about three hours at room temperature.

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Next, you’ll need to sear or brown the chicken with a bit of vegetable oil. I used a big, non-stick pan to do this, but obviously, adjust the size depending on how many portions you’ll be eating. Put the burner on medium and make sure the legs are brown all around.

I then started to make a roux, which is what the flour is for. Rouxs take time a bunch of love, but you know the deal—equal parts flour and butter in a frying pan on low heat. You’ll need the roux to make the thick, brown gravy to make the stewed chicken top notch. Stir and keep stirring, then add the roux to the browned chicken pan, along with a bit of stock as well as the onion, green, and red peppers. I made sure I cooked this meal low and slow on my gas burner for about an hour and a half, constantly checking to see how it was doing.

All in all, the chicken legs themselves were delicious, marking my first official dinner with ButcherBox.

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Illustration for article titled ButcherBox Unleashed My Inner Chef on a Budget
Graphic: Ignacia Fulcher

The second meal I made was pan-seared salmon with chopped lobster claws. I used to put my salmon in the oven for a few and call it a day, but back in early October when we didn’t know if Trump had the ‘rona or not, I’d been watching way too much MasterChef to distract myself and thought I should try it. While I was aiming the nice, crispy skin and silky consistency everyone raves about—spoiler alert: my salmon skin wasn’t crispy, but it was still tasty.

What surprised me about the wild Alaskan salmon was how quick it was able to defrost even though it was super fresh. Like, so fresh I had to de-scale it. No one wants to choke on fish scales, am I right?

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I seasoned my salmon with a bit of salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon juice, and freshly cut garlic before adding it to my little marinade. I let it sit at room temp for about a half-hour to an hour to let the juices do their thing. Instead of olive oil coating my cast iron pan, I glazed it with a bit of garlic herb butter, which pairs beautifully with seafood. You can pick it up at your local supermarket, or even on Amazon Fresh.

Something I learned AFTER cooking the salmon is you’ll want to make sure your pan is hot. I mean SUPER hot before placing your salmon on it. I placed the salmon on the (lukewarm) pan and let it cook on one side for about 5 minutes, flipping and cooking them for another 5-8 minutes thereafter. While that was cooking, I chopped up my lobster claws and marinated them with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Lobster doesn’t need much because it’s already so rich (like, people got gout from eating it back in the day).

I then heated a smaller pan at medium heat, sautéing it with garlic butter and let it melt a bit before adding the chopped claws. You’ll want to do this bit last because the lobster claws didn’t take that long to cook, and you won’t want to eat anything of this cold. I also had some instant mashed potatoes and broccoli in small pots fired up, because it’s not dinner without a side and vegetable.

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Once everything was finished, I plated the mashed potatoes, salmon, and lobster claws on top. I didn’t like how the broccoli looked on top, so I just placed it to the side. Yes, I used paper plates because who the hell likes doing dishes? Not I.

The salmon and lobster were fresh, buttery, and so damn good. Plus, it only took about 45 minutes to make in total.

After all was said and done, I still have the fresh pork shoulder and cod in my freezer waiting for the exact moment to be cooked. I think we’ll have the shoulder for Christmas and the cod can be cooked anytime, really, but as the weather starts to get colder, I haven’t been craving fish.

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ButcherBox is a great investment for us seeing as we’ve got tons of freezer space between mine and my mother’s living spaces, meaning it can be amazing for a family of four or five looking to avoid filling up their fridge every other week. I found it especially convenient given the safety benefits over taking a trip to the grocery store.

I do recognize the privilege in even being able to afford a delivery food service, but in my family’s defense, my mother, before she retired, was an essential worker for the MTA here in NYC. She, as a Black woman, worked the peak of the pandemic without so much as a thanks, despite her pre-existing condition. So with that, we aren’t sorry for keeping ourselves safe.

For folks who want to cook their own meals but can’t stand checking all the meats in the supermarket, you won’t be disappointed with ButcherBox. I promise your inner chef will love it as much as mine.

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Commerce Editor. Brooklyn born. Black and Latina. Obsessed with skincare and '90s R&B. Actually went to Journalism school. Cares about social justice and Black writers.

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