It should go without saying that smartphones make our lives easier in many ways. They help us find directions to our next destination, maintain communication with loved ones and dear friends, and even waste precious time playing games like Words with Friends and Angry Birds. We carry our phones with us everywhere we go — whether it be our living room, work space, or even the bathroom — so why shouldn’t we venture with it into the kitchen? Cooking apps are the next step in the complete mobile takeover, offering step-by-step instructions detailing how to make a fine oven-fried chimichanga, curate a weekly meal plan, or even tell when your apple is perfectly ripe. The app market is loaded with both premium and freemium offerings available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Even though some cater more to the executive chef at the local five-star restaurant, others will help those of you who are still learning to dice an onion or boil water.
Here are top picks for the best apps for cooking, regardless of your kitchen expertise. Also, check out our handpicked selection of the best food and drink apps, along with the best iPhone apps and best Android apps.
Big Oven touts more than 250,000 recipes, but it also works as a meal planner. You assign recipes for each day at the beginning of the week, dragging them around or deleting them as things come up, and the app supplies a grocery list detailing everything you need. Though the freemium version offers access to recipes and and review, you will have to subscribe ($20) to abolish the ads and access all of the app’s features, including those for looking up nutrition facts and taking photos of hand-written recipes. However, there’s always the two-week free trial if you remain hesitant.
Food Network in the Kitchen
This wouldn’t be a comprehensive list of food apps without a proper Bobby Flay appearance. Food Network in the Kitchen brings all your favorite chefs from the network directly to your smartphone, so you no longer will have to sit through an episode of 30 Minute Meals to find out how to make baked chicken. There are thousands of recipes and photos, which are searchable by chef, course, food type, and other options. Once you start cooking, you can even use the unit converter to figure out volume or weight, or simply revel in the app’s multiple timers for multi-dish meals.
If you notice you end up throwing away a good deal of produce because you either don’t know how to store it or how to test its ripeness, Perfect Produce isn’t a bad investment. The app is set up alphabetically, outlining a plethora of useful information about a smattering of common fruits or vegetables you might possess in your fridge. Said details include everything from nutrition facts and recipes, to storage information and the best method for selecting particular fruits in the store. Furthermore, you can look up which veggies or fruits contain desired nutrients and components vital for good health (fiber, vitamin C, etc.).
Paprika Recipe Manager
Paprika is the ultimate recipe hub for your smartphone or tablet. You can upload personal recipes or search the Web for specific recipes to clip and save within the app. It also allows you to easily look up necessary ingredients at the grocery store. Since it’s 2014, you can even sync saved recipes between nearly any electronic device connected to the Internet, and the app additionally provides tools for planning meals for up to a month. You can also sort recipes into folders or export your meal plans and ingredients lists to your smartphone’s respective calendar and reminder apps. Plus, it offers offline access.
Weber’s On the Grill
Grilling may be the staple of summer, but it’s hard to find a large variety of quality grilling recipes online. Weber’s On the Grill makes it easy, supplying not only 300 different recipes for an entire grill-prepared meal — dessert and all —but the whole process for preparing the dish. You can add and delete items on your grocery list once you select a recipe, and then, when it’s time to add fire to the equation, you can enter the thickness of the meat and the app will automatically adjust the grilling time and temperature accordingly. You can even watch short instructional videos featuring celebrity chef and author Jamie Purviance.
Fun fact: Auguste Escoffier was a famous French chef who worked at the renowned Savoy Grill in London in the late 1800s. Featuring multiple kitchen timers and measurement converters, the aptly-titled Escoffier is designed to teach you the master chef’s basics, allowing you to learn the ins and outs of cooking from the beginning. The app provides tools to help you before you begin cooking, such as convenient equipment and ingredient guides, along with a comprehensive glossary defining pivotal cooking terms ensuring recipes never become a guessing game. However, the app features a few cumbersome pop-up ads.
Having people over for dinner can be extremely tricky if every guest has a different food allergy or is intolerant to different dishes. Assuming you don’t want to opt for a different group of friends, Substitutions allows you choose from a list of allergies and presents suitable alternatives for dishes with the offending ingredient. The app presents options for vegans and gluten-free guests, along with welcome substitutions for specific ingredients. Moreover, you can find alternatives to foods you simply don’t like or don’t have on hand, or use the app’s basic search function if you manage to find a magnifying glass for viewing the smaller-than-normal font.
While reading and following a written recipe is fine for some, others benefit more from visual learning. That said, a step-by-step video accompanies each recipe within Appetites, shot from the perspective of the chef. Though the online bloggers who don names like “Brokeass Gourmet” and “Lick My Spoon” provide the bulk of the tutorials in lieu of traditional TV chefs, the respective viewing angle always allows you to clearly view what the food should look like when chopped or cooked. The downside? The Webby Award Honoree only possesses a limited selection of video recipes unless you purchase the assorted, premium recipe packs.
All the Cooks
If social media doesn’t already saturate every aspect of your life, All the Cooks is the app for you. The app creates a virtual place to exchange recipes with friends, family, and strangers. When you’re done cooking, you can upload a recipe with a picture of the finished product and others can comment. The wealth of comments range from potential substitutions for food allergies, to side dishes that would pair well with the recipe, each of which depends on the dish. Recipes are also sorted into different categories and the app creates a profile for you so you can see what others have uploaded and liked.
Pepperplate claims it is the only recipe app for serious cooks, which is a pretty hefty statement to make. While it may not be the only recipe app a pro could use, it is a comprehensive one. Though you can pull recipes from any website as well as upload personal ones, they don’t always import into the app seamlessly. You can also copy and paste text and photos. Once a recipe is added to the app, you can add or alter notes so you can remember to increase the number of ingredients in the recipe to accommodate more guests. Users can also move recipes into different categories, providing quick access in most situations.
EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry
A cheeseburger always looks better when you’re tired or in a hurry, but you’ll pay for it later. Fortunately, EatingWell houses only quick, nutritious meals. Each of the app’s recipes is preloaded, so you don’t need Internet access to view them, and features lots of nutrition facts. Moreover, the app has a unique search function that lets you look up the benefits of each dish, such as those aimed at promoting a healthy heart or reducing your waste line. The app also compiles a shopping list, your bookmarks, and sends a daily recipe to your smartphone in case you are having a hard time deciding what to make.
Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List
Epicurious has been heralded as a flagship cooking app since the early days of the App Store and Google Play. It presents more than 30,000 editorially tested and member-rated recipes within a newly-renovated interface. The app allows you to manage your shopping lists and recipes across platforms, and even perform voice-activated commands sepcifically designed for hands-free cooking. Though editors of Epicurious offer their own selection of recipes, the app also manages to present those from the likes of Gourmet magazine, Self, and more.
What do you think of our notable selection of the best cooking apps? Do you have another suggestion? Let us know in the comments below.