We love our smartphones, they help us do everything from finding directions to settling bets over which Tom Cruise movie was released in ’94 (hint: it wasn’t Mission Impossible). Perhaps more importantly, they can assist with arguably the best part of the day: meal time. There are cooking apps to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus every naughty snack in-between. You can download entire cook books, complete collections, or just individual recipes for those more experimental moments in the kitchen. Bartending apps awaken your inner mixologist and help transform you into the life of the party. If you don’t want to actually do the cooking, or are so useless that you burn boiling water, others can help guide you to the best local restaurants. The dizzying choice continues with everything from apps geared toward finding the cheapest food possible, to catering for your awkward gluten-free, vegan friend. Finally, there’s even one for when you feel like Taco Bell. Either way, the future of food is here.
Here’s our comprehensive guide showcasing the best food and drink apps for iOS, so you can eat and drink well, or, you know, not. Also, check out our top picks for the best Android apps and the best iPhone apps, along with the best way to use Instagram for recipe inspiration.
Updated on 03-22-2014: This article was originally published on 07-12-2012, but has been comprehensively updated with new app choices and reviews.
The Naked Chef makes cooking easy with this app. It includes 60 recipes that, unsurprisingly, take 20 minutes or less to prep and cook. World-renowned British chef Jamie Oliver has your back before you even enter the kitchen. He breaks down ingredients into aisles with interactive shopping lists, while complementing every recipe with step-by-step instructions and photos, so you’ll know if something is about to go horribly wrong. The app includes videos to help with basic kitchen skills, such as how to properly hold a knife or the right way to prepare al dente pasta, and allows users to sift though recipes by ingredient or name. Giving your phone a shake pulls up random meals, adding an element of spontaneity that even the most nervous of amateur cooks will feel confident in trying. Thankfully, 20 Minute Meals can also convert measurements from the default, metric system to the standard imperial, saving us from some potentially disastrous confusion.
Few things are as rewarding as successfully creating an appetizing meal from scratch. Even the most inexperienced of cooks can look like a gourmet chef with the help of Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List. This app places more than 30,000 recipes at your finger tips, offering step-by-step instructions from meal preparation to the first bite. Once you’ve picked a recipe, Epicurious will generate a shopping list to ensure you have all the right ingredients before you start. You’ll never be missing that final dash of seasoning or forget how long to set the oven again. There are more recipes than in 20 Minute Meals, and they’re constantly updating too, but many are more complicated, and don’t include thorough tutorials, so treat Epicurious as a app for the slightly more experienced cook.
How to Cook Everything ($9.99 for iOS)
Based on the best selling book by Mark Bittman, a New York Times columnist and chef, How to Cook Everything teaches you everything you need to know about cooking. Not only are there more than 20,000 recipes with step-by-step instructions, but also instructional videos to help beginner cooks learn basic skills, and feel more comfortable around the kitchen. The sheer amount of recipes can be overwhelming, but the search function works well, and finding recipes based on ingredients you already have laying around the house is easy. Additionally, the tutorials are informative for both amateurs and seasoned pros alike. The app also comes with a built-in timer for each step, meaning you don’t have to worry about checking your salmon fillets every two minutes. Still, we recommend watching your food for the best results.
Unlike the recipes provided in How to Cook Everything, a host of different people curate the content in Allrecipes. The bevy of contributors create a space where people can comment on recipes, add suggestions, or pitch substitutions. It’s ideal for those with dietary restrictions as it allows you to search and filter recipes according to specific needs, even removing foods you simply don’t like. The recipe database is vast, and it’s often hard to find something worthwhile, but the search function is one of the best we’ve used, so narrowing the choice down is a breeze. Though recipes do come with shopping lists containing the right ingredients, they aren’t as thorough as the ones in How to Cook Everything. However, each has its own rating, so you can find the most worthwhile one before you start cooking.