We love our smartphones. They help us do everything from navigating to the nearest bodega to settling bets over which Tom Cruise movie was released in ’94 (it wasn’t Mission Impossible). More important, though, they assist with the best part of the day: meal time.
There are gastronomic apps to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus every amuse-bouche, munchie, midnight snack, and dessert. If you’re feeling a culinary wave of inspiration coming on, you can download entire cookbooks and individual recipes from professional, celebrity, and amateur chefs. And, if you’re the type that’d rather let someone else do the cooking, there are countless apps that will point you in the direction of the best local restaurants and delivery joints.
The choice becomes even more difficult when you factor in the host of apps geared toward finding cheap food and helping those with dietary restrictions, not to mention the bartending apps that are designed to help you channel your inner mixologist. The future of food is here — and it can be found in the 17 apps below.
BigOven’s draw is its massive catalog of recipes — it boasts more than 350,000 in virtually every category of cuisine. Every meal type is on tap, from breakfast to dinner, and a nifty tool generates entrees out of three leftover ingredients. Moreover, BigOven features an archival function that lets you save digital copies of family recipes: snap a photo of said recipe, upload it, and the app will organize it by folder and category. The app also features a built-in meal planner and allows you manage your grocery list, which automatically lists ingredients by department and recipe. Various social networking features let you comment on and ask questions about recipes, too, or follow friends who’ve joined and the recipes they’ve shared. A premium membership ($20 a year) extends functionality, letting you sort recipes by diet and nutritional content, create custom recipe folders, and upload an unlimited number of recipes.
Recipe apps may be a dime a dozen, but ChefTap stands out from the crowd. It’s like Pinterest for cooks, and a such, it automatically parses recipes from any English-language website and saves them to a digital, cloud-based scrapbook along with a link to the original post. It crunches social media websites such as Facebook and Google+, and, better yet, generates a running grocery list that you can then filter based on the department, section, and aisle. Recipes, which you can save using the built-in sharing features in iOS, also scale to the size of your device, meaning laptops and tablets with larger screens will show more columns and larger images. The app is free, but a Pro subscription nets you unlimited recipes and grocery lists, unlimited access to recipe scaling, and ability to sync your account across devices and send recipes to clip from your desktop.
The Naked Chef makes cooking easy with this app. It includes 60 recipes that 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, 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 through 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, and 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 fingertips, 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 an app for the slightly more experienced cook.
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.