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.
If you’re an indecisive drinker who finds wine lists intimidating, there’s always Lush. The app dispenses esoteric names and, instead, categorizes drinks by flavor profile. Want something nutty? Lush will serve up a collection of cocktails that meet that description. Prefer something minty? Lush has those as well. The app will filter drinks based on the ingredient, too, and features rotating editorial lists fit for any occasion — i.e. “girl’s night out” and “brunch.” You can also favorite drinks when you’re out and about, and, when you’re mixing, summon a stylized graphic that helps to illustrate common mixology proportions. “Using Lush is like talking to a bartender with 20 years experience,” reads Lush’s description in the iTunes Store. We can’t help but agree.
If the social element of mixology appeals to you just as much as the mixing, there’s Onthebar. The app boasts a database of thousands of cocktail recipes, but more interestingly, provides a social window into the local drinking scene. If your favorite bartender has created a profile, you’ll see their headshot, bio, preferred poison, and “reputation” score based on the number of users who follow them, the number of compliments they’ve received, and the number of drink recipes they’ve published. You’ll see when they’re working, too, and what new drinks they’ve crafted, replete with tasting notes such as “aggressive” and “savory.” And if their drinking buddies are onboard, you can coordinate bar meets, crawls, and social hours. There’s an element of competition, too, since you can unlock hidden drink menus by making frequent visits.
A night out on the town is fun, but barhopping can quickly get expensive. Instead, stay in for the night, have some friends over, and impress them with your amateur bar skills with the help of Mixologist Drink Recipes. If you have a specific drink in mind, simply search through the drink categories to find it, and mix away. Got a cabinet full of liquor and not sure what to do with it? Plug in what you have and the app will conveniently spit out every cocktail combination at your disposal. It’ll even point you towards the nearest liquor store if you’re missing a crucial ingredient. The app guides you through the basics, such as making a simple gin and tonic, and then puts your skills to the test with more complicated concoctions like mixing a Sex on the Beach or the Smashing Pumpkin. You can even include additional, and more unusual, ingredients you have on hand to see the options available, ready to start taking your drinks to the next level.
Liquor Cabinet does everything in its power to ensure a drink is never out of reach. The main interface resembles a tiny liquor cabinet, virtually displaying the contents of your real one at home, helping you feel you’re worth more than the half-empty bottle of peppermint schnapps in your fridge. You add whatever alcohol or mixers you already have and Liquor Cabinet provides you with a list of potential drink recipes. If none of the options hit the spot, the app creates a list of drinks requiring one additional ingredient, in case you’re up for a quick trip to the local store. Liquor Cabinet also supplies a revolving list of what needs to be restocked, so you never forget to pick up Triple Sec or bitters on your way home from work. Sure, the app doesn’t shake and pour the drinks for you, but it’s the closest you can get to having a personal bartender for under a dollar.
Like Liquor Cabinet, Cocktail Flow also shows you different possible drink combinations from what you already own. However, it takes things one step further with the bundled smart shopper feature. The shopper not only lists whatever ingredients you need for specific drinks, but also how much they will roughly cost, so you can plan accordingly for a party. Furthermore, you can pick a drink based on its approximate price, and even view step-by-step tutorials designed to take your mixing skills from basic to baller as quickly as possible. Sadly, Cocktail Flow is a freemium app, and it’s loaded with in-app purchases spanning recipe packs and premium features that aren’t enticing when sober, let alone inebriated. That aside, the app does what it purports to do: encourage you to roll up your sleeves, throw on some shades, and start spinning bottles.
Gluten seems to be in the news a lot these days, typically for the wrong reasons. However you feel about the notorious mix of proteins, however, Find Me Gluten Free will help those intolerant, sensitive, or conscious to avoid it. True to its name, it’s an exhaustive directory of restaurants, fast food joints, cafes, bars, and grocery stores that cater to gluten-free diets. Restaurant listings for national chains contain menus, and there’s a social element in that you can rate locations, read reviews, and share your favorites using the built-in sharing tools in iOS. And if you happen upon a business that isn’t listed, you can suggest it to Find Me Gluten Free’s editorial team for inclusion.
Foursquare made its name as a social game that involved checking into hip businesses and competing to become the digital proprietary of said neighborhood hotspots. But it’s reinvented itself in recent years. Now, Foursquare features a robust set of restaurant-finding tools that help surface hidden gems. Tell it your favorite cuisines and dishes, and it’ll filter restaurants based on said criteria. You can also follow well-traveled reviewers, folks you trust, or the collective wisdom of the crowd. Once you’ve found a potential stop, you can check reviews, pics, and recommended dishes, or add it to your bookmarks for later perusal.
While “Food porn” is an over-used term in these Instagram-fueled days, Foodspotting proves there’s a market for that sort of thing. The app is dedicated to sharing candid snapshots and vivid details about delicious meals, while offering a convenient means of rating and finding them in the process. With a built-in social network and images which surpass any menu picture you’ve ever seen, Foodspotting is great for keeping track of your favorite foods, while getting new suggestions of succulent servings from friends and experts. The app is specifically designed for those who like to visualize a meal before purchasing it, whether it be mouth-watering lobster thermidor or a cheap, bacon maple doughnut. Foodspotting even allows you to follow others and set your favorite places to eat, meaning you’ll likely never forget the spot for late-night fries.
Drinking, more often than not, is a social activity — so why shouldn’t it have its own social network? The aptly-titled Untappd gives booze hounds and beer snobs a chance to track their drink selections for the night, with a geolocation functionality for friends to follow along. Untappd will keep a tab on the latest-and-greatest beers that hit the market or begin trending at a local bar, and provide you with with beer reviews, photos, and personal recommendations based on personal tastes. You can curate wishlists of beers to try, then check in to Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. You can even find where to grab a particular microbrew, and there are badges to unlock for trying different styles and breweries. Let’s be honest: few apps praise and reward your drinking habits quite like Untappd.
Zomato, previously Urbanspoon, is a comprehensive little bugger. You can ask it to find almost any cuisine in any neighborhood, by name or by price. It is the app to use if you really like a place but can’t remember the name, and only vaguely recall the neighborhood in which it’s located. Another helpful feature is the comment section. Unlike Yelp, comments are a combination of newspapers reviews, bloggers, and fellow Zomato users. This makes it easier to avoid reviewers with a personal agenda. It can be used in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Ireland, so you can take it with you on vacation. It also has a wishlist and a favorites section.
For the last six years, Yelp has been one of the most popular food apps available, partly because of the sheer amount of businesses it covers, but mostly because it’s terrific. The app allows you to search for eateries according to food, location, or price, and every restaurant comes with customer reviews complete with a star rating out of five. Most reviews are helpful and pretty accurate, but like any service reliant on customer input, there is always the chance you will come across some disgruntled customer who thinks the soup was too hot and the smoothies too cold. The app provides access to basic directions, contact information, business hours, and wealth of other information. After all, sometimes just knowing a restaurant offers outdoor seating is enough to pull you in.
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