Ah, winter! The time of the delicious wizardry of cooking all over the world when people celebrate national, international and religious holidays. The families come together, cook, enjoy, and share – the best time of the year. In traditional societies, Grandma is the family treasure and the source of centuries-old traditions and recipes. The Matriarch keeps gigabytes of everyday and festive recipes with correct measurements, images and process descriptions and life hacks in her head. We, the denizens of the 21st century, like to compartmentalize our stuff in our smartphones and tablets, and recipes are no exception.
Cooking apps are so numerous it takes a long time to go through the highest rated ones to find the one that meets your needs. Google Play seriously needs to address the issue of allowing the users the option of filtering the search results. We have done the work for you, and tried out quite a few apps, some iOS or Android-only, some cross-platform, some free, some paid to provide you with the breakdown of the apps we think deserve the highlight.
We could not avoid including Paprika, even though it appeals to those who don’t mind spending $3 on a recipe app. However, Paprika handles the organizational side of your cooking in a delightful manner. Ingredient scaling to update the recipe to your serving size; shopping lists that sort your groceries by aisle, with an easy cross out feature for the products you already have; meal planning calendar, reusable menus; cross-device and cloud sync (mind that each version of the app is sold on a separate basis). It also works as a recipe search because it has a built-in browser that lets you access whatever cooking website Google can find and clip recipes to add them to your own recipe collection. Needless to say you can create your own recipes by typing them in manually.
The app also lets you add notes to your recipes, cross out ingredients in recipes when you’ve added them, and highlight the next step. The app also auto-locks device screen so that when you are cooking you don’t need to wake the device every now and then to check the recipe. The diet geeks will enjoy viewing the nutritional information next to each ingredient, provided the recipe itself has that data. Organizing recipes in categories and subcategories is nothing compared to the in-app search tool that lets you find recipes by ingredient, name or source. Print your recipes, shopping lists and meal plans, email them, import from other apps, and access them offline. By any standards, Paprika is the heavy artillery among cooking apps. Whether you need that much, or not, is up to you. Having to buy the app several times for the devices of different platforms in a single household seems a bit off. Say, you search for and edit recipes on your laptop, shop with your iPhone and cook with your iPad – you’d need to buy three Paprikas.
My CookBook is basically a search and import tool for the recipes. Its main advantage is the ease of use, customizable UI and a $0 price tag. You can add recipes manually, or you can use the app’s built-in browser and import recipes from all over the Internet. I have been using the app for some time and I like how it imports the recipes – with formatting and paragraphs. It also lets you edit imported recipes, add your own images, change ingredients, edit directions, add comments.
My Cookbook supports numerous file formats for importing your existing recipes – mmf, mxp, fdx, rk and more. You can share your recipes through email, Facebook, SMS, or via the app itself, provided your friends use it, too. You can export recipe ingredients into a shopping list within the app, use Dropbox to sync your recipes between multiple devices, scale the ingredients to adjust them to your required serving size, have the app read the recipes to you out loud using the speech feature. The latter feature is totally awesome and unique – you don’t even need to look at the directions when cooking, just hold your palm close to the screen to signal the app should read the next step.
The app is also compatible with Android Wear, has a meal planner, and a desktop version. You can use the app on your Android device without creating an account, but if you do register you will get access to more features, like extending your cloud allocated space up to 105 recipes and 8 shopping lists and sync them across your devices. The premium version, $3.99, lets you save to the cloud and sync across devices unlimited number of recipes and shopping lists. The free version is ad-supported, and lets you adjust the size of the font and the themes of the app’s UI. Among free apps, My Cookbook is my favorite, a very well put together and a robust cookbook app for Android with every feature I wanted in a cooking app.
Download from Google Play
RecetteTek is very similar to the above My Cookbook in a way that it also is a recipe search and import tool with handy customization options. It’s free and lets you create and manage your own recipes, as well as edit the app’s looks. The only nag that I had with RecetteTek is, when importing the recipes from the web via the built-in browser, the app did not recognize the paragraphs, so the directions to big recipes look a bit difficult to read. The scaling feature lets you change the quantity of ingredients to fit the desired serving size.
The app lets you filter the recipes by categories, tags, and favorites, search by ingredients. Unlimited shopping lists, editable recipes, sharing via email, backup and restore, shopping lists, scaling, meal planner – RecetteTek makes for a nice alternative, while its special feature is the backup and restore feature that lets you use the backup generator tool available on the developer’s website.
ChefTap is a cross-platform recipe search and clip tool. Unlike the above mentioned My Cookbook and RecetteTek, this one has no list of supported websites and claims to import recipes from anywhere on the web. In fact, you can use your mobile web browser to find recipes and then tap share the webpage with ChefTap to have the app import the recipe. A nifty tool to save your favorite recipes locally, ChefTap adds the links to the recipes, so you never forget where you found them. One handy feature is ChefTap works seamlessly with Pinterest, so when you wish to import recipes or your entire pinboard, ChefTap adds them to your local collection, accessible offline.
Scaling, bulk importing your recipe box from Epicurious and allrecipes.com, adjustable text size, and more. ChefTap can scan your browser bookmarks and identify which ones are recipes and import them. The app lets you create tags, search recipes and sort by several categories, and edit recipes. The free app does not require a membership and lets you manage up to 50 recipes without an account. A free account grants you 100 recipes allocation, cloud backup and cross-device sync and online editing in the browser. The pro membership removes the limits, ads and caps.
One of the prettiest food apps on the Play store, Yummly is for those who can’t look at the delicious meals images without salivating and cooking to make those images come to life. The app features over a million recipes and you can filter the search results to fit your diet, allergies, nutrition and lifestyle and other preferences. Quick, healthy, paleo, gluten-free, fried, grilled, spicy – you choose. Whenever you tap to like a recipe, the app learns from your preferences and then suggests the recipes it thinks you might like.
Export your recipes to a shopping list, easily add or remove items, or cross out, and let Yummly categorize the products by aisles, and sync them across your devices. Saving recipes is easy with just one tap on the Yum button, and later you can categorize them into collections. I really appreciate how Yummly lets you create a list of products you would like to avoid in your recipes, so if you have allergies or any other health condition that bans some products for you – Yummly lets you search for the recipes without those. Also, when searching, you can specify if you want recipes based on preparation time, nutrition value of the meal, techniques, based on which course you need, and which cuisine of the world you are searching for. For example, the Cuisines section not only lets you choose a country-specific recipe, but also lets you find kid-friendly recipes. The Tastes section even lets you specify which meal you would like to find the recipe for – salty, savory, sour, bitter, sweet, or spicy. I wonder if anyone is looking for bitter?
The only nag that I found with Yummly is the directions section. Since it draws the recipes from websites and cooking blogs, it displays the cooking directions as a mini version of the blog page, so the view is not superb. I found it not so easy to switch to and from full page view because sometimes the app “thinks” I want to switch to it when I just need to scroll down. Some blogs and websites have an odd formatting that doesn’t let you see some text. Other than that, it’s a very beautiful and robust recipe discovery and management app for anyone looking to sync their recipes across platforms, because Yummly works with Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
A robust and feature-rich app, Kitchen Stories has plenty of toggles and options. Looking for a recipe – choose from meal types, ingredients, calories, preparation time, but the nifty one is the Recipe Package category. Here you can choose from a wide variety of packages – back to school, breakfast ideas, street food, fresh eats to beat the heat, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, grill special, office bites, vegetarian, Chinese, vegan, Christmas, pasta, summer recipes, cooking with kids, drinks and many more. That’s some full-featured filtering. Kitchen Stories also has a buzzing community, where you can create your profile, follow people, add your own recipes and let the users vote and use them. That’s probably the one downside I see, especially for those who want to keep a local database of recipes instead of keeping them in the community. That imposes some rules of formatting and images.
The app lets you fav the recipes, add them to collections and enable the cooking mode right away. It prevents the device from sleeping when you cook. The app also features quite a few how-to videos, and most recipes feature step by step guide complete with images, some with videos. Meal planner, shopping lists, integrated timer, measurement converter, notes and comments and a social network of cooking aficionados – Kitchen Stories is awesome.
A comprehensive search box complete with filters that lets you search all the recipes or just your recipes, by keyword, by category, include and exclude ingredients, and add dietary restrictions. The recipes are numerous, 350K or more, but some of them do not come complete. For example, some recipes only allow you to read ingredients and for cooking directions you would have to follow the link to the source. Meal planner, save recipe to Try, Favorite or Folder, add notes, share plans and grocery lists – this app has its strong points. One feature that some may not appreciate is BigOven requires registration, like it or not. Yet, it’s virtues outweigh the hassle. For example, you can type in three ingredients, like leftovers from the Thanksgiving party, and the app will suggest what you can cook with them.
The app is ad-supported, but has a Pro membership ($1.99 per month or $19.99 per year) that removes that ads and throws in more features that let you fine-tune your collection of recipes to your nutrition and dietary needs even more, removing the monthly cap of imported recipes. The pro version has something you won’t find in other apps – scan the recipes you have on paper and import them in the app (the free version lets you scan 3 recipes). A visually appealing app, BigOven also lets you import recipes from Internet, export ingredients to shopping lists, create cooking plans and add them to the in-app calendar, and share things via email, sms, you name it.
Dinner Spinner bombards you with salivation-inducing images right from the start. It’s a simple, very good-looking app that lets you browse user-uploaded recipes (11 million+), add them to your recipe box, send the ingredients to the shopping list, tick the boxes of the ingredients you have added. There are how-to videos, while the search options let you filter the results by cuisine, prep time, ingredient. One nifty feature is you can scan product barcodes with the app and have it find you the recipes containing this product. Your recipe box syncs with your other devices, and you can share them with friends, write reviews, pin, post, add images, and more. Overall, it’s a very neat app with a vibrant user community of people who love to cook and eat well.
A comprehensive and very good-looking app, Allthecooks Recipes features over 230K recipes submitted by the community and curated by cooks. It’s a social network of cooks, where you can comment on recipes, submit yours, or add your picture of someone’s recipe and share your experience. The app has plenty of categories to go through, including beverages, sauces, dietary considerations, food preservation tip and tools and techniques among other things. There is a forum, and you can create your news feed from the users you follow.
The recipe composer is a delight – lets you not only add ingredients, pictures and a guide, but also write a story behind the recipe and add a touch of your personality to the dish. Complete the app with a meal planner, messages, reviews inbox, shopping lists, and favorites, and you get a fully-fledged social network for cooking nerds. I like this community because that’s where I found quite a few fast and easy cooking recipes for my level of cooking savvy. Oh, there is a whole section dedicated to bartending and beverages!
Developer: Culinate, Inc.
Download from iTunes
iOS-only, How to Cook Everything offers many apps, and does not seem to be willing to bless the Android population with its presence. Alas, if you are a fan of Mark Bittman’s cookbook, and sport an iOS-powered device, you should check out his app. It offers 2K recipes, 400 illustrations, and is a complete cookbook made into a mobile app. Meal planning ideas, equipment requirements, ingredient information, flexible search options, complete with filters, shopping lists, bookmarking options, conversion calculator for temperatures and measures, timers – there is really a wealth of features in this app. It is probably best suited to those who take the cooking seriously. You can add notes to the recipes, listen to the quotes from the book voiced by Bittman himself.
The app also lets you print recipes, add them to calendars, send them by mail and share them on your Facebook or Twitter timeline – what else do you need? It’s got so many bells and whistles you can’t go wrong with this one.
Depending on what you need, your choice will differ. If you treat cooking seriously and wouldn’t mind spending a few dollars on a comprehensive app, opt for How to Cook Everything or Paprika. However, it does not mean the free apps can’t give you what you need. Each of them comes with a special feature, like paper recipe scanning, or barcode scanning and fetching the recipes containing the product, or leftover-based recipes, or seasonal and kid-friendly recipes. These individual features combined with user-friendly UI, attractive design and the amount of recipes helped these apps make it to the list.
P.S. One final life hack we want to share with you is – look for an easy solution. If you aren’t happy with either of the apps you have tried, use the apps you already have. OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox – make a folder, use your desktop browser and word processor to create and edit recipes, copy them from the source of your choice, and upload them to your folder. Create sub-folders for categories, and voilà! You have your recipes in the cloud, accessible from all your synced devices. Of course, this method works for those who know what they need and already have a cookbook of favorite recipes (like Grandma), without looking for the suggestions, social networking and all those timer, planner, shopping list attire of the dedicated apps.
So, what is your life hack that helps you harness the advantages of your mobile device when cooking? Share your favorite app suggestions and ideas in the comments below!