The holidays are fast approaching, which means that food is going to be front and center for the next couple of months. Whether you’re cooking for Thanksgiving this year or need to bake up some fantastic cookies to give as gifts, these cooking apps for the iPad have you covered. They can do everything from teaching you culinary skills to helping you find new recipes to try and even create your shopping list for you. So now you don’t have any excuses at all — get in that kitchen and start cooking up a storm.
AllRecipes – Your Kitchen Inspiration (Free, $4.99 Pro upgrade required to unlock all features and remove advertising, iPhone version also available)
If you don’t know what you want to cook, AllRecipes for iPad is the app for you. When you launch the app you’ll see a scattering of photos across the main screen; tap any of them for more information. Along the bottom of the screen you’ll see several filters that allow you to choose a main ingredient, an occasion, a particular course, a type of cuisine, even a time limit. (Those “20 minutes or less” recipes are great if you’re in a real hurry!)
You can then browse photos of the dishes that meet the criteria you chose; pick one and you’ll be taken to a screen with a larger photo and summary card, top reviews, ingredients, and directions. You can add the recipe to your AllRecipes.com recipe box, add the ingredients to a shopping list, or send the recipe via email.
I was disappointed at first by how small the ingredient list and directions are, but then I saw that the next step is to tap the Start Cooking button. Once you do that, you’ll be taken to a step-by-step view with very large text (you have your choice of three font sizes) with a handy timer at the top right corner of the screen. The ingredient list is still fairly small, and if you have a recipe with steps like “combine the first seven ingredients” it could be slightly frustrating.
Other than that, AllRecipes is a fun option, especially if you’re looking for new inspiration or if you’re already a diehard AllRecipes fan, since it integrates nicely with the existing web site but offers iPad-specific features like large photos and step-by-step instructions.
Big Fork Little Fork (Free until December 31, 2010)
Do you have little ones who you would like to introduce to the joy of cooking? Big Fork Little Fork will help you do that. It is designed primarily for parents (though kids can follow along) with easy recipes and videos. Each recipe is labeled with suggested ages and necessary skills for completion, along with step-by-step illustrated instructions and summary videos. Some of the videos that go with specific recipes are expanded to teach new skills, such as how to measure wet ingredients. You can share recipes by email or on Facebook, mark individual recipes as favorites, and even manage shopping lists if you have a free online companion account.
There is a good variety of recipes here; in the Dinner section you’ll find eleven different categories ranging from Asian, Chicken, and Fish & Seafood to Healthy Living, Meatless Meals, Pasta, and Slow Cooker recipes. Some of the recipes (especially in the Kids Can Cook section) are sponsored by specific products such as Jell-O gelatin and mini Oreos. That shouldn’t be too surprising, since the app is sponsored by Kraft Foods.
There are plenty of choices here and the price is right; Big Fork Little Fork is full of ideas for parents and teachers alike and worth checking out for yourself.
BigOven Pro ($9.99)
BigOven Pro is my second favorite of the “take a web site and turn it into an iPad app” bunch. It’s slick, but it doesn’t emphasize production values over ease of use and readability. When you first open the app you get one enticing photo after another on the right side, but the left side has a menu with topics such as Find a Recipe, Use Up Leftovers, Recent Raves, and even a What’s Cooking Around Me? section that can help you discover new favorites.
When you choose a recipe to try you get an overview with a large photo, preparation instructions, and ingredient list. You can view user reviews with a single tap, or press the shopping cart icon to add everything to your shopping list. Handy controls at the top allow you to switch to Prepare mode (which removes the photos and ratings so you can focus on each step), control the font size, and share the recipe with friends, email it, review it, add to your favorites, or even convert the measurements to metric if teaspoons and cups just aren’t your thing.
Extras include the BigOven Food Glossary, which really helps if you run across an ingredient you aren’t familiar with, plus quick links to recipes you’ve posted and recipes you’ve made. My favorite feature has to be the Use Up Leftovers tool, which gives you a slot machine spinner with three dials. Select up to three ingredients to use, and the app will search the entire recipe database for you and present recipes using those ingredients. It’s a great way to save money and get out of a rut all at the same time. Highly recommended.
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