40 sacks of assorted spices and spice-herb mixes. How can the mouth not water at the spice section of a supermarket I was at, in Dubai? It is impossible to stand there and not buy. Soon and unsurprisingly enough, I found myself filling up bags and bags of middle-eastern spices rationalising it as — few for me, others for friends and family. I come home and I know not what to do with my share of zaatar, sumac and falafel spice mix!
Of course, soon after, I was scouring YouTube to help me out, like I did when I wanted to know the most efficient way to peel garlic or that time I needed help in selecting the perfect avocado. It was only a matter of time before I encountered apps related to cooking — each one a better box of magic than the earlier one.
If I thought of a cooking related question, there was one or the other app to solve the query. If I thought of something that would make life easier for me in the kitchen, so that nothing comes in the way of me enjoying the pleasure of cooking, there was an app at my service. In fact, I always found more than 3-4 apps (at least!) to pick from for every feature I needed help with. Looking for recipes can hardly be thought of as a problem any longer.
It is only apt that I put together a list of apps that anyone who uses the kitchen as a place of creation and rejuvenation will find helpful. I have selected one app for each functionality that I found useful. You are more than welcome to suggest better apps for the same function or completely new functions that you use apps for, that you’d consider adding to this list.
I have focussed on mobile apps because I find it really handy to read off the mobile in a kitchen rather than carrying my laptop around. All the apps have many more functions than those mentioned here that are very useful. For example, you will find a meal planner, nutrition facts, favorites lists and so on, in almost every recipe app. I have highlighted the functions that appealed to me and are unique either by what the function offers or in the way it is presented.
Having thousands of recipes is no more sufficient to make an app useful. It is how these recipes are organized and how good the search function is that makes a world of a difference. For me that’s what differentiated Cookpad from the more popular epicurious.
Other than the regular mains/breakfast/snacks/salads categories, Cookpad categories include recipes with “dietary considerations” which give you a list of vegetarian, vegan, sugar-free options and many more sub-categories. Moreover, you can find recipes based on the kind of tools and techniques that it needs — for example microwave or slow-cooking or deep frying and so on.
Cookpad has the perfect additional zing too. You can create a shopping list of ingredients from the selected recipes. Unlike other apps, Cookpad’s shopping list lets you pick what ingredients you want to add to the shopping list rather than adding all the ingredients to your list. A modification that helps to keep things simple. And if you own an Android Wear device like the LG G Watch or the Moto 360, then good news people, Cookpad can show you the instructions directly on your wrist!
Tips and Techniques: Cooking Knowledge Book (Available for Android & iOS)
A cooking book with no recipes! Now, we are talking.
For those of us who cook in estimates and not based on exact measurements, having this information handy is invaluable. This knowledge book gives you such yields for scores of main ingredients.
- Yields: How many apples will yield a cup of slices and how many apples make a pound of apples? Or how many ounces of uncooked macaroni yields a cup of cooked macaroni?
- Substitutes: Almost every time I feel like cooking a delicacy impromptu, I’m missing one or the ingredient. But, there is always a substitute around. This app gives you a list of things you can use in place of a said ingredient. Works perfectly for cooking on the fly! Not to mention, there are times when some ingredients are just not available with your local grocer.
- Terms: Even if you are not a newbie to cooking, or when you start venturing into gourmet cooking, you will encounter terms that you haven’t heard of. The app demystifies some cooking terms with a glossary of its own kind.
- Measurements: I haven’t seen a deeper measurement converter than the one this app has. You just have to see it to believe it. Within each of the categories, the number of conversion options the app offers is as exhaustive as it gets.
- High Altitude: Now this is something I wouldn’t have expected at all in a cooking guide. This section of the app goes deep into how your cooking needs to adapt to high altitude conditions.
Drink and Cocktail Recipes: 8500+ Drink Recipes Free (Available on Android & iOS)
The name says it all. If you are the kind who experiments with their drink, this is one of the best apps out there. It has the right variety of cocktails and mocktails; it has a very good ingredient-based search and it gives you precise instructions.
Desi Tadka: Tarla Dalal Recipes (Available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone)
A post written in India would be incomplete without enlisting at least one app that specialises in Indian (or Indian versions of other cuisine) food. My personal favorite, Tarla Dalal has a reasonably well-organised. It has all the makings of a good recipe app with decent categorisation with focus on regions that the food comes from and functional search capabilities. It also has traditional cooking tips and techniques which a person interested in cooking can never have enough of.
They are soon to add the shopping list functionality too, which will be the perfect cherry on the top of this wonderful pudding.
Still in Beta, ChefTap lets you import recipes from the more popular cooking websites, and — wait for it — you can add one from any URL, a text file, Pinterest or you can paste in a recipe manually! You can then edit these recipes, add your own notes and tag them the way you like your recipes to be organised.
While you are actually cooking, you can use the phone to show you one instruction at a time. This makes life a lot less confusing when you are cooking a complicated and/or long recipe.
Other than the apps mentioned above, there are many other functions that have specific apps. Sample these:
- Recipes categorised by level of difficulty.
- Recipes categorised by the amount of time it takes.
- Recipes that take 5 ingredients or less.
- An App that tells you grill time and temperature required based on the thickness of the meat used. (Available on Android & iOS)
- Reverse query apps: Not only can you lookup recipes which contain the ingredients you have in your fridge right now, you can also look them up based on what nutrients you want in them.
Some of these apps aren’t fully functional right now, which is why I haven’t gone into too much detail. But, the point I want to make is, if you’ve thought of it, there is an app for it.
Check this out. Take cooking a step further and use it for bonding. Not only for quality time with your partner but for some fun with friends or as a team-building exercise for your team at work! I just heard of Something’s Cooking, a startup that uses cooking as a medium to get people together. Now that I think is one swell idea!