The 8 Best Cooking Apps to Make Mealtimes Manageable
Tired of serving up the same ol' grub week after week? Then spice up mealtimes with these comprehensive cooking apps that'll help you turn ordinary food into a delicious feast with just a few flicks of your fingers. (See also: Top Meal Planning Apps and Websites)
52 School Lunches
For many busy parents, packing school lunches on a daily basis is the bane of their existence, and often kids are sent to school with a few bucks in their pocket to buy the junk food that's being passed off as a proper lunch in the school cafeteria.
The 52 School Lunches app, based on the book from Familius Publishing, aims to change that with its full-color-photography and directory of delicious, nutritious, fast and fun recipes to keep kids happy and healthy. The app — available on most mobile devices for $1.99 to $2.99 — comes complete with ingredient lists, tips (like how to turn leftovers into lunch), tricks (how to make salad stacks), and edible ideas (how to swap boring sandwiches for wraps and rolls) that make sending the kids off to school with a decent meal motivating again. There are even a few jokes along the way to keep you smiling as you learn to love making lunch again. (See also: 25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas)
Relish Daily Dish
Not as comfortable in the kitchen as you'd like to be? There's no shame in seeking out a little digital assistance, which you'll get from Relish Daily Dish, a free app from Relish magazine and Zumobi.
This interactive cookbook guides you through the entire meal-planning process, providing thousands of customizable recipes (so you can accommodate those picky eaters); a wealth of photos, videos, and user-generated content; and integrated social sharing that allows you to post directly to Facebook and Twitter. A search feature also lets you enter a specific ingredient that you may have on hand in order to build a meal around that, along with a shopping list to ensure that you get everything you need at the supermarket so you can make a magnificent meal.
As Food Network's Sandra Lee would say, "It's cocktail time!" — and with Craft Cocktail you can play master mixologist with access to loads of original, modern, and exciting cocktail recipes that will wow your guests. This app, available for $1.99 on iPad and iPhone, combines the best of all worlds by providing a thirsty encyclopedia of adult beverages designed by professional bartenders, adapted from classic recipes, and alcohol-infused refreshments easy enough for casual entertainers. Craft Cocktail also includes stunning photography along with offbeat commentary to make your shaken-and-stirred crafting experience even richer. (See also: 20 Tasty Two-Ingredient Cocktails)
Anybody who's ever been in the middle of preparing a meal only to realize that they're missing an important ingredient will bow down to the Substitutions app, available for $0.99 on iPhone and iPad.
Out of Apple Pie Spice? Whip up a quick mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice thanks to this handy-dandy app. Don't have buttermilk on hand? Sub in equal parts plain yogurt and milk as detailed by Substitutions. There's a broad database of substituted ingredients that you can search (more than 400 in total), or you can narrow down your search by categories that include Gluten-Free, Seafood & Meat, Vegan, Baking & Cooking, and more. Other features include the ability to add your own substitution to a category; duplicate an included substitution and edit; share a substitution via mail, message, Twitter, and Facebook; and measurements in U.S. and metric.
If you're looking to shop and cook more efficiently, try KitchMe, a new web-based platform from Coupons.com that compiles the best recipes from top sources and combines them with shopping list creation and coupons into a single application.
Key features include Drag-and-Drop Meal Planning, which allows you to choose recipes and drag them to a calendar so you can create weekly plans, entrée pairings, sides, and access savings that coordinate with your selections. Curated Recipes focus solely on recipes with ratings of 4.5 stars or higher and that can be prepared in 45 minutes or less. The app also includes social-media sharing capabilities. The Integrated Savings feature is an intuitive tool that shows you which ingredients are on sale at your favorite supermarkets. KitchMe also recently introduced a Google Glass app, which allows Google Glass users to access the platform in a hands-free setting, so you can keep your hands on your meal and off your computer while cooking.
Anybody who has ever made a large meal — say, Thanksgiving dinner — knows how tough it is to time it perfectly so everything is on the table at the same time, hot and fresh.
Cooking Planit makes that feat a little less stressful with its web component and a mobile app that helps organize the meal-planning process with step-by-step instructions to achieve maximum efficiency. Touted as a "GPS for the kitchen," Cooking Planit lets you filter by main ingredient, occasion, dietary restriction, and type of dish, with each recipe displaying a complete list of ingredients and necessary utensils to reduce chaos in the kitchen. Cooking Planit is free on the web and priced at $0.99 and $2.99 for iPhone and iPad, respectively.
There are many reasons why people avoid the kitchen, two of which Matt's Pantry iPad app — created by NYC-based chef Matthew Shields — aims to eliminate.
First, Matt's Pantry allows you to create weekly menus with a shopping list that will compile everything you need to pick up in one fell swoop, meaning no more multiple runs to the market. With those ingredients, you'll be able to make at least five delicious meals with little waste (how many times have your fresh herbs rotted before you could use them all?). Matt's Pantry also includes nutritional facts for each recipe, so you can manage your waistline along with your wallet, and the available recipes run the gamut from appetizers to vegetarian dishes to desserts, which also come with suggested wine and beer pairings. The iPad app is $3.99, and a short video is available to view before purchasing. (See also: Teach Yourself to Cook)
One of the best features of Paprika, available in desktop, iOS, and Android versions, is the ability to sync content between devices via its free cloud service. This innovation itself is music to the ears of every home cook whose phone has died right before they're about to start making dinner; just switch to another charged device and get cookin'.
Other ingenious features of Paprika include clipboard tools that allow you to copy and paste recipes from any website, recipe scaling so you can cook the same delicious meal for one or six, the ability to add personalized notes to each recipe (like "This could use a pinch more salt next time"), customizable categories (great for holiday meal planning), and offline access so you don't have to starve yourself when your Wi-Fi gets wonky.
Do you have a favorite cooking app that's not listed here? Let us know in the comments below.