Between the enormous amount of food media in the world—from food bloggers and recipe websites to television shows and glossy magazines—cookbooks, and our tried-and-trued recipe collections, it's hard to know exactly where to begin to look for recipes, let alone cook from them. And organizing them is a challenge all its own.
Thankfully, there are apps to help: Apple help us all explore the options—from special recipe search apps that inspire us and help us curate our own digital "recipe boxes" to apps full of how-to videos, apps that help plan out a month of meals, and apps that give us confidence in wine shops. These apps are doing a lot of heavy lifting. We're not saying that you should give up on your cookbook shelf, but we are saying that our apps are suddenly the most helpful kitchen companions since our grandmothers (or Julia Child).
Here are the 13 cooking apps we find essential in the kitchen and out:
What to Cook
AllRecipes Dinner Spinner
Free, with in-app purchases
Search the entirety of AllRecipes’ recipe database, follow along with over 1,000 videos, save recipes you’ve tried to your Recipe Box, and automatically create shopping lists for the recipes you want to make. You can also read recipe reviews written by other users—and write your own.
Why we love it: We can read home cooks' reviews for millions of recipes and create shopping lists (that fill in based on the recipes we've selected) to make them ourselves—right in the grocery store. The option to search by dietary restriction, food preference, and timing is handy for narrowing the field.
$4.99, with in-app purchases
From the folks behind the Green Kitchen Stories blog, this app echoes the blog's friendly voice, beautiful photography, and inspiring vegetarian recipes. There are also step-by-step instructions, an in-app option to set timers, and the ability to create shopping lists and save your favorite recipes. (There's also a Green Desserts app, which you can purchase with the Green Kitchen app as a bundle, or separately.)
Why we love it: Few food bloggers have an accompanying app. This one lets us take the beautifully photographed, vegetarian recipes of Green Kitchen Stories with us in digital cookbook form.
This is Mark Bittman’s opus, but for your iPad. It includes the book’s 2,000 recipes, 400 detailed how-tos (like dicing a carrot or carving roast chicken) with illustrations, ideas for meal planning, built-in preset timers in each recipe, grocery lists, and the ability to make your own notes on recipes. There are also featured recipes each week to give you inspiration.
Why we love it: The how-to illustrations are both extremely helpful and completely unique (and are linked to the recipes that use them, so you can reference as you go). Plus, it's as close as it gets to being in the kitchen with Mark Bittman himself—you can even listen to him read quotes aloud from the book.
The Joy of Cooking
The entire cookbook in one app, for less than what you’d buy the physical cookbook for (though we love the thing so much we think you should have a physical copy, too). The app version includes in-recipe timers so that you can set them as you follow along, the ability to search by theme (like “Drinks,” “Egg Dishes,” and “Brunch, Lunch, or Supper Recipes”), and detailed informational asides that you can click into (see: “About Cooking Fish”). Create menus and shopping lists, convert measurements, and toggle between recipes thanks to the same iconic red bookmarks you’ll find in the physical cookbook.
Why we love it: It's just as much as a classic as the phsycial book is, but with the added resource of being able to search digitally for whatever you're looking for. Also: The app will also speak the recipe to you, and you can speak back—so you don’t have to touch the screen while you’re trussing a duck or rolling out dough. (And if you get lost, there's a handy built-in guide that will teach you exactly how to use the app.)
Yummly's app lets you browse recipe websites and blogs, search many sites at once by filter (like cuisine, allergy, or holiday), and collect the recipes that interest you in a digital recipe box. From there, you can organize, create shopping lists, and even order those groceries to be delivered, thanks to a partnership with Instacart.
Why we love it: You can add recipes to your collection from the internet as well, thanks to a Yummly button that, like Pinterest's ubiquitous "Pin it!" button, will file things away for you as you peruse the web. (And when you start your account, the app asks for your favorite cuisines, dietary restrictions, and food preferences—and tailors the content you see accordingly.)
How to Cook
Free, with in-app purchases
Kitchen Stories is perfect for cooks who want the guidance of someone else in the kitchen. Thanks to lots of step-by-step videos and photos, you can follow along as you cook the app's recipes. You can also create a shopping list, make notes for yourself on the recipes, convert measurements, and upload your own recipes.
Why we love it: Professionally-shot videos and step-by-step photos require no squinting and provide a lot of kitchen confidence. If you're new in the kitchen or just want help with an unfamiliar technique, this is the place to go. And many recipes even include tips for pairing wine with the meal.
Free, with in-app purchases
This app allows you to set many timers at once—so you can simmer sauce, bake a pie, and wake your kid up from her nap, all on time. There’s also the ability to repeat a timer and set timers with a variety of different alarm sounds so you can keep it all straight.
Why we love it: We have to love an app that does one thing and one thing well. It's perfect for cooks with their hands full.
What to Drink
Browse specific wines by country, region, or varietal, see wine ratings and tasting notes by CellarTracker.com, and compare prices. You can also make side-by-side comparisons of wines, and keep track of what you have in your own cellar (or shelf, or cabinet).
Why we love it: If you know what you like—but can't find the exact bottle, or want to try something new—Corkz helps guide the decision-making process. There are also super helpful glossaries for you to consult the next time your wino pal mentions "alluvial deposits" or "manzanilla," or for when you can't remember the difference between Malbec and Tempranillo.
Pocket Wine is a detailed guide to over 100 different grape varietals, so you can learn more about what you like to drink and explore based on what flavor you’d like (rich, crisp, etc.). It also gives suggested food pairings and includes a significant glossary of wine terms.
Why we love it: It's the ideal tool for when you're in the wine shop and don't know what to choose (or even where to begin looking). Plus, it's beautifully designed.
Keep It Organized
Free, with in-app purchases
Search over 350,000 recipes, upload your own or “clip” them from other websites, create grocery lists, and create weekly meal plans. There’s also a neat feature that allows you to enter up to three ingredients and receive recipes that use them—a good way to use up lingering leftovers.
Why we love it: It's the best recipe organization app we can find for free. There are lots of thoughtful features: You can add recipes to a "To Try" list before making it a favorite, have the local weather included in your menu planning calendar, and even make notes on that calendar.
Import online recipes, upload your own, and create organized meal plans out of them. The meal plan will automatically sync to create a grocery list for the week, so there’s no forgetting a lemon for zest or running out of eggs. It can also help you keep track of what you have in your pantry (use the bar code scanner to input the items you already have), so you don’t buy the same thing twice.
Why we love it: This app is the most detail-oriented meal planner we've found. If being able to plan and view a whole month of meals—with the option to sync your meal calendar to your iPad's iCal app and keep track of what's already in your pantry—sounds like a dream to you, this is your tool.
All you have to do to get started is download a recipe from a website, just by tapping it. Plus, run multiple timers, scale recipes to the amount of people eating, make grocery lists, plan out your meals by week and month, and upload your own recipes.
Why we love it: Paprika is an extremely easy way to compile recipes from all over, plan them out, organize your grocery list, and cook from them. This is an all-in-one app for meal-planning devotees.
The Recipe Box
This app is clear, easy-to-use, and has one simple goal: creating a personalized recipe collection—just like our parents’ recipe boxes, but instead of collecting scribbly index cards, you can organize your recipes by collecting them from recipe websites (and entering your own). You can even upload photographs, rate each recipe, search your collection, and create shopping lists.
Why we love it: The Recipe Box, to its credit, has very few bells and whistles. It does what it says, and is so easy to use that it puts your drifts of magazine recipe tear-outs to shame.
What cooking apps do you love? Tell us in the comments!