As the holidays approach, you might want to invite an extra, super-helpful guest into your kitchen: your iPad or iPhone!
Every day, developers are cooking up new apps that let you get up close and personal with your favorite celebrity chef, or your favorite cookbook or food magazine—and these apps are time-saving, interactive, fun, informative and sometimes even stunning. We tried a bunch to find the best—for cooking, baking, inspiration and organization.
Helpful functions that are common in cooking apps include a shopping list, built-in timers, a recipe box or favorites button, and an easy recipe-sharing tool that connects to email and social networks. Worried about splattering your high-tech device? There are a variety of protective stands made for the kitchen—or simply slip it in a freezer bag!
Best Cooking Apps
How to Cook Everything, $4.99 for iPhone, $9.99 for iPad
If you swear by the delicious simplicity of recipes by author and New York Times contributor Mark Bittman, then you need this app, which features 2,000 recipes and 400 black-and-white, how-to illustrations. Unfortunately, you won’t find any video of the charming man himself, as you can on The New York Times website.
In the Kitchen: Food Network Recipes, Chefs, Cooking Tools and Shopping Lists, $1.99 for iPhone and iPad
Search thousands of recipes or browse by your favorite chef—Giada, Rachael, Bobby, Paula, Tyler, Alton … they’re all there. In each recipe, complete with TV-worthy photos, check ingredients to add to your shopping list. There’s also a helpful unit converter. Don’t forget your EVOO!
Epicurious, Free, $1.99 to sync your recipe box across devices
Epicurious is a go-to site for cooks for a reason: It offers 100,000 recipes from Bon Appétit, Gourmet, SELF, cookbooks, chefs and home cooks, along with nutrition info, ratings and user reviews. Busy moms can search by kid-friendly mains, weeknight dinners and lunches kids love. Or, click the “I Can Barely Cook” tab for idiot-proof meals.
Big Oven, Free, for iPhone and iPad
We swear by this app, which features more than 170,000 recipes. Big Oven gets its recipes from more than 1 million recipe-sharing users, yet it offers surprisingly lovely photos. The “Use up your leftovers” function finds a recipe for you based on 1-3 items you enter. Upgrade to a membership to take advantage of additional functions, including nutrition facts. There’s also a scan function for importing your recipes—even if they’re hand-written!
Whole Foods Market Recipes, Free, for iPhone and iPad
A colorful, good-looking and popular app from your favorite upscale grocery store. Search by course, category or special diet. Or, enter up to 3 ingredients you have on-hand and it will suggest dishes. Includes nutrition info.
Weight Watchers Kitchen Companion for iPad, Free for iPad
WW really has it goin’ on these days. This app, featuring really pretty photographs, offers 24 homes recipes, and you can save up to 10 favorites. If you are enrolled in a WW program, you get even more. And of course there are point values for everything!
Real Simple: No Time to Cook?, $4.99 for iPhone and iPad
For the busy mom, Real Simple’s app lets you choose how much time you have (20, 30 or 40 minutes) and the type of recipe you’re looking for (poultry, beef, etc.). The app includes beautiful photos, nutrition info and basic how-to videos (which require an internet connection). Experienced cooks won’t find much here, but beginners who are pressed for time may have found their app.
Cooking Light Recipes: Quick and Healthy Menu Maker, $3.99, for iPhone and iPad
This app takes Cooking Light’s recipes to a new level: Scroll through beautiful photos, pick what appeals, and then hit “build a menu” to get recommendations on sides and desserts. Nutritional info (for your entire menu!) is there, as are cooking times (active and total) for each dish.
Mario Batali Cooks!, $9.99 for iPhone and iPad
Molto Italiano! For those who love this big bear of a chef and his Italian specialties, this app features his favorite recipes. You can search by region of Italy, course, season, “kids love” and quick meals. In more than 5 hours of downloadable video (requires an Internet connection), you can watch Mario cook all 63 recipes.
Best Baking Apps
Baking with Dorie, $12.99 for iPad
This app is very unusual for the way it combines the iPad’s teaching capabilities with 24 desserts from the James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan. Through four different graphic views of each recipe and more than 100 videos, Dorie is there baking with you, teaching you a variety of pastry techniques. The videos take up 1.8G of memory on your device and do not require a wireless connection once you’ve downloaded the app.
Martha Stewart Cookies, $2.99 for iPhone, $4.99 for iPad
Santa’s workshop needs this app! For all your holiday baking needs, you can scroll through a winter wonderland of 90 cookies, and click on the ones that look the most scrumptious to see the recipes. The app offers how-to videos, baking tips and advice on tools. And don’t forget Martha’s inspired gift packaging ideas for many of the cookies—you can email yourself a template and print it out. How very Martha!
Best Apps for Inspiration
Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from Modern Mixologists, $9.99 for iPad
For the fancy cocktail maker/wannabe bartender, this app is a mini-encyclopedia and a handsome read. The author is Rob Willey, a seasoned mixology journalist who has written for Details, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times. Read about the Prohibition era, explore a map of the world’s speakeasy revival bars, and watch how-to videos with expert bartenders. The 201 drink recipes are accompanied by information on how to stock your bar with the best liquors.
Bon Appétit: Pasta Perfect, $3.99 for iPad
Who doesn’t want to curl up by the fire this winter with some hearty Italian food porn? This is not the most practical app—no grocery list, timers, etc.—but it’s as beautiful as the magazine, and offers test-kitchen tips.
Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker, $9.99 for iPad
Can’t get enough of slow-cooker recipes this winter? Instead of investing in a cookbook, try this app (which takes up no shelf space) featuring more than 100 recipes and 20 cooking techniques. While it may not have practical elements like timers and shopping lists, it sure is beautiful, with 70 full-color photos in a sleek, easy-to-navigate layout.
Best Kitchen Organizing Apps
Paprika Recipe Manager, $4.99 for iPhone, $4.99 for iPad, $20 for Mac (sold separately for each platform)
We love this easy recipe box app with a clean and simple layout. Import and organize your favorite recipes from major food sites like Epicurious, Food Network and Martha Stewart in minutes. You can also cut and paste recipes and photos from blogs or your email. The sync function between your devices and your computer lets you generate grocery lists and meal plans on the go.
Kitchenpad Timer, $0.99
If you tend to take on complicated recipes that involve cooking several elements at once, or if you entertain a lot (hello, Thanksgiving), then use this app to set multiple timers—one for each burner of your stovetop and each of your ovens, for example. Set timers as favorites to call them up every time you make that beloved recipe.