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Easy as pie: Top 15 cooking apps that simplify meal-making

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Have you ever set a million timers — one on your phone, one on the microwave and one on the oven — to remind yourself to take the next step in cooking your meal? How many times have you Googled measurement conversions like “How many ounces are in a cup?” Or gotten home from the grocery only to realize you forgot to buy an ingredient and then asked the Internet for acceptable substitutions? 

You’ll never do any of this again. Technology has come to the rescue with these 15 ingenious apps that take the confusion and chaos out of cooking. 

 

KitchenMath 

We'd love a math-free kitchen, but since numbers are kind of the foundations of recipes, we’re forced to compute unit conversions — or ask Google to make the calculations for us. KitchenMath puts all of your possible conversions in one place, allowing you to convert cooking units and temperatures in a snap.

You don’t even need to type in “ounce” — the built-in calculator has an ounce key, and plenty of other unit keys, to indicate the unit involved in your conversion. It also includes fraction buttons for 1/2, 1/3, 2/3,1/4, 3/4 and 1/8 so you don’t have to dig up the fifth-grade math lodged somewhere deep in your brain.

Choose from more than 380 ingredients for conversions, easily convert British cooking units to American cooking units (or vice versa), and get the recommended serving temperature for various meats and seafood based on how you like it cooked (e.g., medium rare or well done).

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: $0.99

 

Ask the Butcher

Most omnivores can relate to this scenario: You decide you want to make, say, pulled pork. OK, but what cut do you use for that? Ah, pork shoulder. Not seeing that in the meat aisle … maybe it’s the same as pork roast? They have that. Don’t want to get the wrong thing though … AHHH! What do I get?!?

If you had the Ask the Butcher app, this kind of thing would never happen. The app guides you through the entire experience, from purchase to plate. You can browse cuts by animal, ultimate cooking style or let the butcher suggest the perfect cut for you. Learn what to look for in the grocery and what to ask the butcher. The app’s prep and cooking tips, as well as a meat timer, ensure you cook your meat to perfection. It also shows you the internal temperatures for every level of doneness for each cut.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: $2.99

 

BeTheChef

You’re craving artichokes for dinner but have no clue what to make with them. That’s where BeTheChef comes in. It can suggest recipes, but the primary purpose of it is to get your brain thinking creatively about your meal. 

Choose artichokes, and the app will generate various combinations of other complementary ingredients. Your brain starts buzzing, and before you know it, you’ve thought up a delicious meal that satisfies your craving. 

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: Free

 

Weber’s On The Grill 

Every grill master needs this app. Select the type of meat, the type of cut and the thickness, and Weber’s On The Grill will tell you exactly how much time to leave it on the grill, recommended temperature and how often to turn it. Grill guides are available for red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, veggies and fruit.

Learn essential grilling techniques and watch short instructional grilling videos by celebrity chef and cookbook author Jamie Purviance. If you’re looking for new cooking ideas, you can choose from more than 300 Weber recipes, including recipes for rubs, marinades and sauces. Put together your grocery list within the app and use the built-in timer to make sure you flip your burgers and take them off the grill at the perfect time.

One warning: Whichever you think will be most helpful — the iPhone app or the iPad app — download that one. Weber unfortunately charges for the two apps separately.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: $4.99

 

Panna

Printed recipes are a thing of the past. Make your meal more of a learning experience with the interactive Panna app, the first-ever video, cooking magazine. Watch step-by-step demonstrations by master chefs like Rick Bayless, Melissa Hamilton, Christopher Hirscheimer, Anita Lo, Seamus Mullen and more. With Panna, you don’t have to wonder whether or not you’re following the recipe steps correctly — you can watch and listen as the chefs explain their techniques while they work.

Panna also includes a department in which New York Times food writer and recipe developer Melissa Clark offers recipes and shares her knowledge of kitchen equipment from a home cook’s standpoint.  

Panna has six bimonthly issues per year, with 12 to 13 seasonal recipes chosen by master chefs and more than 2.5 hours of video content per issue. You get a free recipe inside each issue, whether or not you choose to purchase it. Each issue costs $4.99, and a year’s subscription is $14.99.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: Free

 

Freshbox

There’s nothing more disappointing than shuffling through the clutter in your fridge only to find that those beautiful fresh blueberries had been hiding in the back and are now growing a scary amount of mold. Freshbox makes sure this doesn’t happen, saving you money and sparing the world more unnecessary waste. 

The Freshbox app helps you keep track of the shelf life of your food, medicine, makeup and more, and sends you friendly reminders when something is approaching an expiration date. The easy-to-use interface allows you to conveniently take a photo of your items and enter their production date or expiration date; you can easily switch a food’s state from “finished” to “unfinished” when you buy more of it.

One of the app’s really helpful features is its recommended shelf life and storage advice, since you’re not always so sure how long a perishable food, like fruits and vegetables, are going to last.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: $0.99

 

Harvest 

If you ever use Pinterest, you’ve probably seen that photo of the avocado with its stem removed, explaining that if it’s green underneath the stem, you’ve got a perfectly ripe avocado. That’s the whole idea behind Harvest, which serves as a comprehensive guide to selecting the freshest, ripest and best-tasting produce.

“Whether it’s knocking on watermelons, smelling pineapples, squeezing avocados or examining the color of peaches, you’ll always know the best approach,” says the description in the App Store. The app is easy to access and straightforward, so you don’t find yourself holding up everyone else in the grocery aisle while you’re trying to find information on your phone. It also offers advice on how to best store and keep your produce — for example, garlic is best stored out of the fridge.

You can also view the pesticide residue levels for various kinds of produce, so that you can choose what organic produce you should splurge on. 

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: $1.99

 

Substitutions

You thought you bought all of the ingredients for your fancy home-cooked meal, but you forgot about sage. What now? Consult the Substitutions app. Upon opening it, you’ll see a list of categories — ah, “Herb & Spice.” Select it, scroll down to “Sage” and you’ll find you can use marjoram, poultry seasoning, rosemary or savory in its place. 

While the app does have its limitations — e.g., when searching for a substitution for white wine vinegar, we found there was no distinction between white and red — but it really has an immense amount of information that’s beautifully organized for effortless referencing. 

In addition to simply finding substitutions for missing ingredients, the app also offers substitutions for making a dish vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, low-sodium or even substitutions for preventing migraines in people who are prone to them. Want a vegan version of a recipe containing bacon or ham? Use smoked paprika or other smoked seasonings. Want to reduce the fat content of your cake? Use applesauce instead of butter. 

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: $0.99

 

KitchenPad Timer

We’ve all had that moment when the meal we had so carefully prepped suddenly felt like it had gotten out of control. Smoke’s billowing from the oven, a saucepan is overflowing and a smell reminiscent of burnt popcorn is wafting from the pot of quinoa. Never again.

The KitchenPad Timer let you easily and quickly set up to nine timers at once, five on the stove and four on the oven. When you open the app, you can choose from two displays: a stove and an oven. Choose a burner or one of the four blocks above the oven, and a new screen pops up that allows you to easily input the cooking time and temperature. Stovetop timers have heat settings from low to high, and you can choose from Fahrenheit, Celsius and gas mark for the oven timers. 

Choose from 15 alert sounds that will ring or buzz when it’s time to take something off the heat or out of the oven. Local and push notifications accompany the alert, even if the app is running in the background. You can also save your favorite timers, so you don’t have to re-input 375°F for 35 minutes every time you want to bake a chicken breast.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: $1.99

 

Ratio

A must-have app for home cooks, Ratio puts the recipe-developing power back into your hands. Ratios are the foundations of recipes — know the proportions of the main ingredients and you can make anything. For example, knowing the fat-to-sugar-to-flour ratio for cookies gives you the ability to create any kind of cookie you can dream up, no recipe necessary. 

Ratio’s calculator computes how much of each ingredient you need, whether you’re making dough, batter, a custard, a stock or a sauce. Learn the 32 critical ratios that form the backbone of the culinary arts, and store your own recipes and notes within the app. You can also browse recipe variations for all the ratios and brainstorm recipes with the app’s dish ideas based on your taste. 

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: $4.99

 

Food On The Table Meal Planning and Grocery List

Get ready to save a ridiculous amount of time, money and Googling. Food on the Table’s Meal Planning and Grocery List app does so much more than its name suggests. Choose your grocery of choice — the app supports everything from C-Town and Walmart to The Food Emporium and Whole Foods — and the app tells you what’s on sale. You can even search for recipes based on sale items.

Easily browse and import recipes from popular sites like MyRecipes.com, Simply Recipes, Hungry Girl , Epicurious, Food Network and more. Once you import a recipe, the app makes a grocery list for you based on the ingredients, and you can check off what you already have at home. You can sort those grocery items into multiple store lists and make a weekly menu with the meal planner. 

Users rave that they drastically reduced their food costs, and the app claims you’ll save up to $40 a month.  

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free

 

Appetites

If you’re one of those people who bookmarks recipe blogs that use step-by-step photos, this app is for you. Appetites is the first-ever step-by-step video cooking app, guiding users through the cooking process by demonstrating each step from the user’s view as the chef, and allowing the user to swipe through each class step by step.

The app offers 100 video recipes and lets you choose from 18 different chefs. To download a cooking class episode, you simply tap on a video recipe that has a blue Download ribbon or purchase additional video recipes within the app. 

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad

Price: $9.99

 

Hello Vino

Seriously, download this baby now. It was rated the best app for wine shoppers by the New York Times, NPR and Mashable — and it deserves every accolade it’s received. 

Let’s say you’re scouring the wine bottles in your local wine store trying to find the perfect red to accompany the penne alla vodka you’ve made for your date tonight. You have multiple options: 

  1. You could search the app by food. Choose “Pizza or Pasta,” then “Pasta,” then “Tomato/Marinara Sauce,” and you’ll find recommendations for Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Ecco Domani Chianti and more. 

  2. You’ve spotted a red with a cool label and wonder if it’s any good. Take a photo and have the wine label image recognition identify it and spit out details like tasting notes, ratings and food pairings. Or you could simply search by brand name for the information. 

  3. Search by occasion. You can actually tell the app you’re getting wine for a date, then choose “Rockstar Reds,” then, say, “Down To Earth” for a list of some delicious pinot noirs.

 

Save and track all the wines you love (and hate) so you can remember what to buy — and what not to buy — in the future. You can also listen to two-minute audio reviews of various wines from a certified sommelier. 

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free

 

Paprika

At first glance, Paprika might seem like a recipe management app, but it really goes beyond that. Its built-in browser allows you to browse recipes anywhere on the Web and automatically download them with a single tap from more than 190 supported sites, including AllRecipes, Eating Well, Food Network, My Recipes, Serious Eats and more. 

If you’re cooking for two but the recipe yields four servings, you can use Paprika’s scaling feature to easily scale down the ingredients — no math required. Like other recipe management apps, it lets you construct grocery lists from recipes and plan ahead with its meal planning feature. But one of the features that makes it so unique is the ability to wirelessly sync between your Mac, iPhone and iPad with its cloud sync service.

Another cool functionality: You can edit and tweak your downloaded recipes however you’d like, as well as add personalized notes so you don’t forget how you made the dish last time.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad Touch, iPad, Android

Price: $4.99

 

Perfect Popcorn

OK, so it seems a little silly having an app that tells you when to stop popping popcorn. But it’s one of those apps that’s just so cool you have to download it even if you only use it once. 

Made by Pop Secret, Perfect Popcorn actually listens to the pops coming from your microwave (or stove) and tells you when to take it out of the microwave or off the heat for the perfect pop. We know what you’re thinking: If you need an app to tell you how to make microwavable popcorn, you probably shouldn’t be in a kitchen. But be honest: How many times have you still managed to burn it? Plus, the cartoons on this app are adorable.

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Price: Free

 

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