With all the hubbub surrounding the rainbow of new iPhones, the time has come to talk about apps. And not the kind of apps that are served on a dish before you entrée arrives. Nope, we’re talking about those indispensable little nuggets of software that are easily downloaded to your cell phone or tablet device and can, in an ideal world, offer as much educational value as they do entertainment. And the kitchen is one room where they’re proving to be a particularly life-saving tool.
How do we know? Well, we’ve got our very own menu of apps, including a tablet version of Relish so that dear readers like you can take us on the go. There’s also our free Daily Dish app (available on Apple devices and Androids alike), which contains some of our favorite recipes, articles, a grocery list feature and even a place to take notes as you browse.
But just because we’ve got our own handheld thing going doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of other food-related apps that we love and use regularly. We’d be reservation-less without OpenTable and stuck using the old-school phone method for food delivery if it weren’t for Seamless. When it comes to cooking up a feast all your own, these 10 apps will make you a better chef. Bon app-étit!
Free; iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch & Android
Any meal worth eating begins with a trip to the grocery store. And this app makes writing out your weekly grocery list a thing of the past. With a built-in database of millions of items, Grocery IQ is one of the most comprehensive grocery list apps on the market. But creating your list is only the beginning; the app keeps track of your frequently purchased items, and even lets you scan the items in your own fridge or pantry to make sure that whoever’s doing the shopping picks up your favorite brand. It will also locate the store nearest you for when you’re not at home and will organize your shopping list by aisle, ensuring that you never forget that carton of milk (or ice cream) again. There’s even a coupon function, which means you’ll look cool using it and save money.
$1.99; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
Did you know that a ripe cantaloupe is golden, not green? There’s a lot more to picking the perfect produce than just squeezing and/or smelling. And Harvest puts all the tricks of the fruit and veggie-choosing trade at your fingertips, with detailed techniques for purchasing more than 120 items. A GPS device alerts the app to your whereabouts, so that is can tell you what’s fresh in your current region. But it also helps you think ahead, offering detailed information on the best seasonal eats in any month or geographic area. Once you get your expertly chosen groceries home, Harvest even offers tips on the best way to store them to keep them fresh!
Pat LaFrieda’s Big App for Meat
Carnivores, meet your king: legendary New York butcher Pat LaFrieda, whose eponymous iPad app offers a master class in meat, with in-depth descriptions and diagrams of more than 200 cuts of beef, lamb, pork, veal, chicken, turkey and duck. An album of gorgeous photos shows you exactly what your own butcher should be serving up, and an interactive, 360-degree “spin” function lets you see the cuts from every angle. If you’ve been working up the nerve to start butchering at home, LaFrieda offers nearly an hour of video instruction on how to bring his techniques into your kitchen, from grinding your own meat to Frenching a rack of lamb. There’s even a fun social component that lets you share photos of your own meaty creations with the rest of the Pat LaFrieda community.
How to Cook Everything
$9.99; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
Famed food writer Mark Bittman knows a thing or two about cooking. And he’s got a best-selling book—How to Cook Everything—to prove it. This app is an extension of that title, and features thousands of recipes with detailed illustrations, a selection of menu ideas and some serious gems from Bittman himself on why simple food is delicious food. And the app doesn’t require a network connection to activate, which makes it particularly handy when you’re preparing a feast in the middle of nowhere. If the $9.99 price tag seems a bit too steep, download the free How to Cook Everything: Essentials, which offers a sampling of all that’s included in the more robust version, before you buy.
Smart Chef Substitutions
$1.99; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
We’ve all been there: you’ve spent an hour preparing what you hope will be the world’s best Thai corn chowder when you realize you’re half a cup short on coconut milk. Not to worry; a half cup of whole milk or water mixed with cream of coconut will do in a pinch. Smart chefs know that cooking often requires you to think on your feet. But as the simplest miscalculation can turn a perfect meal into a perfect disaster, you want to be sure that replacing a teaspoon of cilantro with a teaspoon of parsley won’t ruin the dish (it won’t). This app offers more than 300 detailed ingredient substitutions for cooking, baking, and even cocktail-making, meaning you’ll never be forced to make a last-minute grocery store run again.
$1.99; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
Timing is everything in the kitchen. But when you’ve got risotto simmering, veggies on the stovetop and popovers in the oven, it can be easy to lose track of the precise time that each item needs to be turned over, stirred, flipped, seasoned or removed. Easy to use and simple to read, KitchenPad Timer diagrams the whereabouts of each item—on top of the oven or in it—and lets you set up to nine timers at once.
Kitchen Calculator Pro
$3.99; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
Don’t know your teaspoons from your tablespoons? Well maybe the kitchen isn’t the place for you. But even so, the Kitchen Calculator Pro is here to help—making it simple for even the most math-challenged of chefs to become kitchen conversion whizzes, allowing you to make more (or less) than what a recipe calls for and to easily convert ingredients from weight to volume (i.e. cups to ounces). And so that you don’t have to do the calculations again the next time you make the same dish, you can save frequently used measurements right in the app.
Free; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
Cooking is all about trial and error. But some kitchen errors are irreversible. So before you just wing it with a culinary quick-fix, ask the kind folks at Food52—and their community of experienced home cooks—what to do. Before you panic, post your question to the Food52 Hotline (mark it “Urgent” if that is indeed the case) and wait for the brilliant solutions to roll in. Just be sure to return the favor and weigh in with your own answers to fellow users’ questions (once your kitchen emergency has been averted, of course). A simple tagging system allows you to search out similar questions before you post, and the app’s integration with Twitter and Facebook make it more likely that you’ll get a great answer quickly!
Free; iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Kindle & Nook
It’s not that BigOven’s most prominent features—including more than 250,000 take-anywhere recipes, grocery lists and menus—aren’t impressive, but where we’re having the most fun is with its ability to turn leftovers into gourmet grub. Enter in three ingredients that are taking up space in your fridge or pantry and BigOven will offer up a range of recipes to help you turn lemons into lemonade, meat into meatloaf and who knows what else into an edible feast.
Kitchen Disasters & Fixes
$2.99; iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch
No chef—no matter the experience level—goes into the kitchen expecting a disaster to happen. But happen they do. Yes, even to the best of us. (Have you watched an episode of Top Chef: Masters?) But this app offers simple-to-follow fixes for the most common would-be catastrophes, whether that’s a tray of overdone cookies, a pot of over-seasoned soup or a broken meringue. The app also offers some innovative uses for items that typically end up in the trash (hint: a loaf of stale bread makes for a perfectly fresh batch of breadcrumbs or the perfect topping to a French onion soup). The app’s Avoidance Tactics feature makes sure you’ll never make the same mistake twice!