These days, you are not limited to recipes in cookbooks: Millions upon millions of recipes are available in apps, jammed with flavours from around the world.
The best even guide you through preparing and serving a meal, whether you are cooking for yourself after a day of work or putting on a spread for a dozen party guests.
My favourite cooking app is SideChef, mainly because of one clever feature: You do not need to tap on your device’s screen often with sticky fingers.
The start page is like a glossy, photo-rich magazine containing thousands of recipes. You can search for a dish by name or a particular ingredient or browse through categories such as “desserts” or “holiday”, and when you find what you want, you are presented with a list of ingredients and step-by-step cooking instructions.
The real SideChef magic starts when you press the big “cook” button. The app starts a timer and the screen shows instructions one at a time, accompanied by a photo. An electronic voice reads the instructions aloud so you can concentrate on chopping or heating without reading the screen.
When it’s time to move on to the next step, the app reminds you with a siren; you merely have to nudge the “next” button or talk to the app to tell it you’re ready. It’s almost like having a chef at your side in your kitchen.
SideChef may not have as many recipes in its database as some cooking apps, but it is free and available for both iOS and Android.
For a cooking app with a more traditional design, check out Allrecipes, from the cooking website of the same name, which feels more like an interactive recipe book. It has a searchable database of recipes and a simpler way of displaying the cooking method for each.
You can search for a recipe by name or ingredient or by cooking time. You can even ask the app to avoid a particular ingredient in its search results—handy if you have an allergy, or if you’ve run out of an item. Recipe instructions are clear and easy to follow, and some come with step-by-step videos.
Allrecipes also has a few neat extras: It can suggest ingredients that are on sale at nearby stores supported by the app, and alert you to sales items when you walk into one of those stores. It has a built-in shopping list, so if you’ve planned ahead and selected the recipes you want to cook, the ingredients are all in one list.
Allrecipes has a feature that’s great for discovering new dishes, but it works only on the mobile edition of the app. It’s called the Dinner Spinner and works a bit like a slot machine. Spin the wheels and the app randomly searches for a recipe that matches, for example, “appetizer” plus “shellfish” and “20 minutes”. It’s fun and could lead to a few surprising dinners.
Allrecipes contains lots of delicious ideas and is easy to use. It’s free on iOS and Android.
Yummly is similar to Allrecipes, with a built-in shopping list and clearly written recipe instructions. But Yummly’s interface uses many more images; it is full of tempting photos that will make you want to leap into the kitchen.
Yummly’s recipes include a lot of detail, including nutritional facts, but I find that using the app involves a lot of tapping and scrolling. This isn’t a problem when you are browsing a recipe ahead of time, but it could get awkward when you are up to your elbows in flour and butter.
The app’s biggest strength is that it pulls its content from lots of different recipe sources, so when you do a keyword search (for example, bacalhau, or salted cod), you are rewarded with a huge list of possible results. Despite its slightly fussy interface and occasionally slow load times, Yummly is worth trying out. It is free on iOS and Android.
Finally, there is room to mention the Food Network In The Kitchen app. This gives you access to recipes from the chefs you may have seen on the well-known TV channel or the website. It has a lot of content, a clear and simple design, and it is also free on both iOS and Android.