With the holidays quickly approaching, you may be hunting for some great ideas for that special dinner. While looking up recipes online is nothing new, there are some amazing cooking apps out there (for iPhone/iPad and Android) that make preparing some of the best and most festive meals of the year for all of your friends and family less intimidating. Here are five favorites:
Need something quick? The DinnerSpinner lets you pick a dish type, a main ingredient, and estimated cooking time. Then you shake the app and a list of applicable recipes appears or one recommended recipe that matches your preferences. It's like Russian roulette for Russian dressing.
Epicurious, Free; $1.99 upgrade to share recipes
If you download one recipe app, make it this one. I've used this app to plan menus for almost two years now, and I'm still amazed by the breadth of the recipe database. There are multiple ways to search including by course, by ingredient, and by special occasion. And, the Epicurious staff often updates the app with new themes, allowing you to pick a few dishes that match the season.
Best of all you can create a virtual recipe box and send shopping lists to yourself or your designated shopper. The recipe box is synced among your various devices so you can view your favorites almost anywhere.
Is It Ready Yet?, $0.99
Not sure how long to cook a 10-pound tenderloin? Let this app figure it out for you and remind you when it's time to pull the roast out of the oven. You can set different timers for different foods, ensuring that the stuffing doesn't sear while the ham is still getting up to speed.
It's a handy utility to have and the whimsical design makes cooking a bit more fun.
Sometimes you need a huge tome of recipes that have been tested over and over. This app, based on Mark Bittman's book of the same name, features more than 100 recipes, as well as step-by-step recipe photos and ingredient listings.
If you like this app, you can pay $9.99 for the full book, which could replace most of the titles on that flour-dusted shelf in the kitchen.
Once Daddy and Mommy are done with the cooking, maybe it's time for a tipple? Mixology is a free app that lets you build drinks out of whatever you have in your bar. Just tell it what you're looking for -- a whiskey drink with some vermouth? -- and it will make a recommendation and show an easy-to-follow recipe. Sometimes the best cooking apps have nothing to do with cooking.
And here's a quick tip before you get started cooking: Stick your iPhone into a resealable Ziploc bag before you start cooking. The screen will detect your finger through the plastic and you won't get cake batter on your phone.
Do you have a favorite cooking app?