There is no tastier cultural touchstone than food. It has spawned rivalries and built bridges across borders, both physical and metaphorical, to help shrink the globe and bring communities closer together while also providing a distinct sense of intimacy. This transcendence also brought us every mediocre orange chicken joint, but that is a worthy sacrifice.
The tech sector recognizes the power food wields as well, which is why so many cooking apps have hit the marketplace in recent years. Building out a diverse cookbook has never been easier thanks to these programs, but the addition of other tools (grocery lists, nutrition calculators, etc.) transformed them into all-encompassing culinary hubs. Lets run through the ten best currently on the mobile market.
Big Oven is the perfect choice if you only seek a huge library of recipes. The app boasts over 350,000, easily the largest number among current top-tier cooking apps. It doesn’t offer much beyond that sheer volume though. The app’s UI feels needlessly frustrating to navigate. Luckily, users won’t have much reason to do so unless they drop $1.99 for a monthly subscription as the app locks most additional tools behind that paywall.
SuperFood takes a more health-focused approach when delivering plenty of yummy treats. Clear nutritional information is available for every dish and the built-in nutritional diary and calorie counter make it easy to track nutritional goals. The app boasts a large selection of vegetarian and vegan recipes within its library as well. Its grocery list builder disappoints when compared to competitors, though. Delivering these tools at no cost makes SuperFood valuable despite its faults.
As a proud southerner, there was no way this list would be complete without an app that caters specifically to the Crockpot. This aptly named program collects slow cooker recipes of all kinds, from cocktails to any kind of dump cake, in one convenient place. There isn’t much depth beyond articles highlighting meals with specific ingredients or dietary preferences. That being said, this is a must have for anyone with a slow cooker.
Foodies is another app with a singular focus: helping you live out your Chopped dream. This app has you enter items you have on-hand already and it spits out a selection of recipes that include those items. It’s a great tool for those low-energy days where cooking dinner feels daunting. This is the app’s only function, but it pulls it off really well. And the meal options collected span a good amount of regional cuisines as well.
We’ve come to our first heavy-hitter in the online foodie world. Epicurious’s app features an impressive array of tools to help even novice cooks pull off top notch nosh. Voice controls allow users to sift through recipe steps with ease, and you’ll (maybe) never overcook an item again thanks to its smart cooking timer. The interface is fluid and its recipe library includes selections from top publications like Bon Appetit and Gourmet Magazine. The only thing holding it back is the fact that the app is only available to Apple users. Sorry, Android users.
Allrecipes feels like Epicurious without the high-tier branding and Apple exclusivity. The app’s sizeable library is built partially through user submissions, giving it a more personal touch. A search engine with plenty of dietary filtering options makes it easier to personalize the app to your specific needs. Unless you have food allergies. No options for those. The Dinner Spinner tool makes up for that in some way. It’s no epipen, but it does use randomization to inspire users to try new things.
Yummly sports similar tools to its popular culinary brethren while doing a much better job at segmenting its library by cuisine style and region of origin.Its voice controls are impressively responsive and its UI feels a bit more streamlined compared to other apps on this list. Yummly does require a $4.99 monthly subscription to access its premium options, such as guided video recipe tutorials from top celebrity chefs. That cost is somewhat viable if the Cooking Channel is your thing, but Yummly’s free offerings are good enough that many won’t feel the need to drop extra coin.
Many will recall Buzzfeed’s food vertical from its spellbinding POV cooking videos on social media. The same production value in those videos are present here, mostly because those videos are attached to many of the recipes. They do make things simple, though, but the absence of voice controls means the likelihood of a messy phone or tablet grows exponentially. The wide array of recipes and the program’s organization tools make up for that omission. Users can build a personal library of cookbooks categorized by meal type with the press of a button. That kind of ease goes a long way.
Let’s get back on that healthy eating high horse and take a look at Mealime. This app focuses on helping users find healthy meals that cater to their own dietary preferences and food allergies through more than just recipes. Mealime’s real value lies in its grocery list and meal planning tools. Adding a recipe to your meal plan automatically adds its ingredients to your grocery list. It’s rather snappy. Some recipes are held behind a $5.99 monthly subscription, but that does little to sour its nutritional toolbox.
SideChef collects the many tools of other major cooking apps in a one-stop shop that still features its own unique features. It features voice controls, which pair with its built-in smart oven connectivity and its audio/visual cooking instructions. Users can easily modify ingredient portions for any size party with the press of a button. SideChef does include some paid content, but it is sold piecemail, typically for around $0.99, rather than under a blanket subscription. The flexibility, operational ease and large library make it hard to match.
Brian Bell is a queer freelance writer covering tech, pro wrestling, esports, games, comics and TV. Co-host of the Mr. Videogames Super Show podcast. Find and follow him on Twitter @WonderboyOTM.