The list of good uses for the iPad is continually, and rapidly, growing. One area where it has laid a strong foundation is in the cooking and food category. There are an increasingly large number of excellent cooking applications available for the iPad in the App Store. As someone who is getting more and more interested in cooking, I wanted to delve deeper into this application space.
Out of the sea of excellent applications, I decided to give Allrecipes a try. It seemed to fit perfectly with what I was looking for! Read on to see how the application actually works and whether it could become your new inspirational cooking companion…
Design & Interface
Allrecipes has an all around kitchen feel to it. It feels as though you’re working on a countertop. There are some nice design touches when actually viewing a recipe that truly make you feel like you’re looking at a recipe book. There are also some great design elements when looking at your shopping list – many of which make it seem as though you’re working on a sheet of paper sitting on your kitchen counter.
Overall, there are a lot of design features that are directly pulled from a kitchen environment (you’re bound to keep noticing them as you use the application). Some are very obvious, while some are subtle, but they all combine beautifully to put you in the mood to cook.
Allrecipes is a fairly full-featured cooking application and, as with any app that includes a multitude of features, there is always a risk that the interface might feel overwhelming. I think Allrecipes manages to achieve a nice balance here. It offers all of the core features you’d hope for, while the interface is designed in a way that makes sense and doesn’t feel the least bit overwhelming.
One of the most important aspects of any cooking application is the ability to discover recipes. Allrecipes offers several different ways to go about this task. At the most basic level there is a search feature. This search, however, is quite robust and allows for a lot of filtering to aid you in narrowing your results.
Firstly, you have the options to enter in some keywords in traditional search fashion. You can also set some filters using a toggle system at the bottom of the page. From here you can select:
- Cooking time
- Cooking method
- Dietary requirements
You can also manually include an ingredient you’d like in the results, or any that you would like filtered out. As you can see, your search can be pretty granular if you so chose. It’s also very easy to simply pick a couple of filters and do a broad search – perfect for when you’re not looking for something specific.
Once you have your filters set correctly, you can perform the search. You’ll see all of your results in the form of cards with a photo (if available), the name of the recipe, the creator or the recipe, and a rating.
Simply tap on a card to view the full recipe. You can then take any action you’d like from the recipe page.
The general search functionality is set up very well with Allrecipes. There is a very large database of user submitted recipes to search through, so the filtering capabilities are extremely helpful.
Each month a new group of recipes will be featured. These are handpicked by the Allrecipes staff and will revolve around a specific theme.
For March, the theme revolved around St. Patrick’s Day and featured several traditional Irish recipes. For the month of April the feature is Brunch Season which, as you can guess, features recipes that could fall into that category.
If you’re someone who’s more experimental and always looking to try something new, then this is a great place to check regularly – the curated list of seasonal recipes can really help to spark your imagination! I’m pretty indecisive and not at all picky so I’m always looking for interesting recommended recipes.
This recipe discovery method is a bit different from the others, and a bit different than any method I’ve seen with any other cooking application. It is essentially a live search, in a sense.
Here’s how it works. While on the Inspire Me page you’ll see a filter area – just as you do on the Search page. You can filter based on the course, an ingredient, the cooking method, the cooking time, the occasion, or the cuisine. On this page photos of meals will slide onto the screen.
They continue sliding on and off and will continually adjust based on the filtering you’ve been selecting. You’ll see six photos at any given time and can simply tap to see more info. Tap on one that looks good and you’ll be presented with a quick pop up with more info about it.
On that window you can chose to view more recipes like it, review the recipe details, or check it to review later. If you select review later you’ll see a thumbnail in the bottom bar of the page.
Looking at photos of food is a fantastic way to discover new recipes or be inspired, and this function built right into the application is fantastic. It makes recipe discovery very casual – it feels almost as though you’re asking a friend to suggest some ideas! If you’re not in a hurry it’s an excellent feature.
The recipe box is a place where you can store recipes you’ve discovered and would just like to hold on to. It functions very much like a physical recipe box would. You’re able to categorize the recipes into one of nine basic categories.
There is also a search function that is specific to your recipe box. You’ll see the same recipe cards within the recipe box as you do in the other recipe discovery methods.
With Allrecipes Pro this recipe box will synchronize with your Allrecipes.com account.
This area is where you are able to manage your shopping lists. When choosing a recipe you will have the option to add the ingredients to one of your shopping lists.
You can also manage each one individually and add or remove items as you would like.
If you don’t feel like carrying your iPad around in the grocery store then you can email the list to yourself so that you have a copy on your smartphone. The list is built in a check box fashion so it would work well as a companion in your shopping cart.
It’s worth noting that the list’s functionality is quite robust and almost functions as an application on its own – you don’t necessarily need to tie your shopping lists to any recipes. It’s a very handy feature, no doubt about that.
Not only does Allrecipes work well as an application for discovery recipes, it works well as a cooking companion as well. Once you’ve chosen to cook a recipe you can step into cooking mode. This will bring up the instructions for the recipe along with a timer function that you can set and use as you wish.
You can move from step to step using navigation at the top. You’ll see all the steps on one page, but this will bring the current one to your attention by making it larger and bold while graying out the other steps. There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles here, but it’s a really useful portion of the application to use when actually cooking.
I’ve been exploring cooking and food applications for the iPad recently and there are many of them that really shine. Overall, it’s evident that the iPad itself is becoming an awesome cooking companion. Developers have built some really amazing applications to take advantage of some of the functionality available already and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.
Allrecipes is an excellent option in a category filled with great options. I think the bottom line is that each cooking application does some things differently – one may fit your needs better than the other. I can say that if the features described above seem to suit your needs then you’ll not be disappointed.
Quite a bit of the functionality is available on the free version, but you’ll want to spring for the $4.99 to upgrade to the pro version (bought in-app) to really get full use out of this application.