Thanksgiving is fast approaching, but there is still time to start planning if you haven’t already. This week I’ve selected another free app that promises to help you plan your menu, schedule the cooking and cope with kitchen disasters. Thanksgiving Menu Maker from Fine Cooking boasts 75 recipes, plus how-to videos, Turkey tips and wine pairing ideas. They aim to provide the whole package, from planning to shopping to cooking the meal.
Does the app deliver on functionality? Can the classic Fine Cooking put out an app that’s modern and inspiring for home cooks? Keep reading to find out.
Thanksgiving Menu Maker is sold by Taunton Press, a publisher known for practical guides that help readers hone their skills. They produce classics that never go out of style and I find their content is always strong, useful and inspiring. If I pick up one of their publications, I know I’m going to learn something. These are the guys behind magazines like Fine Cooking, Fine Gardening and Fine Woodworking (and many more).
My first impression upon launching the app was positive. They do a good job succinctly explaining what the app is all about and I like the call to action button, Create your menu. Immediately the experience transforms from passively looking for inspiration to actively getting things done. That’s what a mobile device is for — getting things done!
The home screen gets right down to business with a bird’s eye view of the recipes, zoned in on the main dish. The thumbnail photos depict beautifully bronzed turkeys and seem to be just the right size. I liked being able to read the short dish descriptions without having to look at the recipe. At first, I wasn’t sure what some of the icons meant, but a quick tap of the Help button answered my question immediately with an icon key. It’s nice to see at a glance whether the recipe is vegetarian, can be made ahead or takes less than 30 minutes.
Given the classic image of Fine Cooking, I was a bit skeptical that the recipes would be modern and fresh enough for foodies. As I scrolled down the screen of dishes, I was pleasantly surprised by inspiring dishes like Roasted Turkey Breast, Porchetta Style, and Turkey Thighs Stuffed with Porcini, Sausage and Artichoke Hearts. The app features 12 different ways to prepare the bird, from brining to grilling to smoking, and features whole birds, roulades, boned breasts and turkey legs.
I found five token vegetarian main dishes, but only one was truly inspiring: the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. The starters are a mix of seasonal soups, salads and small bites to stimulate the appetite. These recipes are simple, seemingly too simple, but a closer look reveals interesting combinations of flavors, textures and colors that enhance the menu without adding too much work.
The sides category features six stuffing recipes plus a good variety of vegetable dishes like roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts and the nod to traditional green beans. It also includes several variations on cranberry sauce and the old standby, mashed potatoes.
With 23 desserts, I felt spoilt for choice. It all looks delicious — pumpkin, pecan, pear, apple and chocolate pies. If you’re feeling adventurous you’ll find a good selection of impressive desserts to try, like the beautiful Apple Upside-Down Cake or the Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake.
Menu Planning, Shopping and Cooking
All the recipes are curated and tested by Fine Cooking. The recipe introduction includes useful tips for time management and variations on the theme. All recipes are available offline, which is convenient. It would be nice to see a cook mode for viewing the recipes, but the app is limited to portrait layout, the font is small and difficult to read from a distance (though I could zoom in by touching the screen).
The process of creating and editing a menu is simple — I just selected my dishes with the touch of a button and the app organized it all into a menu by course. The Shopping List is a very useful feature and it’s good to be able to send the list by Email. Another great feature is the Schedule, which breaks down all the tasks for me to begin prep several days before and I can check them off as I go.
All content in Turkey Day Tips takes you out to the Fine Cooking website, but it’s a gold mine of information to support you in cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I found the Emergency Fixes for the Top Ten Thanksgiving Disasters especially helpful, along with 21 Turkey Tips Every Cook Needs to Know, which covers buying a bird, reading the label and the whole process of prepping and roasting.
Thanksgiving Menu Maker from Fine Cooking is a solid app with great recipes and useful functionality for all home cooks. It’s not the sleekest, sexiest app, but makes up for this in steadfast practicality that will support you all the way from planning to putting dinner on the table. Fine Cooking has created an app that stays true to their classic gourmet style. This free app is a great addition to your holiday toolkit and will come in useful when Christmas rolls around. I guarantee you’ll find something new to add to your Thanksgiving menu in this fine little app.