The countdown to Turkey Day has begun! Whether it’s your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family or you’re an old pro, it doesn’t hurt to have a few tools in your belt. Wouldn’t it be great to have a mobile app that actually planned your preparation schedule and synced with your calendar? Thanksgiving: A Bon Appétit Manual boasts a good selection of inspiring recipes, technique demo videos, clever tips and menu planning functionality to help you execute your menu like a pro.
Is this free app worth checking out? Read on for the full breakdown.
It was love at first sight. I was smitten by the bold, in your face images of mouthwatering turkey legs and jewel-toned cocktails. The app is so Bon Appétit — smartly designed in their signature style with a mobile interface that’s modern, clean and elegant. I could not wait to dig in to the recipes.
The app features 101 Thanksgiving recipes, including Turkeys, Sides, Salads, Desserts, Drinks and more. I like the home screen, which displays all the recipes in one place as a collection of photo tiles. Scrolling down the page gazing at the apple pie, cranberry jelly, gravy and stuffing, I began to dream about the spread I would put on my own Thanksgiving table. It was truly a feast for the eyes.
Filtering recipes by category is essential, and not only has the app provided this function with the tap of a button, but I could also see the number of recipes for each category at a glance. With 13 turkey and “other mains” dishes, 7 stuffings, 19 sides and 18 desserts (and more), I felt the app had a good selection of dishes to choose from.
I’m not sure if the app is a bit buggy or it’s because I’m using the iPad mini, but sometimes I tried to tap the Categories button and couldn’t get it to work. Other than that, navigating the app is a pleasure.
The app includes a handful of traditional recipes, but most of the dishes are for foodies who love to try a new technique or flavor combination. Just like recipes in Bon Appétit magazine, the dishes are clever, flavored with global ingredients and prepared with savvy techniques. It’s not complicated cooking, though. It’s simple, straightforward, and yet unexpected. This year, why not try a Tandoori Turkey or Pomegranate-Mint Relish instead of cranberry sauce?
I selected a recipe and was delighted to find some really thoughtful, user-friendly features in the instructions. The app gives two options: view the whole recipe on one card (swiping a box in the screen to read all instructions) or the step-by-step view. In Cook Mode each step is described in big text on one screen and the ingredients list can be brought up with the touch of a button so I never had to leave Cook Mode. I would love to see hands-free navigation.
It appears the + sign in the top right corner is for saving a recipe, but it wasn’t clear exactly how the whole recipe saving works or where I could find my saved dishes. The View Tips & Videos button in each recipe is great for users, making it easy to access related videos and articles like How to Carve the Bird and Taking Temperature. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner involves kitchen tools I don’t use regularly, so I find the Special Equipment list in each recipe quite helpful. It’s also nice to be able to share links to full recipes via Email, Twitter or Facebook.
What makes this a useful mobile app and not just a collection of recipes is the menu planning functionality. It wasn’t until I started to use the planner that I found all my saved recipes buried inside. A quick tutorial at the beginning of the app would have been helpful. Once I figured out the whole saved recipe thing, I set off creating my own Southern-inspired Thanksgiving menu.
Once I had my menu of recipes selected and specified a time for serving Thanksgiving dinner, the app created a schedule based on my timeline. It’s so helpful to see every task on one screen, from ordering the turkey at +5 weeks to making my pie dough at +2 two days to putting the turkey in the oven at 8:00 a.m. on the day.
The schedule even syncs with iCal (though I had some issues with this feature being a bit buggy and couldn’t connect). I like the feature for adding custom tasks as well, but couldn’t get mine to load and the app froze up every time. It is annoying that these features don’t seem to work properly, but the app is free and still way over-delivers on recipes, video guides and menu planning. Hopefully they will address these issues in an update.
Tips and Technique Demos
I was delighted to find a section in the app devoted to Tips, like The Best Baking Apples and the Key Mashed Potato Techniques. This section features step-by-step photo guides and instructions on buying and thawing your bird.
The app comes with 9 videos demonstrating essential techniques like making gravy, crimping piecrust and carving the bird. Videos are short, sweet and to the point with a cheerful soundtrack. I like how they get right in there and show you exactly how the cook completes the task. No wordy descriptions, only succinct subtitles to explain the task. Perfect!
Thanksgiving: A Bon Appétit Manual is a breath of fresh air in the Appstore. It’s fresh, modern and beautifully designed with the user in mind. These guys have really offered something different that has the capability to help people solve a problem: how to plan and execute Thanksgiving dinner. When I tried to use the planning and calendar sync features I found the app had a tendency to freeze up, which is disappointing. It’s also surprising that the app doesn’t have shopping list functionality. That being said, I can’t believe this otherwise amazing app is free. I will definitely be using it to plan my Thanksgiving this year.