Foodie Friday: The Cooks Encyclopedia

Passionate cooks are always looking to learn something new — a clever tip for chopping onions without tears, a silkier mashed potato or how to really know when that steak is cooked perfectly. Cookbook apps are evolving on iPad to really help home cooks learn new techniques and be more efficient in the kitchen. The competition is getting stiff, and innovators are quickly leaving mediocre apps in their dust.

The Cooks Encyclopedia is a lofty title for an app, creating high expectations of the ultimate cookery book. This collection of 350 recipes by Michelin starred Chef Patrik Jaros and renowned photographer Günter Beer declares it “takes the reader by the hand and teaches the many techniques that the world’s great chefs have mastered.” Using more than 3,400 step-by-step photos and preparations outlined “in depth” the app hopes to provide a “complete, professional guide to shopping for and creating meals, from simple omelets to three star dishes.”

How many Michelin stars do I award The Cooks Encyclopedia? Keep reading to find out.

Like this article? Stay up to date with the latest changes by subscribing to our RSS feed or by following us either on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or App.net.

Getting Started

Open the app and you’ll find a screen littered with ingredient icons that don’t do anything when you tap them. Wasted real estate on the iPad screen is a missed opportunity to engage users. It’s obvious that The Cooks Encyclopedia was made for iPhone and users might not be in for the best experience on the iPad. The left sidebar is a cover flow layout of each chapter, organized by dish type (salad, soup, meat, dessert, etc.).

The home screen is a collection of ingredient icons that do nothing. Scroll the sidebar to browse chapters from The Cook’s Encyclopedia cookbook.

The home screen is a collection of ingredient icons that do nothing. Scroll the sidebar to browse chapters from The Cook’s Encyclopedia cookbook.

This app proclaims it packs 768 pages of its eponymous print counterpart into a convenient and easy to use mobile parcel. Old media repackaged as new never feels as sleek and sexy as purpose built apps because it retains the basic structure of the book, which isn’t optimal for the interactive, immersive mobile environment. App versions of books do have the opportunity to give users added functionality, making cooking more efficient. Does The Cooks Encyclopedia offer the best of both worlds?

Chapters

Each Chapter in the app is straight up recipes, with no introduction for the dishes. Beginning with the Butter & Vinegar chapter, the app gives instructions for making a beurre noisette with no explanation of what exactly that is and why you would want to make it. It’s important to provide context for recipes to keep users engaged.

Chapters like Butter & Vinegar are straight up recipes, with no introductions or explanations on why you would want to make the dish.

Chapters like Butter & Vinegar are straight up recipes, with no introductions or explanations on why you would want to make the dish.

The chapters do represent a chef’s repertoire of dishes with an old-school French feel. You’ll learn the classic French sauces like béchamel and béarnaise, oyster shucking and how to prepare a rack of lamb. Peppered throughout the classic techniques you’ll find more rustic, global flavors, like Spanish Frittata, Nigiri Sushi and Indian Beef Curry.

Step-by-step photos illustrate techniques most home cooks would be intimidated by, like preparing a rack of lamb.

Step-by-step photos illustrate techniques most home cooks would be intimidated by, like preparing a rack of lamb.

The Cook’s Encyclopedia has more than 3,000 professional photographs to guide you through each recipe, but tutorials are more superficial and less in-depth. For example, the hand made pasta dough recipe shows how to combine the flour, eggs and olive oil in a bowl and what the finished dough looks like, but abandons users on the trickiest part: rolling out the pasta using a machine.

The recipes provide a good balance between useful techniques for everyday cooking and more advanced preparations to expand your skills, like deep fried apple fritters.

The recipes provide a good balance between useful techniques for everyday cooking and more advanced preparations to expand your skills, like deep fried apple fritters.

The app is a nice balance of useful techniques for everyday cooking and more advanced preparations to push your skills to the next level. Home-made mayonnaise and vinaigrette, meat or vegetable stocks and flavored butters will intensify the flavor of your daily cooking routine. Techniques like cleaning fish, preparing artichoke hearts and making a perfect soufflé will expand your cooking repertoire.

Cooks Encyclopedia On The Go

.B-Apps created this app to support users during every stage of cooking, from meal planning to shopping to kitchen prep. Create shopping lists with the touch of a button and then email the list to whoever is doing the shopping or take the app with you and cross off items as you buy them in the market.

Gather recipes into shopping lists and cross off ingredients on the go—just ignore how ridiculous this feature looks on the iPad.

Gather recipes into shopping lists and cross off ingredients on the go—just ignore how ridiculous this feature looks on the iPad.

Sadly, the user interface looks ridiculous on iPad, confined to the left sidebar when the device is horizontal and it completely disappears when the device is vertical. Moving on to the Glossary, you’ll find an expansive list of 450 cookery terms (equipment, techniques and ingredients) and photographs. Too bad these terms aren’t linked up when they appear in recipes.

The Glossary features 450 cookery terms from ingredients to equipment to techniques, but doesn’t give you much of a definition.

The Glossary features 450 cookery terms from ingredients to equipment to techniques, but doesn’t give you much of a definition.

While it’s helpful that ingredients are photographed and cooking times listed, often times that’s all you get — no description of what the ingredient is or which cuisine commonly uses it. One redeeming grace about the app is its search tool, which allows users to search full-text of every recipe for key words.

Conclusion

The Cooks Encyclopedia is not up to par with other cookbook apps designed for both iPhone and iPad. Much of the content is relegated to the sidebar of the screen, as if it were just transplanted from the iPhone onto the iPad. That being said, it’s designed beautifully for iPhone. Another issue with this app is that it doesn’t provide cooking tools that other cookbook apps have to help users be more efficient in the kitchen, like timers, hands-free navigation and the ability to customize recipes with your own notes.

It’s not enough to have beautiful photographs and high quality recipes, because the innovators are moving ahead with enhanced functionality and truly in depth tutorial videos. Design and functionality issues aside, this app provides 350 good, useful recipes that will expand your cooking repertoire and inspire creativity in the kitchen. Skip it if you’ve only got an iPad, but buy it if you have an iPhone, which offers the best user experience.


Summary

The Cooks Encyclopedia is a collection of 350 recipes and thousands of step-by-step photographs to expand your cooking repertoire, from everyday dishes to cheffy techniques for special occasions.

7