KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — There was a time when cooking involved scrappy grocery lists, splayed-open recipe books, and an alarm clock hidden somewhere in the kitchen. This is a particularly common scenario for the kitchen newbie (trust me, I know), but thankfully there are several apps out there that can help even the newbie in the kitchen get by with some dignity, and hopefully a well-tossed chicken salad. Here are three of those apps.
When it comes to recipe apps, first on the list should be Epicurious. Owned by magazine publishers Conde Nast, the site has among the largest collection of online recipes, taken from various publications such as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Self, as well as its own recipes.
Recipes are divided according to broad and seasonal themes like Spring Desserts, Breakfast for Mom, Picnic Ideas, and I Can Barely Cook, with each section containing anywhere between dozens to over 8,000 recipes. The latter number was found in the “I Can Barely Cook” section — which would surely leave some clueless folk at a loss of where to start. One can also look for recipes based on main ingredients, keywords, occasions, and other criteria.
Clicking on a recipe reveals the option to add the list of ingredients to your shopping list, presented in a checklist form to make sure you don't miss out on anything. The app is free to download on iOS and Android (http://www.epicurious.com/services/mobile). Apple users have the option to sync their Epicurious recipe box across all iOS devices for a US$1.99 (RM6.05) fee.
Use it when: You're feeling adventurous and fairly skilled in the kitchen. A newbie would find it helpful, but prepared to get daunted by the sheer number of recipes.
A recent acquisition by Conde Nast, ZipList is a great grocery shopping app that (a) helps you search for recipes and instantly construct a grocery checklist according to the recipe, and (b) allows you to scan in groceries via their barcode.
The barcode scanner comes in handy when you need to replenish, say, “Newman's Own Balsamic Vinegar Dressing, 400ml”; typing it in can be a bit of a hassle, but with ZipList, all you need is a quick scan and voila — it's in your shopping checklist. You can add in additional details to each item on the list such as size, price, quantity, and the option to mark an item Urgent.
Note, however, that the barcode library is US-based, so don't expect to scan in barcodes of local items like Jasmine Rice or Yut Kee Soya Sauce.
Finding recipes is a little less daunting than Epicurious, as it recommends a list of “Trending Recipes”, as opposed to offering you thousands of recipes. There's also a store locator, but it doesn't list any stores Malaysia, so that's useless. The app is free for iOS and Android users (http://get.ziplist.com/how-it-works/iphone-android-in-store-mobile-apps).
Use it when: You're in the supermarket, wondering what to buy and cook on the spur of the moment.
This is the newest app on the block, and appears to carry the editorial qualities of Epicurious, celebrity chef-endorsed recipes, as well as incorporate the functionality of Ziplist.
It also allows you to find out more and reserve tables at Puck’s restaurants — but unless you're in the States or Singapore (where Puck's CUT Singapore is), this part of the app isn't relevant to KL-ites.
The grocery list works like a stripped-down version of Ziplist – adding in items is simple enough, but there's no barcode scanner, nor is there an option to place in additional information such as quantity or price to each item. And as we've seen with Epicurious and ZipList, one can add in the list of ingredients from a recipe into the grocery list.
What does make the app stand out from the previous two apps is a step-by-step guide to each recipe, and where precise timing is required for a particular step, a timer is provided so you don't overbake your cinnamon rolls or undercook your beef. It also has video guides for newbies to learn the very basics such as how to slice and dice onions and chopping garlic.
The app is free for download, and is only available for the iOS (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wolfgang-puck-live-love-eat!/id514413501?mt=8).
Use it when: You want to cook like a celebrity chef, but have no idea how to cook.