21st Century Kitchen

Hey, tear yourself away from your smart phone/tablet/laptop long enough for me to ask a question: In this sleekly modern, ever connected age, do you use any of those things when you cook?

I admit to being a bit of a tech geek. I don’t own all the newest and coolest, but I do have an iPhone 5 and a 3rd Gen iPad and I use them extensively. In fact, I’m writing this post on the iPad, as I do most of what shows up here on the blog. I use the iPad extensively for recipe creation too; most of what I post here is stuff I do without a lot of conscious thought or planning, so when it comes time to covert them to usable recipes for y’all, I find this technology fits well in the kitchen and is resilient enough to handle that environment. And another truth be told, the cameras on phone and pad are far better than the $1000 first digital camera I bought some 14 years ago, so most of the pics for this site are done on them as well.

The point is, if you have this stuff and you cook, there are some tools that may make sense for you and are definitely worth a look. Here are a few I like.

NOTE: I’m not gonna post links to the apps themselves, since y’all may not use the same OS as I do. Whether you’re using Apple, Android, Windows, or something else, you can probably find the noted apps for your device.

Recipe Apps:
No matter how good the cook, Almost all of us use recipes regularly; even Mike Simon delves into his venerable copy of James Beard’s American Cookery for inspiration, as do I. Recipe apps can be a real help when you get the germ of an idea that needs fleshing out. I’d say first and foremost that the greatest resource in this. Regard is a simple Google search; with that, you’ll get links to the others in spades. So, that said, do you need any others? Probably not, but still I enjoy and use Big Oven, AllRecipes and Key Ingredient from time to time; they’re nice if you’re looking up, say, strawberry rhubarb pie and want to see some variations on the theme in condensed form. And doing that is completely kosher, by the way; see, Stevie Ray Vaughan really did cop licks from Albert King, and then made them his own, K? The other very useful function within these apps is the ability to accurately scale recipes up or down to your needs; the conversions aren’t always foolproof, but they’ll get you close enough for fine tuning.

Cooking Reference Apps:
How about al those handy apps telling you ow to do stuff? I think they do come in handy and I use several. Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and Bread Baking Basics are two that provide simple, concise information in a very usable format. How To Cook Everything also may come in handy; resources like this can be a help when you’re looking for, as a for instance, alternative methods. for instance, if you always boil root vegetables, then you might look into roasting for a different take on favorite ingredients, things like that.

Shopping Apps:
Boy, are there a ton of shopping list apps out there, and let me tell you, a whole bunch of them are crap! I’ve tried many of these, so let e save you some time and energy; Grocery IQ is a very nice shopping list app that can sync to multiple devices, check your local store for deals, and post coupons and specials as you shop. Key Ring is a nice alternative to carrying all those annoying little plastic tags around, if you subscribe to various store’s shopper programs. Buycott, recently reviewed here, is an excellent resource for conscientious shopping. And finally Bakodo is the most robust bar code scanner that can come in handy for checking prices and comparative shopping.

General Cooking Utility Apps:
Now here’s a category where there is indeed a whole bunch of useless crap out there! Again, Ive slaved my way through the chaff to present only the wholesome kernels for y’all. Cooking offers a very useful batch of yields and alternatives for a myriad of ingredients, and some common conversions. KitchenUnits takes conversion to the next level, offering serious flexibility for your recipe tweaking. And finally, Timer+ is a very flexible, multi-source timer that’ll let you keep track of everything on one simple panel.

Cookbook Apps:
Now here’s a tough nut to crack; can and should a tablet or phone replace the venerable cookbook? My firm, unwavering answer is, yes and no. If you’re anything like us, some cookbooks are like art texts; they’re meant to be big, beautiful, almost coffee table tomes you want to feel the weight of as you revel at mouthwatering photos. No app will or cold ever replace those. On the other hand, The Joy of Cooking, American Cookery, Charcuterie, Julia Child, Harold McGee, or Claudia Roden are working titles, meant to be used as a textbook is in school; having those quick at hand, easily searchable, and custom printable is most worthwhile, and it helps your precious print copies last longer too!

Note and Writing Apps:
For the most part, almost every OS has a simple note taking app that will work fine for you. I use the native Apple app for quick ideas and a more sophisticated writing app for recipes and draft posts. I’ve tried several of the latter, and found iA Writer the best for my needs; it lets you title, search and print with ease, and that comes in very handy when you’re working up something good you don’t want to lose track of. If you don’t have a good native note app, there are plenty out there for your OS, guaranteed.

Truthfully, I’ve used dozens of apps for many moons now, and held off on writing this until I felt I had a solid suite of useful applications. Some or all of these may be of use to you, as they have been for me; and of course, if you have or find some thing cool, you just make sure you share it with the rest of us, hear?

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