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First you learned to cook from old family recipes stored in memory, then from cookbooks, then while watching cooking shows. But who has a TV in their kitchen ready to go? With the rise of smartphones and tablets, the cookbook has entered the digital age and apps like Epicurious give you a thousand page cookbook in your pocket.
But surely there's more to an iPad then just recreating the cookbook experience digitally. Apps now seek to bring the helpful visuals of TV cooking shows with the step-by-step ease of printed recipes to your kitchen when you need it. So slap a gallon-sized Ziploc on your iPad and let's cook!
Clear-Media may not have pioneered the video cooking experience, but they're looking to shape the game of using your iPad in the kitchen. Appetites made quite a splash when it was released and it's no wonder. It's easy to navigate and satisfying to use. As a bonus, it's currently at a price drop to $0.99 from a high of $4.99.
That's the Way They Became the Foodie Bunch
Appetites opens on a scrollable screen of pictures of different food bloggers. Look closely and you'll see that each person in the photo is moving slightly, shifting around, waiting for you to tap. Do so and you are taken to the page dedicated to recipes from the blog in question. The blogger portrait follows you, and next to the portrait are even more pictures, this time of food.
The Recipes Are Great, If a Bit on the Pricey Side
Both image sets are available to tap. Tap the blogger photo, and you will get a brief bio, narrated by the blogger. Tap a food picture with a blue circle and arrow on it and the recipe will download to your iPad. Tap the green 99¢ pictures to purchase more recipes, though a buck a piece strikes us as a bit steep. Downloaded recipes, when you tap on them, take you to a page of pictures. Each is a short video of the step in question. Don't know how fine to chop your ginger? Just watch and learn.
Avocados and Mangos, We're So Into You
If you're the type who needs print, an unobtrusive Steps button on the left pulls out a numbered list pane. Ingredients hide the same way on the right, but unless you email these ingredients to yourself there's no other way to get your shopping list to the gorcery store save toting your iPad along. These are quite helpful additions, but what would be far more helpful with the video would be some kind of controls to let us pause or scrub back and forth. Instead, each video restarts each time its picture is in the frame with no way to freeze a particularly good tip or rewatch a snippet unless you rewatch the whole step.
Send These Ingredients To Myself? In An Email? Hmmm.
The recipes are all quite tasty, thorough, and well instructed, but again we find the price balk-worthy. There are also only a total of twenty seven recipes at this time with no means of adding more until the app updates. Seven of these recipes are spotted to you for the initial cost (in our case $4.99) and to own the set takes the whole thing up nearly to thirty dollars. For that price, you could get hundreds of recipes from a book or thousands free through Epicurious. Are the videos worth it? Your mileage may vary.
Futura Group has decided to meet the call of more bang for your buck with their contribution, The Video Cookbook. For just six dollars you get over 120 recipes, each with a video of its own. Like a real cookbook, the app is broken up into food course sections. There's taps for appetizers, salads, soups, side dishes, main courses, and desserts. We've tried a few of these dishes with excellent, delicious results in every case.
Not That It's Too Hard to Make a Fruit Salad
Navigate to the section you are interested in and you're presented with a long list of recipes. See one you like? Tap on it and you're taken to its page where there are luscious pictures of the food in various stages of production. Underneath are print instructions for each step. Swipe through the pictures or tap the play button at the bottom. Videos are for the whole recipe not just partial steps, but you can pause or rewind or fast forward with the typical controls you've come to associate with iOS video players including full screen viewing.
Works In Landscape or in Portrait
Even better, ingredients are presented as quantities based on the number you're serving. Tap the person icon in the upper right to change the size of your party and Video Cookbook will alter your ingredient list. Tap the list icon next to it and your items are added to your shopping list (unfortunately there doesn't appear to be any way to get your shopping list out of the app at all). Luckily, the app is universal so anything you find on your iPad you can find on your iPhone or iPod just as well, which you're more likely to have on you in the produce section.
That's Some Fish Fry! Adjust Your Ingredient List
For novices, the app features a dictionary that identifies many afficionado terms and provides spoken pronunciations for some words and phrases. An improvement we'd like to see is inter-recipe connections. Broccoli Au Gratin gives you all the ingredients, but the Mornay sauce they recommend is elsewhere in the app. Either add those instructions here, or put in a link to the Mornay sauce recipe and save us a few steps in the kitchen. While there's no way to add to the recipes or purchase more, for our money The Video Cookbook is a great deal.
It Will Even Sort Your Shopping List into Aisle Sections
While Appetites is definitely the looser, more fun of the two apps, and it sports a completely gorgeous interface, it suffers from its steep pricing scheme. Thirty dollars for thirty recipes strikes us as not much of a bargain if we're not talking about celebrity chefs. With its single price for a large catalog of recipes and its ingredient quantity manipulation, The Video Cookbook is too delicious to pass up. We loved the full screen videos and how simple it made every step of the process. A few tweaks to the interface and the option to add more recipes, and this goes from three star to four star restaurant in a snap.