The best Apple iPad apps for cookery, food and recipes – group test review

Break Making Basics, Sweet'N'Spicy, Paprika, Big Oven, DK Quick Cook and Domino's rated
Photo of The best Apple iPad apps for cookery, food and recipes – group test

The iPad looks made for the kitchen. Wireless, easy to prop up (or stand up in an inexpensive case) with a pretty robust, wipe clean screen, there are dozens of cookery and recipe apps designed to add mouthwater to your meals (actually, that doesn’t sound very nice…) This month we look at exactly what’s cooking in the kitchen.

APP OF THE MONTH: Bread Baking Basics
PRICE: £1.49 inc. VAT
Bread Making Basics demonstrates what can be done when someone really thinks about marrying ink-on-paper-style instructions with the iPad – the result is something that looks and feels like a nice book but has the interaction and flexibility of a proper app.

So, the Reference section is 15 pages of straight text, no gimmicks, no nothing – just the kind of good information that’ll turn you into a decent bread maker. The ingredients page allows you to select the kind of bread you want to make, the style and then how you’re going to bake it and then set the quantities; to change a quantity, unit or find out more about an ingredient, just tap it and then use the pop up to change, for example, ounces to teaspoons or grams. Then, tap the Step by Step heading to get detailed instructions for each bread recipe; again, the app only displays one step per page, which is by far the best way to present recipes, and you just swipe to move from one to the next.

Global settings allow you to specify whether you’ll be kneading by hand or with a mixer and if you want to use imperial measure by weight or volume or just plain metric. Simple, inexpensive and a pleasure to use. Also, quite good for you.

iPad cookery apps - SweetNSpicy
Sweet ‘N’ Spicy
Given the enormous popularity of Indian food, there are surprisingly few iPad recipe apps that are anything more than searchable cookery books – and while Sweet ‘N’ Spicy doesn’t exactly break the mould, you do get over 4,000 recipes divided into categories (vegan, veggie, meat,
low-cal and so on) and a what’s-in-my-pantry feature that suggests meals based on the contents of your cupboard.

The app includes recipe reviews (though as anyone who knows the iTunes Store will tell you,
that’s not necessarily the best way to choose whether something’s any good or not) the ability to rate recipes, ask questions and get answers via email; you can also save recipes to a favourites list.

Although the instructions are clear, the app’s layout means you have to keep scrolling back up to the ingredients list (there’s no landscape mode either) but many of the individual ingredients have useful, tappable tips (soak onions in water for 10 minutes and you won’t cry while peeling them) and the illustrations are generally good. We’re not impressed with the interface – too much back back, back for our liking – but the content is generally good and it’s free. (Note, you’ll need an Internet connection and the iPad’s location feature turned on to use the app).

iPad cookery apps - Paprika

PRICE: £2.99 inc. VAT
Initially disconcerting – Paprika doesn’t have any content and opens with an empty page – this is actually really clever stuff. Basically, the app can scrape any recipe you find from any of the 100 supported web sites and then add it to the local database.

We happily filched content from Jamie Oliver, Epicurious and the BBC Good Food site. Found a site that’s unsupported? Use the clipboard tools to add it manually and then request that the Paprika folks add it in future.

Sucking in recipes from all over the place like this means that the way they’re presented is fairly straightforward; nevertheless everything’s very clear and you can add your own notes to each recipe, organise meals in advance with the planner, create shopping lists based on the required ingredients, email recipes to friends and so on.

Each recipe has a timer, and you can scale ingredients depending on how many people are coming to dinner. Not the flashiest app in the world, but the ability to snatch good ideas from here, there and everywhere and then have them always available on the iPad is very attractive.

iPad cookery apps - Big Oven

Big Oven
Comes on like a fat, glossy electronic cookery magazine, with a straightforward contents list on the left and a nice Ken Burns-style slideshow of tasty looking treats in the main window, each with a ‘Make this tonight’ tappable link.

The magazine/book metaphor is continued inside and this makes the 170,000+ recipes accessible and  easy to follow. You get a selection of pictures for each one, plenty of reviews (the first recipe we looked at for chocolate chip cookies had 216 – that’s a lively, well-established community), calories per serving and notes from the chef.

Switch between the overview and preparation layouts when you actually want to cook, and use the portrait mode to see the recipe full-screen without the navigation menu. Signing up to the Big Oven web site gives you plenty more – a calendar-based weekly menu planner (in beta but looks really good) recipe scaling to adjust portion sizes, recipe sharing, while iPad 2 owners can upload photos of their creations and more. With a wide range of meals, beautifully presented, courtesy of a carefully planned interface, Big Oven is tasty.

iPad cookery apps - DK Quick Cook

DK Quick Cook
PRICE: £3.99 inc. VAT
QuickCook comes from Dorling Kindersley, which means that it packs a lot of visual punch to go with its 500-odd included recipes. More traditional than some (it features plenty of hearty tarts, cakes and strudels) you can browse recipes alphabetically using the photo browser, filter them by course, key ingredient (to show for example, only lamb dishes), preparation time and total cooking time. You can create your own menus, make shopping lists based on the ingredients (then group these by supermarket aisle) and share favourites on Twitter or Facebook.

DK also understands that recipe books aren’t just about the practicalities of adding this to that but also about browsing, about looking at dishes you’re never going to make, and about wondering what that artichoke and fennel dip would taste like – about window shopping, in other words.

One small annoyance – some of the recipes are faded out which means they’re not actually included in the app but instead are available as part of DK’s range of 0.69p add-on packs; it’s
obviously not expensive – but it’s still irritating. That aside, this is a sumptuous electronic cookery book.

iPad cookery apps - Domino's

And finally, when you’ve had enough even pretending that you’ll ever cook anything more sophisticated than beans on toast with a fried egg garnish, why not do what you always do on a Friday night and order a takeaway?

Plug your postcode into the Domino’s app and it’ll find your local pizzeria and download the current menu. After that it’s a feast of sliding panels, drop-down customisation ribbons and
jalapenos, salami, feta, blue cheese and ground beef (watch out, though – at 7in a ‘personal’ pizza is smaller than a ‘small’ pizza).

Fill in the delivery details, sidestep the gourmet garlic bread and chicken wings and then specify delivery or collection. Frighteningly, they even take payment by PayPal. Right, now for some remote control aerobics…