By Tracey Dowdy
I love to entertain. I’d rather have a group of friends over for dinner and drinks than almost anything else in the world. We’ve hosted book clubs, wedding and baby showers, graduation parties, Cinco de Mayo parties, “Joel Got His Green Card!,” “Sofia is Getting Baptized,” and “Final Adoption Papers Signed!” parties. We’ve even hosted two weddings in our backyard and a baptism in our pool. Sometimes there’s no better reason than “I Got a Deal On Chicken and Want to Try a New Fajita Recipe!”
Whether you’re entertaining a crowd or organizing a dinner for two, finding the right recipe or menu can be tricky, especially in the summer when you don’t want your oven heating up the house. These sites and apps can help you plan a menu, convert food quantities to fit the number of guests, and create a grocery list, all while walking you through the recipe each step of the way.
How to Cook Everything
The How to Cook Everything app is based on the book How to Cook Everything® from New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. With 2,000 recipes and 400 how-to illustrations, Bittman walks you through meal planning and execution step by step. Use the app on or offline, bookmark your favorite recipes, add your own, watch or read tutorials, plus the app’s integration with Facebook and Twitter makes it easy to share recipes with others. One unique feature is the constant-on button so your screen won’t dim while you’re busy with prep.
Yummly is arguably one of the most comprehensive foodie apps available. Instead of drawing from their own database, Yummly aggregates recipes from all your favorite sites and blogs – Food Network, Allrecipes, Chow, Steamy Kitchen – filtered by search criteria as diverse as cook time, allergies, cuisine or holiday. You can customize your search to foods you like or eliminate recipes that include foods you don’t like, create a grocery list, and in select cities, have those groceries to your door in an hour. A recent update allows users to sync the nutrition and serving information with your iOS Health App.
Platform: iOS; Android, Windows Phone
The Food Network app allows you to make recipes from all your favorite Food Network stars with thousands of recipes, how-to videos, grocery lists, and menus, all at your fingertips. Search for recipes by chef or by ingredients, add notes, recipe tweaks or substitutions and link with your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest accounts, or share recipes via email.
Platform: iOS; Android
Perfect for summer patio season, the Weber® Grills app offers over 250 recipes from main courses to dessert. Each recipe has full color photos, comes with a shopping list, step by step directions and includes a timer so your burger or S’more’s are perfect every time. You can even set multiple timers so the steaks don’t overcook while you wait for the vegetables.
The Epicurious app is described with words like “polished” and “robust,” so you know where this is going. Maybe not the best app for the beginner cook but definitely a great option for anyone with a little experience and a willingness to expand your skill set and palate. There are over 35,000 recipes for appetizers through desserts, menus for everything from “Passover Mains” to Spring brunches, shopping lists, beautiful photos, and a built-in timer. Simply choose from one of the 40+ ingredients and the custom timer will tell you how long to cook it by factoring in weight and cooking method. You’ll even get a reminder if it’s time to flip that burger!
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.