Whether you have kids who are at home for the summer vacation, or you're stuck in the office routine and don't get time to go out for some fun food, it doesn't mean that you need to have the same five set meals day in and day out Life shouldn't become like that Faasos ad, where people ask, "Aaj khane mein kyaa hai?", and the answer is always, Daal sabzi.
These days, there's an app for everything, and so it's not really surprising that there are any number of apps that you can use if you're a home chef who wants to do something a little more fun than just carry forward the same five recipes you managed to learn while living with your parents. We have tried out a lot of different cooking apps, and the results vary; some were hugely helpful, while others got in the way. For example - kitchen timer apps are pretty popular for some reason, but you know what's easier? Lifting up your phone, and just asking Google or Siri to set a timer for you! The fact is that "cooking apps" aren't really the ones that you end up using when you're actually cooking. We've focussed on the apps that we actually use a lot. Here are the ones that we think you should have on your phone.
1) AllRecipes Dinner Spinner
The first thing you need is to figure out what you're having for dinner, and in our view, AllRecipes is the best bet, and it's available free on both Android and iOS. We've got a more comprehensive list of recipe apps that you can take a look at but we thought this one offers the most in terms of ease of use and variety.
AllRecipes includes both Indian and international recipes, and allows you to search for dishes with particular ingredients in them. say you realise you have potatoes, mushrooms, and onions in the house, and don't know how to bring them together. This app can help you do that, and the Dinner Spinner feature can help you quickly find new recipes when you're feeling short on inspiration.
If you're going to cook, then the first thing you need is to know what you're having. Once that's sorted, you need to get all your ingredients in place, and that's where an app like Grofers comes into play. There are plenty of alternatives, but we're mentioning Grofers because it works across most major cities and deliveries usually happen in a couple of hours, so you don't need to plan well ahead to enjoy cooking.
This one's a bit of a cheat, but the InnerChef app is a great tool to have when you want to feel a bit fancy in the kitchen, but aren't really very good with knives and other tools.
Prep can be a big challenge for a lot of people who otherwise really enjoy cooking. A free app on both iOS and Android, InnerChef fills this gap with an offering that the company calls its 15-minute meals. These are all "ready to cook", but that doesn't mean frozen foods in this case. What you get instead are washed, prepped ingredients, dressings and sauces; you simple have to follow the recipe that InnerChef gives you and the result is a fancy meal you cooked (sort of) for yourself.
There aren't too many different options to order in the 15-minute menu, but if the old recipe-book is too daunting at this stage, then InnerChef's offerings can be a good way to get started in the kitchen.
4) Escoffier Cook's Companion
We scoffed a little at first at the notion of this iOS-only app, but having actually used it for some time now, we have to admit, it's actually a pretty good app to have on your phone, especially if you're just getting started in the kitchen. It works fine on an iPad as well, which is where we tested this app.
There are no recipes in it, and it's free but ad-supported. What it is good for, is teaching you how to handle your kitchen. Details about how to store your ingredients, what types of recipes they're used in, and more importantly, explaining why, teaching you how to use different tools in the kitchen, and coming with a glossary section to have you speaking like a pro, this app is much more useful than it looks at first.
There are also unit conversions and timers, though honestly, you don't need those parts, but get this app for the small tips and tricks it sprinkles throughout.
This sounds like a cop-out but YouTube is probably the most important app to have on your phone when you're learning to cook. Not to look at cooking videos or watch recipes, but to learn different techniques. Just look at this simple video and you can see just how helpful YouTube can be:
It's just such a helpful video and in no time you've learned a useful skill. You know what is tricky for absolute beginners? Dicing onions for use in your recipes - and knowing the right techniques can turn any recipe from a nightmare into a piece of cake.
Knowing the right techniques is essential if you're going to progress beyond replicating the five recipes you somehow learned, and there just aren't many good apps we came across on this front; when learning to cook, we found YouTube was probably the best go-to resource.
Those are our picks. Is there any app you swear by? Tell us, and the other readers, via the comments.