Just as an e-reader or tablet doesn’t replace a paperback or hardcover book — it simply adds a fresh way to enjoy reading — recipe apps and websites are useful complements to the cookbooks that line our pantry shelves.
In fact, online and physical recipe resources can coexist — beautifully. Sure, cookbooks in print make cherished gifts, whether with a personal inscription on the inside flap or when worn with love and oil stains, bent corners and penciled-in comments, and handed down from generation to generation. But apps and websites viewed on your laptop, phone or tablet can take your cooking journey to new destinations. Technology offers several tasty benefits.
The good news is you need not be tech savvy at all to download apps from the Apple App Store, Google Play or Windows Store. You can bookmark websites for recipes, and social media platforms such as TikTok and Pinterest also offer delicious meal ideas.
Here’s why you should consider adding a little tech to your recipe repertoire.
1. Apps and websites are free to use
Whether their recipes come from a community of fellow cooks or some of the world’s top chefs and TV personalities, most apps and websites don’t cost anything to use. This is especially attractive to those who can’t afford to buy cookbooks.
And if you want to build your own physical cookbook, you can print the recipes you like and pick up a three-hole punch and a binder from the dollar store.
2. The databases are large and searchable
Recipe sites and apps often house tens of thousands of recipes, compared to the hundred or so in most cookbooks, so you’re bound to find something that looks interesting.
Apps, websites and social media platforms let you search by keywords, like “chicken wings” or “veggie burger.” You can also browse by meal, course and many other categories. Almost every kind of cuisine is available, as are recipes based on dietary preferences, such vegan and vegetarian, and restrictions, such as peanut allergies and lactose or gluten intolerance.
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3. You can adjust the results
Many recipe websites and apps let you select whatever ingredients you have on hand and then offer suggestions for what you can make with them.
If a recipe you’ve selected is for two people but you need to feed a family of five, many online sources will update the recipe to fit your needs. Just type in the number of servings, and the recipe will update automatically — no math necessary!
Cookbooks from around the world often use different units of measurement than those from the United States. Apps and websites, however, often let you switch from metric to imperial (for example, grams to teaspoons or milliliters to cups) or imperial to metric measurements.
Many apps, websites, smart speakers and smart displays even let you use your voice to stop and start listening to step-by-step recipes, perfect for when your hands are sticky or covered with flour.
4. Audio and video are folded into the mix
Cookbooks have text and photos. But apps and websites often have audio and video, too.
Audio instructions are convenient because they allow for multitasking, plus they’re particularly helpful for those who are blind or have limited vision.
Even if an auditory feature isn’t baked into a recipe app or website, accessibility features are built into computers, phones and tablets, which will read any on-screen text to you. All these devices let you increase the font size on apps and websites, too. Try doing that with a a printed cookbook.
Seeing videos of people making a recipe is incredibly powerful, especially for visual learners. Type the word “recipe” into YouTube or another video-sharing platform, and you will find no shortage of videos with step-by-step instructions.
5. You can share your finds privately or publicly
If you really like a particular recipe or just know that your colleagues, friends and family will enjoy it, sharing with others is a cinch.
Virtually all cooking apps and websites have a share icon to tap or click. Then you can choose how to send the recipe: email, text message, instant message. Or you can share it to one of several social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Find a great recipe in a cookbook? You’ll have to grab your phone, take a photo of or scan the page, and text or email the image.
Recipe websites and apps you might like
If you’re looking for recipe sites and apps to test-drive — aside from go-tos Pinterest, TikTok and YouTube — here are some you may find appealing:
• Allrecipes. This website offers an enormous collection of recipes, all searchable by dish or ingredient. You can also browse by popularity. Check out the air fryer section, kitchen tips, world cuisine and much more. Creating a free log-in allows you to designate favorite recipes and create shopping lists. The free iOS and Android app is called Allrecipes Dinner Spinner.
• Epicurious. One of the oldest collections is also widely considered one of the best. You can browse by recipes and complete menus, such as for a dinner party, holiday celebration or special event. You’ll also find expert advice and plenty of high-quality videos. Epicurious has a free app, designed for iPads, available in the Apple App Store; its Android app was retired several years ago.
• Food Network. As you might expect, these recipes are tied to the cable TV channel, including top picks from celebrity chefs, recipe developers, editors and producers. Along with recipes, the site has shareable articles, video tutorials and behind-the-scenes looks at many of your favorite shows. The Food Network Kitchen app for iOS and Android allows you to search recipes for free, but access to video content, including ad-free Food Network shows and on-demand cooking classes, costs $2.99 a month, $19.99 a year.
• Yummly. In addition to articles, recipes and a meal planner, Yummly offers recipe recommendations based on your specific tastes, nutritional needs and skill level. A pantry section will generate suggestions based on ingredients you have handy. Find links to the free Yummly Recipes & Cooking Tools app for iOS and Android by clicking on the ... More section of the website’s left rail.
You also might want to check out the following options. The websites are generally free, but you may have to pay to use some apps or access some of their features. BBC Good Food has awesome photos, BigOven offers more than 1 million recipes, Cookpad is a social-friendly platform, Kitchen Stories offers a serving-size converter, the Paprika Recipe Manager 3 app has some free features in its Android version but an upfront cost of $4.99 in the Apple App Store, the SideChef website and apps have some free material, and Tasty.co offers a totally free website and apps with recipes and kitchen hacks. Bon appétit!
Marc Saltzman is a contributing writer who covers personal technology. His work also appears in USA Today and other national publications. He hosts the podcast series Tech It Out and is the author of several books, including Apple Watch for Dummies and Siri for Dummies.