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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Mobile Apps

10 essential apps for the kitchen

Beyond just recipe apps.

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If there is one thing the Internet does not lack, it's recipes. You've probably discovered apps and websites like Epicurious, Chowhound (our sister site!), and AllRecipes, but it'll take more than a good recipe to make you a good cook. So the focus here is instead on other apps I use in my kitchen (or at the grocery store).

From kitchen timers to shopping aids to recipe organizers, these are the best kitchen tools that will help you become a better and more organized chef.

Shopping helpers

Dirty Dozen (free)

I try to buy organic but I'm also trying to save money to send my kids to college. So, I selectively buy organic, and the Dirty Dozen app shows me the 12 fruits and veggies that contain the highest levels of pesticides. (Spoiler: strawberries top the list.) The app also features the Clean 15, which includes fruits and veggies for which you don't necessarily need to buy organic. Dirty Dozen is also available for Android.

Perfect Produce (free)

This app won't tell you which are the dirtiest things in the produce aisle, but it will tell you what to look for and what to avoid when picking your produce. It also lists nutritional information and recipes for a wide variety of produce, but what I use the app for is its storing and preparing tips. For example, Perfect Produce taught me that an avocado can last up to five days in the fridge and carrots should not be stored next to apples or pears. Perfect Produce is also available for Android.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Nose to Tail (free)

Meat-eaters, take note: the Nose to Tail app maps out where on the animal various cuts of meat come from, describes their characteristics, and how best to prepare them. You get the cow for free, while an in-app purchase unlocks pig, chicken and lamb. Nose to Tail is also available for Android.

Seafood Watch (free)

This app helps you find seafood that is fished or farmed using sustainable methods. With Seafood Watch, you can look up a particular type of fish to see if it is a Best Choice, Good Alternative, or something to Avoid. You can also look up restaurants and markets in your area that feature ocean-friendly seafood, and you can add places you've found that offer it. Seafood Watch is also available for Android.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Substitutions ($2.99, £2.29, AU$4.49)

Whether you or your dinner guests have dietary restrictions or the grocery store is simply out of an item on your list, this app helps you find the right food substitution. There is no Android version, though the Food Substitutions app is similar.

Timers

Thyme ($0.99, £0.79, AU$1.49)

Thyme is five timers in one (plus one pun). It lets you keep track of four burners on your stove top along with one over timer, making it useful when things are really cooking in your kitchen. Thyme is also available for Android.

Wave Timer (free)

If you are frying fish, making a meatloaf or otherwise engaged in a messy recipe, Wave Timer can save your phone from getting gunked up. The app uses your iPhone's front-facing camera so you need only to wave your hand over your phone to stop the alarm. Wave Timer needs to run in the foreground, so it's not great for your battery if you are timing a roast in the oven that needs to cook for hours. Wave Timer is not available for Android but there is a similar app called Wave Alarm.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Recipe organizers

Google Drive (free)

Yes, I count Google Drive as a kitchen app. I use Google Drive for many pursuits in my life, and my Recipes folder is one of my most visited. I created a Recipes folder for my favorite, most-used recipes, which I can access on my phone when I'm at the store and also easily share with friends and family. Google Drive is, of course, also available for Android.

Paprika ($4.99, £3.99, AU$7.99)

Paprika is a highly rated recipe organizer. In addition to storing recipes, the app boasts many bells and whistles, including timers, grocery lists, and a meal planner. What I like best about the app is its integrated browser, which makes collecting recipes from around the web a snap. Paprika is also available for Android.

BigOven (free)

BigOven also offers recipes, grocery lists and a meal planner, but what makes this app worth a spot on your phone is its leftovers feature. Pop in up to three ingredients you are looking to get rid of, and the app will suggest recipes. BigOven is also available for Android.