All the tools you need for a perfect holiday meal

Whether you're heading into the kitchen, or are on the hook to bring the drinks to the big meal, these apps will help find the right recipes, cook like a pro and get the right bottle of wine this holiday season.

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With Thanksgiving planning upon us and the rest of the holidays right around the corner, there's a lot of pressure to cook, bake, and show up to events bearing food and drinks.

For a little extra help in the kitchen, turn to your smartphone or tablet, which can act as a meal planner, cookbook or guide for picking up a bottle of wine. From the many apps out there, we've uncovered the best for creating a fabulous meal no matter if you're a pro in the kitchen or barely know your way around a whisk.

Check out CNET's guide to surviving Thanksgiving with the family, and if you need a little extra help in the kitchen, read Ry Crist's guide to gadgets for holiday cooking.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Food Network In the Kitchen

Free, iOS and Android

With its extensive database of recipes and general food knowledge, it's hard to go wrong with the Food Network. The website and TV channel's app, In the Kitchen, makes it simple to browse and search for recipes by keyword or dish type, such as appetizer or drink. If you have a favorite Food Network chef (mine's Alton Brown), you can also browse recipes straight from their kitchens and cooking shows.

You can sign up for a Food Network account to save recipes to your Recipe Box or add them to a shopping list. But even without an account the app gives you helpful kitchen tools such as a timer and unit converter.

For Thanksgiving, the In the Kitchen app has a special page of all the Thanksgiving recipes you could need, including turkey, mashed potatoes, cocktails, appetizers and desserts. Each recipe gives you user ratings, difficulty level, cooking times and number of servings. Those stats make it easy to browse for, say, an easy stuffing recipe that you can make in 40 minutes or a complicated turkey preparation that will impress the entire family.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Yummly

Free, iOS, iPad and Android

Yummly is perfect for broadening your recipe horizons and finding amazing dishes from the best food blogs. It's like a recipe search engine, scouring the web for all of the best recipes from big names, brands and blogs like Martha Stewart, The Kitchn, Hellmann's and Smitten Kitchen. You can search for any recipe and get the full ingredient list, calorie count and directions. When you find a recipe you want to make, you can add the ingredients to a shopping list with one tap.

Perhaps the best part of Yummly are the search filters, which help you find recipes that are gluten-free, vegan, low-sugar, and even those that use specific cooking techniques. There are more filters than you'll probably ever need, and they are incredibly helpful for narrowing down search results. The app is currently featuring a collection of Thanksgiving recipes so you can find something to make for the big meal.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner

Free, iOS and Android

Tasked with making a vegetarian appetizer for a holiday meal, but you have no idea what to make and not much time to make it? The Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app is up for the task.

It searches Allrecipes' massive database of recipes to find nearly anything you need. The star feature is the Dinner Spinner, which gives you a slot-machine-style interface that helps you search for -- or just stumble upon -- new meal possibilities by rotating horizontal spinners to choose a recipe by meal type, ingredient or cook time.

The best part is that all of the recipes are neatly displayed and easy to read, even for novice home cooks. Beyond the holidays, the Dinner Spinner is a great tool for any day you need to make a meal and are lacking inspiration.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Timer+

Free, iOS and Android

Your phone probably already comes with a timer, but it might not be able to keep time for multiple occurrences at once. Timer+ is a dead-simple free timer app that can run multiple countdowns at the same time. That means you can have a timer for your turkey, stuffing, side dishes and pie running simultaneously to keep your cooking on track.

You can set different chimes for each timer and even pause and resume individual countdowns if needed. Of the many, many timer apps out there, Timer+ has one of the best designs, and it's one of the easiest to use.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Vivino

Free, iOS and Android

This free wine app can help you out if you're tasked with bringing a bottle to your Thanksgiving dinner or any other holiday event. Just scan the label of any wine you find at the store and Vivino gives you ratings and reviews, average price in your area, plus the country and area of origin.

It also shows a summary of the wine, including notes about the variety and food pairing suggestions. We especially appreciate the pricing information, because it helps clue you in if you're overpaying at your corner market.


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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Bonus: Spotify's Turkey Timer

Set the mood and keep track of your turkey, too, with Spotify. The music service has a turkey timer that creates a playlist that should last just until your turkey is done cooking.

All you have to do is select your turkey's weight (which will determine the cook time and the length of the playlist) and then pick a music theme. Spotify's picked a few groovy playlist themes for any situation, including "Family Time" to "Club Kitchen." Pick your music, press play and when the music runs out, your turkey's done. Just don't forget to check on your bird while it roasts.

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