Whether you love to cook or you just love to eat, odds are you have a collection of dishes and recipes you'd like to try. Maybe you have a bunch handed down from a loved one. In either case, you probably need a better method to keep them organised than a bunch of index cards in a file folder. Here are some of the best apps for you, depending on the kind of recipe collection you have.
We've covered a number of recipe managers and organisation tools in the past. This time we're taking a look at some specific tools just right for your needs, whether you like to take your tablet into the kitchen or you have boxes of handwritten recipes you want to save for future generations.
For Importing Old, Handwritten Recipes: BigOven
If you're looking for a recipe organiser because you need something to bridge the paper and electronic divide, BigOven (Web/iOS/Android/Windows Phone) is the service for you. It's been around for a while, but it still boasts a recipe library over 250,000 strong, and it's still a fantastic way to combine recipes from around the web with those old, hand-written recipes you may have stuffed between pages in a cookbook. BigOven is free to join, but you'll need to pony up $US2.50 per month or $US20 per year for a Pro membership to get the best features out of it.
Being a Pro member gives you access to BigOven's recipe scanner, which lets you take photos of your cookbooks, handwritten note cards, and other printed-out recipes and add them to your collection thanks to a combination of optical character recognition (OCR) and real people behind the scenes reviewing the scans. However, they're not free, even with a Pro membership. Signing up for Pro gets you 25 free scans, but after that they're generally a dollar per scan. That can add up if you have a lot of recipes to enter, but you can also enter them manually. You have to ask, which is more valuable, the time or the money?
Beyond that, Pro memberships come with other bonuses as well, including private notes, nutritional information and BigOven's web clipper (which is admittedly a free feature on almost any other site). Plus, BigOven also has iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps to let you take your collection on the go.
If the bulk of your saved recipes are already available online, or you have them pinned to other sites (like Pinterest), consider previously mentioned ChefTap (Web/Android) or Paprika (Mac/iOS/Android). Both make it easy to pull in recipes from other sites. ChefTap can import an entire pinboard full of linked recipes and dishes in three taps, and Paprika has a built-in browser you can use to import recipes from your pinboards or favourite blogs.
ChefTap is free, and it works well on Android phones and tablets as well as on the desktop. Clipping recipes from around the web is easy, and you can edit them later. It's smart enough to pull the recipe out of even long blog articles, and it works on any site or blog -- something a lot of recipe apps can't claim. It will tag and organise your recipes, make them easy to search later, and it has a large-print "kitchen view" if you want to take your device into the kitchen with you.
Paprika recently launched an Android version of its well regarded iOS and Mac apps. Clipping recipes from the web thanks to its built-in browser is easy, and then syncs those recipes to the cloud so you can get back to them on any of your devices. Organising your recipes into folders or notebooks is a drag-and-drop affair, and Paprika can even make grocery lists out of those recipes that you can take to the store with you. The only downside to Paprika is its price. It's $20.99 for the Mac, $5.49 for the iPhone, $5.49 for the iPad (no, it's not a universal app) and $5 for Android. You'll have to buy a version for each device you want to use it with.
For the Tablet Cook: Basil or Pepperplate
If you like to take your tablet to the kitchen while you cook, consider Basil (iPad) or Pepperplate (iOS/Android/Windows 8/Windows Phone/Nook). Basil has a laundry list of sites that it supports one-touch imports from, including CHOW, Bon Appetit and Serious Eats. It's also designed to be used in the kitchen, with bright backgrounds and black text, built-in timers and large photos. Pepperplate includes built-in kitchen timers, large, easy-to-read displays while you're cooking and offline access.
Basil is iPad only (and $2.99 at iTunes). Basil doesn't just clip your recipes, it also organises them by ingredient, tags them automatically, and makes them easy to find. In effect, it turns your recipes into a personal cookbook that's easy to browse and search whenever you're in the mood for something or you have a specific ingredient you have to work with. It even converts units, scales recipes up or down for you, and any step in a recipe with a time attached automatically becomes a timer.
Pepperplate on the other hand supports a broad variety of devices, and it has huge tablet views and built-in timers to help you out while you're in the kitchen trying to make your mum's chicken soup from the recipe you just digitised. It goes beyond recipes though, and it includes a fully featured meal planner, recipe search tool, and tools to build grocery lists based on your meal plan or the recipes you want to make on a given week.
For Complete Control: Evernote/Evernote Food or Springpad
If you're looking for total control over your recipe collection, give Evernote or its food-centric spinoff Evernote Food (Web/iOS/Android) a try. Similarly, Springpad (Web/iOS/Android) takes a very visual approach to saving recipes in a virtual "recipe box", and it even organises them for you so they're easy to search and browse. While other methods focus on building cookbooks and specifically organising recipes, these tools work for a variety of other things as well as food, make your data more portable, are available on more devices and cost less to use.
Evernote is already a great place to save your recipes, since you can enter text or clip items from the web extremely easy thanks to its web clipper. You can organise your own notebooks however you choose. Evernote Food for iOS and Android takes this up a notch by encouraging you to take pictures and upload your own recipes to your personal "cookbook". You can also use that cookbook as a jumping off point to explore new recipes from other users.
Springpad is a little more robust in this regard, and it's actually our preferred option between the two. The interface is more suited for recipes, and the Springpad web clipper can tell a recipe from an article or a bookmark. It will auto-populate your clipping with ingredients and step-by-step instructions, and then leaves you to tag it, add photos and save it. Once you do, it will even look up a wine pairing that would go well with the dish and automatically add it to your saved recipe.
These tools are just the beginning. You could just go "text files in Dropbox" if you don't want to bother with any of these, but there's something great about having your recipes neatly organised, complete with pictures, ingredients, nutrition information and more. We think these are a great start.