Are you hosting Thanksgiving or bringing a dish to a potluck? If so, plans are probably already in place for the turkey, side dishes, and desserts, but there might be a chance to take your recipes to the next level -- if you have the right apps.
There are several cooking apps for both iPhone and Android that are great year-round, but they also often have special featured recipe collections around the holidays. If you want to kick your green-bean casserole (or any other holiday dish) up a notch, I suggest you take a look at what these apps have to offer.
Editors' note: For Android cooking apps, check out Jaymar Cabebe's holiday roundup.
Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner Pro ($2.99) gives you fun and easy access to the user-generated recipes on the popular cooking Web site. The primary focus of this cooking app 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. While the main thrust of the app is to help you come up with ideas for dinner based on the ingredients you have, you can also search for recipes and find plenty of options that are appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner.
Even when you're not planning a holiday dinner, the interface gimmick works surprisingly well, especially with some fixed criteria (like, say, you know you have turkey and less than 45 minutes), and you can flip through all the matching recipes, with photos, star ratings, and short summaries. If you don't want to use the spinner, you can just browse featured recipes. Touch a recipe for more information, including a full ingredient list, cooking instructions, nutritional information, and user reviews from AllRecipes.com, and you can save any recipe to your favorites for later viewing.
The Dinner Spinner isn't perfect -- for example, the categories rely on the occasionally spotty accuracy of user-generated data -- but this app has shown steady improvement since its arrival in the App Store. Other similar paid apps may have deeper functionality, but the Dinner Spinner gives you a lot of features, and a huge searchable database of recipes -- even for Thanksgiving.
You can also get Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner Pro for Android.
How to Cook Everything ($4.99) is a great cooking app for both beginners and seasoned cooks alike, offering tons of recipes and even several techniques that help you learn to cook like a pro. Based on New York Times columnist Mark Bittman's best-selling cookbook, this app features an easy-to-use interface with big buttons for browsing recipes and learning kitchen basics. You also can browse lists of Bittman's favorites, most popular recipes, featured concoctions, and Quick Dinners for when you need to get a meal ready fast. It also has buttons across the bottom to perform searches, view your favorite recipes (once collected), and use a shopping list tool.
How to Cook Everything also has a plenty of Thanksgiving recipes. A simple search for turkey will give you a ton of options for all types of turkey recipes (including one highly rated recipe that shows you how to make a Thanksgiving turkey, gravy, and stuffing). Even better (specifically for those fairly new to cooking), you can browse through cooking techniques to learn baking basics, essential cutting techniques, and other useful things. Each recipe offers related articles that include cooking techniques for your recipe as well.
How To Cook Everything is an excellent choice for the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly if you're not already a kitchen veteran. But even experienced cooks will appreciate the intuitive interface, popular recipe lists, and easy-to-use tools that let you focus on the cooking project at hand.
In The Kitchen ($1.99) gives you a recipe database made up of delicious recipes from all your favorite chefs from the Food Network. The interface offers a number of ways to find a good recipe, either by using a search tool or by touching the image of a chef from the Food Network. It also has themed categories with an excellent Thanksgiving lineup featured right now.
When you launch the app, just swipe to the left once to view the Thanksgiving page, where you'll find Top Turkey recipes, stuffing and dressing recipes, best vegetable dishes, perfect potatoes, and much more. Touch a category to get a long list of options for each type of recipe. Even if you already have your dinner planned, you may find that you have the ingredients to make one dish, such as your mashed potatoes, even better.
In The Kitchen is not just for holidays, though. You can browse through thousands of recipes year-round from popular chefs including Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, and Rachael Ray, and get reviews for recipes from other users. Once you decide on a dish to make, you can have In The Kitchen create a shopping list for you so you can check off ingredients as you walk around the store. The shopping list is particularly helpful because you can add just the items you need or all the items from multiple dishes. Even if you don't want to make a particular recipe today, you can store favorites in a Recipe Box so you can get back to them later.
Along with tons of recipes from your favorite Food Network chefs, handy tools for shopping, and a Recipe Box for your favorites, In The Kitchen offers timers so you don't even need to set a separate one. With all these features and the addition of special seasonal recipe collections, anyone who wants to add to his or her cooking repertoire should definitely download this app.
You can also get In The Kitchen for Android.