Though I've never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner myself, I've been through enough holidays with my family and friends to know there are a lot of moving parts with the preparation and cooking that all need to come together at once. With several steps involved in roasting the turkey, the need to make numerous sides (such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy), along with other Thanksgiving favorites, it's no wonder the cook can get a little stressed.
While my personal cooking experience will be of no help to you during the holidays, there are a number of great apps for your iPhone that might ease some of the stress. I've put together a little collection to cover the basics including an app that will help you pick the right wine, one that focuses just on the main dishes of Thanksgiving, and another that will help you find the perfect side dishes for the main course.
Cor.kz Wine Info gives you access to an enormous database of wine and reviews using data from the Cellar Tracker service that boasts the world's largest collection of wine reviews, tasting notes, and personal stories from people who love wine. With this app on your iPhone, you can access information about over 1.5 million different wines and over 3 million reviews.
Whether you're comparing wines at the wine shop or trying to figure out which wine to pick from your personal cellar, the app gives you the lowdown on the bottles in front of you. You can either enter the name into a search field, or the app lets you scan the barcode on the bottle, but it's not the most reliable technique. The developers point out that not every bottle has a barcode, and some barcodes are used for several wines from the same seller, but it will ask further questions in these situations so you can nail down which wine you're currently looking at. You also can browse wines based on country, region, or varietal and drill down to see a picture of the bottle, along with review scores, pricing, and tons of other info.
Probably the best features of the app are the reviews and wine comparison options. Once you've found your wine in the database, you can read extensive reviews from other wine lovers. You also can touch a compare button to see other wines you've selected side-by-side. Here you'll find the average score from other wine lovers so you can make a quick decision when at the wine shop.
Cor.kz Wine Info also has reference materials for learning more about common wine terms, different varietals, and gives you more information about the worlds different wine-producing regions. So not only does it make it easier for comparing wines, you also can learn more about wine in general.
Cor.kz Wine Info is great to have if you're like me (can't cook) and are relegated to bringing a few good wines for the big celebration. It helped with my wine selection this year, so maybe it will help you too.
According to the Web site, KitchenCue tries to avoid the habit of just following recipes and attempts to teach you good techniques through instructional videos that will help with your cooking overall. So, the Turkey iCue app is a collection of instructional videos and techniques that will help you roast your turkey, make stuffing, and show you how to make the perfect mushroom gravy.
The launch page for the app has big colorful buttons to guide you through the techniques for turkey roasting and gives you the complete recipes, flavor inspirations for alternative sides, a drink pairing guide, and additional resources like a glossary of cooking terms and other best practices in the kitchen. But where the app really shines is in the instructional videos.
Every step of the turkey roasting process is shown to you by chef Shellie in a series of videos with everything from brining to creating the perfect roux for your gravy. She goes through each technique in detail and not only shows you how to do something, but also explains why you're doing it. What results is a great step-by-step guide for the main dishes of Thanksgiving that could take some of the stress out of cooking on the big day.
Turkey iCue is obviously an attempt by KitchenCue to get you to buy the DVD series, but if it helps you put together a memorable Thanksgiving dinner, you just might be sold.
Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner 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 only problem with the amazing Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app is that it's not yet ready for iOS 7, but the developers assured me the new, totally re-imagined version is coming in December 2013 and will have even more useful features such as seamless access to Allrecipes Recipe Boxes, recipe discovery based on ingredients and dietary needs, and will be both smartphone and tablet-ready.
In the end, 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 -- especially during Thanksgiving when you're looking for that perfect side dish.