Mobile devices make themselves at home among kitchen tools Cooking 'app'titude BY MARY BETH SCHWEIGERT, Staff Writer
More cooks are turning to a know-it-all kitchen assistant small enough to fit in their pocket -- or on the countertop.
Foodies armed with phones and tablets can use apps to find everything from a killer chocolate mousse recipe to the hottest restaurant in town.
Basic versions of many food and cooking apps are free, but users might have to pay a few bucks for more advanced features.
Kevin Poff, who loves to cook and throw dinner parties, uses apps on his Android phone to look up recipes when he's on the go.
Poff, of Lancaster city, uses Allrecipes' DinnerSpinner most often. It's the app version of allrecipes.com, where users post recipes and photos, which others comment on and rate.
"It pulls from notable chefs all the way down to your everyday home cook," he says.
Poff, who used to work in restaurants, also likes the Foodspotting app, where users post photos and ratings of dishes served in restaurants or friends' kitchens.
"You can see what looks good at local restaurants before you even go," he says.
Marah Harbeson, who describes herself as "a regular 27-year-old who cooks at home" in East Petersburg, uses the Epicurious app almost daily.
The app is the mobile version of Epicurious.com, the online home of recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Parade and Self magazines. Harbeson, who blogs at theredvelvetblog.com, uses the app on her iPhone.
"I've tried other apps in the kitchen over the years but always come back to Epicurious," she says. "It's simple, user-friendly and gives me access to so many recipes."
The app allows Harbeson to narrow a recipe search to specifics, such as a main course that uses poultry and lemons. She also can save her favorite recipes so she doesn't lose them.
The app comes in especially handy when she's shopping. "I can look up the recipe in my phone and double-check that I have everything I need right in the aisle at the grocery store," she says.
User reviews give Harbeson an idea of how well a recipe will work out, how easy it is to prepare and what modifications other cooks have tried.
Blayre Miller, a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America's baking and pastry arts management program, is also an Epicurious fan.
But Miller, who decorates cakes at Mount Joy's Country Table Restaurant and blogs at flourettasweetblog.blogspot.com, says she can't live without constant "cakespiration" from the digital version of Cake Central magazine.
"The magazine features the newest trends and techniques being used by the best cake artists in the world, so having the digital version keeps me current 24/7," Miller says.
Nancy Wiker, a family living educator with Lancaster County's Penn State Extension, uses the Pinterest app to find new ideas for preparing and presenting foods.
Wiker recently found heart fruit kabobs and chocolate-dipped strawberries for Valentine's Day.
She also consults digital versions of Real Simple and Whole Living magazines, propping her iPad on the counter while she follows a recipe.
"I like a recipe that has a picture and good step-by-step directions," Wiker says. "If there is a video, it needs to be clearly presented and narrated."
Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld, owner of Essen, a recreational cooking school in Lancaster, often uses her phone to search for a recipe term or ingredient substitution idea.
Her favorite app, Convertbot, comes in handy for recipes from European sources. "It's great for converting metric measurements to the English system," Sterenfeld says.
Convertbot isn't just useful in the kitchen. The app converts between 500 units across 20 categories, including currency, time and length.
Too bad there's not an app that can actually go grocery shopping for you.