Who is up for a Quarantine Cooking Challenge?
Not everyone has a cabinet full of dusty cookbooks passed down generations, or a mom-on-call to consult when cooking something ambitious. With more time to spare than ever during the lockdown, non-cooks are slowly turning into beginner cooks, and home chefs are going pro, by the looks of social media boast posts.
In the age of YouTube cooking tutorials and Instagram celebrity chefs, technology encourages and supports people to get creative in the kitchen. For carefully curated and organised cooking support, recipe-related apps are the perfect go-to guides for great gastronomic ideas and virtual assistance.
Here is a study of three free apps that have the power to inspire everyone:
If there was one app that was made for millennial chefs, it’s Tasty. Brought to you by Buzzfeed, Tasty is a reflection of its mother brand with creative content, vibrant look, attractive imagery and quick ’n easy how-to videos. Tasty seems to be ideal for those who identify as hungry but lazy but might just get inspired to do it for the ’gram.
The search bar can be used to discover dishes based on Difficulty (easy, under 30 minutes, and 5 ingredients or less are suggested filters), Meal Type (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, baked goods), Occasion (date night, happy hour, weeknight, special occasion, brunch, BBQ, and so on), Diet (vegetarian, contains alcohol, pescatarian, low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, kid-friendly), Cuisine (American, British, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Fusion and many more, including Greek and Latin American) and Dish Style (one-pot or pan, big batch, no bake desserts, and other such specifications).
While using Tasty to its full capacity is not possible during the lockdown, with limited supplies and no guests to serve fancy meals to, the app is handy to be able to make a five-minute chocolate mug cake with just a microwave, no oven, to satisfy some serious dessert cravings.
Cooking apps aren’t just for those who can make a sophisticated spaghetti in made-from-scratch pesto or a slow-cooked honey mustard chicken that requires some skill and time. Tasty also caters to kids and their parents, who are constantly whipping up stuff for them to gobble, by including fun recipes for a dreamy, creamy hot chocolate drink, the classic mac ‘n cheese, a three-minute pizza (yes, there is such a thing) and the perfect French toast with a drizzle of honey that would take anybody, even adults, to cloud nine.
Tasty is omnipresent on the web, with a colourful website, an active YouTube channel, and an Instagram page catering to over 36 million followers, to name a few of the platforms it has conquered. Is it the best food app out there? Definitely not. But if you don’t try it, you might just suffer from FOMO.
Undoubtedly the best guided recipe app out there, Yummly has millions of recipes to offer, with thousands added every week to keep up with cooking trends. When setting up your account, you get to disclose your dietary restrictions and preferences – vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, nut allergies, and so on – as well as specify what foods you dislike, so that they don’t turn up on your feed.
The app is packed with information. You can judge a recipe before trying it by checking out how it scores on a user-run five-star rating system, and also the number of ingredients, calories and minutes it takes to prep and cook the dish. What’s more, you can even schedule what time you wish to prep, what time you wish to cook (which isn’t always right before prepping, if you’re busy with other chores) and what time you plan to eat the meal. Talk about being organised!
With video-supported recipes that you can access hands-free (just activate the voice command feature and say “Hey Yummly” to move forward while you’re cooking), cooking and referring to the app simultaneously becomes an easy step-by-step process without any hassle.
For when you are no longer in quarantine and want to try something new, you can also make the most of the ‘Add to Shopping List’ feature that allows you to add ingredients from a recipe to the shopping list section of the app, which gets automatically organised by Yummly by aisle or by recipe. With an app like this, the user barely needs to think, and meal planning and cooking both become creative and fun activities you can fully enjoy, alone or with your sous-chef family member.
The more you use the app, the better it will perform for you, thanks to AI. If you are not ready to cook yet, just treat it like Pinterest for food, an exclusive cooking inspiration board that you can build by clicking the ‘Yumm’ button on images of scrumptious-looking food, which automatically bookmarks them for you to refer to later. When you filter your recipes by cuisine, cook time, nutritional requirements or technique, the app gets a sense of your taste and constantly works on improving your personal recipe feed to suit your preferences.
Cookpad is a unique app for the adventurous cook, one who wishes to experiment with food and compose recipes to share them with others around the world. The app heavily relies on user-generated content, but this model works well because it makes the app feel like a social network for culinary enthusiasts.
In stark contrast to Instagram, Cookpad doesn’t reward aesthetically pleasing food pictures. The goal is realistic: an app filled with easy homemade deliciousness that inspires home chefs. It’s motivating to see pictures of dishes that looks like they’re worth an attempt, unlike the food prepared on the reality TV show MasterChef.
Cookpad quickly rose to become Japan’s largest recipe-sharing network (60 million users) expanded to international markets until it gathered 40 million users globally and set up its headquarters in the UK. Interestingly, the app began as a way for Japanese homebodies to connect with others over the joy of cooking. This could also be why the app developers decided to add in a chat feature with both private chat and group chat options to make this a more social experience than what competitor apps offer. Being able to text the original cook asking about the chicken to tomato ratio when cooking for three times of number of people is useful, after all.
Since the content is all user-generated, unlike other apps, Cookpad is where there are Nepalis uploading recipes, including but not limited to momos, aloo fry, pork sekuwa and authentic homestyle achaar. You can also see who all are planning to cook a certain recipe, which works as a motivation tactic for users.
You can also leave a ‘cooksnap’ – a picture of your dish – once it is ready. Other users can tap the heart button to get your recipe trending, while helping you gain social currency on the app. Additionally, Cookpad offers unique user stats, a clever way to gamify the app and make users want to earn more points by cooking and creating more to rise in the ranks.
The way the app works indicates its wise, special philosophy: that cooking is not about how beautiful the food looks, but the effort put into making it delightful, and sharing with an online community helps make the effort worthwhile.
Other cooking apps: BigOven, SideChef, Food.com, Nooddle, Kitchen Stories, Epicurious and Cheftap.
Home work during the lockdown, Saniaa Shah
Unlocking yourself during the lockdown, Saniaa Shah