Times change, but traditions persevere. Every year, American families gather to give thanks on the fourth Thursday of November, but what was used to bring the meal together is constantly evolving over time. With e-books and apps having supplanted print media, it’s time to prop up your iPad on the counter and follow its easy-to-read recipes, rather than squint at small-print and lose your place on the page.
With these great cooking apps, the meal will taste as good as always — but it will be simpler than ever to cook:
Setting the table
If countless food reality shows have taught the world anything, it’s that presentation is paramount when it comes to pulling together a great meal. On Thanksgiving, that begins with crafting a great centerpiece, a task which Pinterest seems to be born for. The popular idea-sharing social site gives users a bulletin board type interface for “pinning” pictures, and searching for the term “thanksgiving centerpiece” creates a near-infinite scroll full of great table setting ideas.
Thanksgiving: A Bon Appétit Manual gives Turkey Day veterans and green bean beginners alike some great ideas for running the holiday. For example, the free app’s scheduling tool helps coordinate everything that goes into preparing the perfect family feast, and technique videos ensure that you know how baste, brown, and boil like a pro.
Meanwhile, Fine Cooking’s Thanksgiving Menu Maker is praised by users for how well it organizes the entire cooking process. For instance, the $.99 app has 75 dishes to choose from, and after you pick them, a grocery list and detailed schedule are automatically generated, even telling you what to buy and do the week before the celebration.
Warming up the oven
Apple’s App Store overflows with recipe apps — you probably already have a favorite or two already. But you may have overlooked Food52, because it focusses on holiday parties, not everyday dishes. Its 127 recipes have step-by-step walkthroughs, with more than 800 high-resolution photos to help you dish up everything from main courses to candy. It’s got a $3.99 price tag, but the app’s 11 cocktail recipes will make you feel better about that.
The secret to baking a great dessert — at least with an iPad — is Dorie Greenspan. The six-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author has some mouthwatering pies in her free Baking with Dorie app. (though in-app purchases charge for individual recipes — hey, even experts have to eat!)
But when it comes to prepping the bird, trust no app other than Butterball Cookbook Plus. This free app doesn’t know what brand of turkey you took home with you, but it will give you recipes like Apple Cider Marinated Turkey and Brined Brown Sugar Turkey. I’m already hungry.
Flashy layouts and video instruction are great kitchen additions, but the iPad has the ability to do a lot more. For instance, the $4.99 iCookbook app is worth every penny, just just because it has more than 2,000 recipes loaded into it, but it also has a voice-activated commands, so you won’t get food on the screen when swiping and tapping.
Choreographing all your dishes to cook correctly with just the timer on the stovetop can result in burnt buns, cold potatoes, and mushy peas. KitchenPad Timer can keep track of all your burners and the oven, for a $1.99. Not only does it track the time, but it also will remember the temperature your dishes are cooking at.
And lastly, How to Cook Everything is a must-have, especially for any ill-equipped bachelors tapped to bring something to a potluck-type affair. A port of the best-selling cookbook, this $4.99 app is a great value, not just for the 2,000 recipes, but for how it integrates with built-in timers, the calendar app and printing and emailing recipes.
Remembering all the ingredients
Inevitably, while making a multi-course meal, ingredients will go missing, or whole dishes will go awry. Thankfully, software like the $1.99 Substitutions app are ready at the download to save a meal in seconds flat. Designed to swap out missing ingredients or tweak recipes to accommodate guests' food preferences or allergies, this easy-to-navigate app is full of practical suggestions on how to better tap your pantry.
Meanwhile, Kraft Food’s free iFood Assistant app has a preference for using its brands (like Velveeta, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Jell-O) as the fixings for dishes, but with 7,000 recipes and a great search functionality, it’s pretty easy to stir up some home cooking in no time at all.
If that’s still not enough, you'll need to make a store run. But don’t leave your kitchen with the oven going — grocery delivery apps like Peapod are ready to take your order and bring the goods to your door. This free app can get your delivery done in 24 markets across the U.S., but if it doesn’t work for you, search the app store for your favorite grocery store, because they may have an alternative.