My Four Favorite Food Apps Right Now

In my previous life at Chicagoist, I often wrote about new and exciting apps for my various I-devices that had something to do with food. 

Here's the thing: I never waited a month to see if they stuck around. I'm pretty militant about clearing dead wood off of my mobile devices, so anything that stands the test of time has to get used at least every few days.

Here are the four food-related apps that have stood my test of time. 

1) Pepperplate

There are a million "recipe box" apps out there, but all the ones I have tried have one thing wrong with them: they tend to be based on one site or publication. Even Epicurous, with its huge database, doesn't include, and I'm frankly too lazy to have eight different recipe box apps and try to remember what is where.

Enter Pepperplate.

I'm totally addicted to this app. It lets you import recipes from almost 40 different food sites (everything from Serious Eats to Food Network) just by pasting in a URL. You manage your recipes on the website and it syncs with your iPad. It also keep the photos, making it easy to get inspired to cook. It has a great "cook now" mode where the font is huge and all distractions are removed.

It's the first app I've used that makes bringing your iPad into the kitchen pleasant. It has a little of the same sensual experience of using a cookbook - though I suggest you try to keep the sauce splatters off of it.

It's free. Just get it.

2) Fridge Pal

Maybe this only happens to me: I go to the grocery store, buy a week's worth of produce for my ambitious schedule of recipes. Mid-week, I find yourself on the couch eating pizza and three weeks later, I find that rotten stalk of lemongrass and hunk of melon sitting in the bottom of the crisper. I moan: "I hate wasting food! Never again!" 

But it happens again. And again.

Especially as we move into farmers market season, that kind of food waste was making my blood boil. I figured, "there must be a technological solution, right?"

There is, and it's called Fridge Pal. It's a refrigerator inventory app that reminds you when food is about to expire and lets you see a neat list of everything that might expire. For example, I can look right now and see that, whoops, I forgot I bought that bag of baby arugula on Saturday and it's about to expire. I know what i'm making for lunch!


It's a tiny bit clunky to enter everything in when you get home from the market or store, but once you save a list of favorites, it gets faster. Plus, it can scan barcodes! 

It's free unless you want to add more than one refrigerator.

3) Genius Scan

A scanning app? That's not food-related! Unless, like me, you still get food publications on paper. That's why I love this cheap, easy scanning app that takes pictures with your iPad camera, converts them to PDF and emails them to you. If I want that two-page spread by Mark Bittman in the Times Magazine, but I don't want to tear it out and put it in a binder, I just snap a photo and put it in my recipe folder.

If only it could OCR everything and match up with Pepperplate, my life would be complete. 

4) Seafood Watch

I'm a bit of a nut about sustainable seafood, but it's incredibly difficult to navigate restaurant menus. With meat and produce, you can learn the names of the big local growers and have some sense of what places are serving, but with fish? Best of luck.

The Seafood Watch App is the same as that little wallet card you can get at the Shedd Aquarium, except updated in real time. It will tell you what fish are good to eat ("green") as well as what you should avoid at all costs ("red"). It even has a sushi guide with Japanese names, in case you don't remember exactly what "Ankoh" or "Hotate" mean off the top of your head. 

Ok, yes, it makes me that annoying person who pulls out their phone before ordering the salmon (pro tip: it's usually not sustainable) but it's worth it. Chefs need to know that there's a demand for less popular fish, and orders are the only way that gets through to them.

What apps do you use every day?