By Rachel Raczka
By: Conde Nast Digital
Platforms: Tested on iPhone, available for iPad, Android, Nook Color, Windows Phone, and Kindle Fire
Should you get it?: Yes.
Let me preface this review by saying: I cook a lot. And I bake more than I cook. So I spent a fair amount of time using this app. But don't let that scare you away; I recommend the app for the experienced cook as well as the kitchen novice.
Touted as a portable version of the popular website that proclaims it's "for people who love to eat," the Epicurious app features the same seemingly endless supply of recipes sourced from the Conde Nast treasure trove of the likes of Bon Appetit, Self, and Gourmet magazines.
The impressive amount of recipes on the app is matched only by the ease of navigating through them. The Search screen allows you to quickly sort through the website's depths, narrowing your results by main ingredients, course, cuisine, dietary considerations, dish type (e.g. candy, stuffing, vegetable, casserole - yes, it seems random to me, too), and season or occasion.
The option to click Bacon as the main ingredient and receive nearly 800 recipe results just makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. Narrow it down to just dinner and up pops 139. Not shabby.
Meanwhile, the Home screen of the app gives you the option to peruse a selection of categorized recipes that change from season to season. Currently, my options include dishes for Oktoberfest, kid-friendly lunches, and Halloween treats. A selection of Thanksgiving sides and mains also made their way onto the nav for those planning ahead.
Scroll further and mainstay categories like simple pastas, vegetarian mains, and weeknight dinners are also options, as are my favorites: "I can cook like a pro" and "I can barely cook."
The app gives you the option to save recipes you love, or just want to make later on, in a favorites folder, and create shopping lists based on the recipes you like. Clicking the + sign next to a recipe also brings up the function to share the recipe through social networks or e-mail.
The recipes are responsive and can be viewed horizontally or vertically with the tilt of a screen. Reviews from users are accessible and easy to scroll through.
The Epicurious app helped me through my first "adult" dinner party, with the perfect temperature at which to replicate A.O.C.'s famed parmesan-stuffed dates and the understated harmony of bitter endive spears when served with crumbled blue cheese, spiced nuts, and honey.
Having my list and recipes available for quick reference on my phone is as convenient and second-nature in the grocery store as it is in the kitchen. A phone is much easier to access than a cookbook or a computer while simultaneously stocking, prepping, and mixing.
As for the bad, the two glaringly obvious issues with the app come from its transition from online editorial to an app, which I suspect is quite common and wouldn't necessarily hold me back from using it.
First, pop-up ads are frequent and show up full-screen while scrolling through the recipe queue. They mostly are merely a plea to "Like" Epicurious on Facebook and can be swiped away immediately, but that doesn't make them any less obnoxious.
In the past, the ads have even gone as far as making the app unusable, not by personal preference, but due to technical glitches. The user frustrations are well-documented in the comments section of the Apple App Store and if my memory serves me correctly, it was a long enough period of "black out" time that I uninstalled the app semi-permanently.
Shame on Epicurious for allowing this to happen. Minus one. However, given the source of the content, an ad-driven website that depends on these placements (much like our own), I can see their purpose.
Second, some recipes appear sans a photograph. Not every recipe that goes into a publication – again, this one included – are necessarily accompanied by a photograph, and I can’t imagine how much it would cost for them to backdate their lengthy archives to re-shoot for the purpose of this app.
However, the lack of photos makes it difficult to pique interest in those recipes in an app interface. While on a website or while reading a print publication, the feel of a recipe is different and my attention can be gravitated by words alone. In an app-setting, not so much. But that may be more subjective from user to user. Minus half.
Despite its shortcomings, I still enjoy this app and do not feel the need to install an additional food application onto my phone. What does that say? The Epicurious app is one that will not leave users hungry for more.