Most recipe apps and websites follow a similar pattern: The recipes are crowd-sourced, and the service is free and ad-supported, or perhaps sponsored by a food company. This roundup of cooking resources exemplifies the trend, with sites like AllRecipes and Epicurious. And that’s fine: Cooking is something most of us do on a regular basis, and crowd-sourcing recipes is a good approach.
There is also something to be said, however, for a professional “recipe book” approach, where content comes from a single trusted source that’s accountable for each recipe. That’s what you get with Must-Have Recipes, an Android app by Better Homes and Gardens featuring a professionally curated collection of recipes with a gorgeous studio-quality image of each recipe. It is not perfect (there are a couple of glaring drawbacks which I’ll discuss below), but it is exceptionally good, both in terms of content and look-and-feel.
Browsing And Filtering Recipes
The app feels modern and angular, with an independently-scrolling sidebar flanking the main content area:
The sidebar makes it easy to focus on specific categories, such as Beverages or Grilling recipes:
Each category offers its own set of custom filters, to narrow down the selection even more:
You can only select one filtering category at a time: You can’t select both Beef and Lamb at the same time, for example. That section should really have radio buttons rather than checkboxes.
Often, just the filter is going to narrow down selection sufficiently so that you don’t have to search. The filter above yields just a single result with the default collection of 500 recipes:
If you’re happy with whatever the filter came up with, you can continue to the individual recipe. But if you’re looking for a bit more granularity, you should take a look at the search feature.
Searching For Recipes
To use the search feature, you have to swipe right, reveling an extra sidebar:
We’ll get to the Shopping List in a moment, but first, let’s look at the Search screen:
You can search for a term, and you can also filter your results:
The filter is AND-based, so marking two categories as shown above makes it very picky, and you may not get any results at all. The search is nice, but it’s a far cry from a dedicated recipe search engine like Yummly.
Once you find a recipe that looks interesting, it’s time to dig into the instructions and see what it takes.
Individual Recipe Display
Each recipe starts with a compelling photo:
Scroll down, and the list of ingredient fills the screen:
Note that some of the ingredients look like links: Olive oil, cloves of garlic, and fresh thyme in our case. Tapping each of these leads to a related cooking tip. For example, when I tap “fresh thyme” I get this:
The Steps tab is pretty much what you’d expect, with a concise description for each step and a clear display. The four icons at the bottom of the screen let you start a timer, add the recipe to your shopping list or your favorites, and share the recipe.
The Shopping List
The shopping list is one of the best parts of Must-Have Recipes. When adding a recipe to your shopping list, the app first lets you go over the ingredients so you can omit any ingredients you already have on hand:
Once it’s time to shop for groceries, you can whip out your phone and switch over to the shopping list display:
The list is broken up by aisles, and you can see which ingredient goes with which recipe. If you decide to skip a given recipe after all, you can tap the bottom-left “bowl” icon and remove the recipe from the list.
Must-Have recipes has almost no banners (it does have one, but you can switch it off). It offers a very clean experience: You just get your recipes, and gorgeous images. It comes with a generous collection of 500 recipes – more than enough to judge the format’s quality and style. The assumption is simple: Once you’ve come to trust the app as a source of recipe ideas, you will probably want more. And Must-Have Recipes will gladly deliver… for a fee:
For a buck (or 3.70 ILS, in my case), you can buy a collection of a hundred recipes around a specific theme. You can think of it as a recipe booklet custom-made for the app, basically. Collections range from 30-Minute Dinners to baking to healthy cooking, and more. I like this model, because you get to have a very clean experience even if you don’t buy anything. As long as you’re happy with the 500 recipes included with the app, you don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy all of its features. And when you do want to expand your repertoire, a buck is a reasonable price for a collection of a hundred tested recipes from a trusted source. This is a different model from the one these four recipe apps for Android use, and not everyone is going to like it – but I do.
Disadvantages And Annoyances
For all of its visual appeal and polish, Must-Have Recipes has two glaring drawbacks which kept me from becoming a paying customer:
- You can’t modify quantities: Basically, if a recipe makes four servings, that’s that. You can’t tell the app you actually want to make six or eight servings. This also means the shopping list is only useful if you want to make the original quantities.
- You can’t convert measurements: If you’re in the US, Must-Have Recipes is great. But if you’re used to the metric system, you’re out of luck. This would have been very easy for Better Homes and Gardens to add, and mainly requires some awareness of the fact that there are people outside of the US, too.
Another disadvantage, although not a serious one, is the lack of comments and ratings. It’s nice that the recipes come from a trusted source, but I’d still like to know what other users think about each recipe. Not offering this feature feels like a bit of an insecure move on the developer’s part: Is Better Homes and Gardens afraid to let their readers be heard?
Despite its two cons, I find Must-Have Recipes a joy to use. The app is well laid out, and it’s snappy and responsive on my device. There is something to be said for recipes from a trusted kitchen, and the beautiful photos don’t hurt, either. I find the business model compelling and fair, and could really see myself using the app on a regular basis if the developer ever adds flexible quantities and metric conversions. And who knows, fixing these flaws may even net it a spot on our list of Best Android Apps.
What about yourself? Are you more into crowd-sourced recipes, or is the trusted-kitchen approach better for you? I’d love to know what recipe apps you use – let me know below.