My wife and I love to cook. I'm also a nerd with an affinity for technology. You would think that years ago we would have figured out that storing printed pages and internet links for recipes would not only be inefficient but a difficult way to remember what we had cooked, when and if we actually liked it.
For years, we made menus for ourselves — just a few meals a week that we may or may not get to entirely — on pieces of paper moved into a junk drawer after they were finished. Only a few Instagram photos and distant memories connected us to those meals we enjoyed (and a few we didn't) until now.
A couple weeks ago, it dawned on me that there had to be an app out there for recipe storage given the huge number of options available on the internet. After reading a few reviews, it seemed clear that Paprika was head and shoulders above the rest. After trying it, now I know why.
Let's start with the one negative to get that out of the way. It's not cheap. The iOS versions (iPhone and iPad) are $4.99. The desktop version (Mac or Windows) is $14.99 (at the moment, $30 normally). That's pricey for an app, but when you realize what it does, and if you cook a lot at home, it is completely worth it.
There are plenty of features that add to the richness of this particular app like adding your own recipes, creating categories, meal/menu planning, creating grocery lists from recipe ingredients, storage on pantry items for use with recipes and on grocery lists, and sync between devices. Those are all wonderfully useful options, and, by themselves, would make one hell of an app.
But where Paprika becomes a game changer is its unique ability to grab recipes from where most of us get them nowadays, the internet.
Built into Paprika's extensive feature list is a browser much like any normal internet browser with a Google search field that gives the user the ability to search the internet for recipes. It also has a long list of bookmarks for popular cooking websites — from the Food Network to the New York Times and virtually everything in between — to use as a starting point.
Once you find a recipe you want, just tap (or click) Download and, boom, it imports the entire recipe into your personal database complete with ingredient list, directions, nutritional information (if available), prep time, photo and a link back to the original if you need it.
Each recipe is divided by ingredients and directions. No more scrolling up and down while cooking. These are side-by-side (or in tabs on a small screen like a phone) with independent scrolling, so if you are well down the directions list, you don't have to go back to the top to remember how much basil you need.
Tapping an ingredient puts a line through it either to mark what you've done or to remove it if you don't want it — or change it for later. Tap a paragraph in the directions and it highlights it, really making finding your place simple. And because it syncs between devices, you can use your iPad in the kitchen but opt for the convenience of the desktop for typing or downloading recipes.
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One of my favorite built-in tools is the converter. Maybe you only want to make half a batch of cookies for yourself or you need chili for 20, just put in how much you want to cut or augment the recipe by and it does the calculations for you.
Lastly, the ability to quickly drop a recipe onto a date, leave notes and rank it means no more random Instagram photos or loose note pages to help us remember what we cooked, when and if we liked it.
My wife, who isn't exactly technophobic but prefers the old school method, was even impressed, which really says something.
But, honestly, even I tended to prefer cookbooks and simple recipes until I found Paprika. It contains virtually everything I need to manage my recipes and use them for cooking meals. I have been constantly and annoyingly recommending it to everyone. It's worth the five bucks to never forget or lose a recipe again.