Paprika: My New Cooking BFF (as compared with Pepperplate, BigOven, Yummly, Allrecipes, etc.)

Once upon a time I was trying to find a recipe I *knew* my grandmother had sent me in an email, and I *thought* I'd saved it in a Pages doc somewhere, or maybe it was still in Gmail, or on an archive disk. Or maybe ... Plus I had at least a dozen folders of bookmarks with Must Try or Recommended recipes, eats I never remembered when I was doing my bi-monthly meal planning. I needed a way to keep my cyber-recipes organized and all in one place. Google to the rescue! 

About the same time I got my first tablet, a little Android thing for Mother's Day that broke in the first few weeks. But not before I discovered that one of the sites for collecting recipes also had an app. Bonus! I ended up downloading and using Pepperplate, and continued to use it with my inherited-from-my-son first gen iPad, and my current iPad Mini. I continued to do most of my organizing via my MacBook Pro, however, for the simple reason that Pepperplate's app doesn't allow you to add recipes. An annoyance I could work around, though it grew annoying. If only they'd make a few changes to the app! But then I started to worry. Pepperplate hadn't had an update for their app in a long time, if ever, and the service is free. Would it disappear from cyberspace, taking all my recipes with it? What other options did I have? So I did what any OCD pregnant lady would do, and started looking.

Some of the main players are Yummly, Allrecipes, Evernote Food (or something like that - I'm not into the whole Evernote world), BigOven, Pepperplate and Paprika. I have specific needs and wants for a recipe organizer, so while I downloaded Allrecipes and Yummly, I didn't really play with them very much. They don't meet the minimum requirements of: Must be able to add my own recipes/edit the recipes I keep, Must have a meal-planning feature, Must be available offline because, believe it or not, I'm not always connected to the internet. I actually really liked Yummly and Allrecipes for finding new meals, so I'll probably keep them around, but they won't be my go-to apps for cooking or meal planning (and I could just as easily browse their websites so when my iPad is full, they'll go).

The three that did meet my stringent and demanding specifications (ha) I'll look at in-depth below.

1. Bigoven

Cost: $20/each and every year forever (assuming the price never goes up!)

What I like: 

  • The meal planner at first glance is awesome! I can drag-and-drop meals to reschedule them, and it will even integrate the weather forecast, so I don't go planning a dinner of grilled pork chops when it's going to rain.

  • I also like that I can check off items I already have before adding them to the grocery list.

  • I can add recipes from supported sites with one click. Smooth and quick.

  • The built-in recipes look yummy, and the "use leftovers" function is sweet.

What I don't like:

  • Adding items to the menu involves a scroll-wheel-thing, which doesn't work well with my visual mind.

  • There's a definite limit to supported websites, and adding recipes from non-supported sites is a pain in the arse.

  • Not all that intuitive to use and I'm not fond of the colors/weirdness.

  • Ads, ads, everywhere ads! Blech!!! Look at the screen shot above. It's crazy!

  • And the cost to get rid of ads, have unlimited recipes, etc. is truly absurd in the app world. I mean, $20 a year? Every year? Forever?

2. Pepperplate

Cost: Free!!

What I like:

  • The grocery shopping list is quite intuitive, and I can move aisles around to match my store. They don't always *stay* moved around, mind you, but in theory...

  • I can change servings of a meal when I plan it. Useful if we're having guests, etc.

  • The layout is highly simple, clean, clear. Easy to read, search, etc. It's the best looking of the three in my opinion.

What I don't like:

  • I can't reschedule meals easily (at all?).

  • I can't tap a meal in the planner and pull up the recipe.

  • Ingredients get dumped en masse into the grocery list.

  • Sync is slow and grocery items often sync incorrectly.

  • I can't add online recipes from my iPad at all.

  • Adding from websites (from my computer) often doesn't work, as there are very few supported sites, and adding manually is slow.

  • Limited to one timer, and one recipe open at a time.

  • Often loses it's place when I switch from any other app back to this one.

3. Paprika

Cost: $4-ish for the iPad app, another $4-ish for the iPhone app. They sell a Mac app too, but I don't think it will be necessary.

What I like:

  • Relocating planned meals in the planner is fairly easy. I do wish it were drag-and-drop, though.

  • I love being able to tap the meal in the planner and go straight to the recipe.

  • Same with the shopping list. If I have an item and I wonder, "Gee, what recipe needs two cups of fish sauce?" I can tap the item and find out!

  • Sync works great.

  • I can "pin" several recipes and toggle between them. So if I'm making chili and cornbread at the same time (how daring!), I can easily pull up either recipe without having to leave one and search for the other.

  • Likewise, each pinned recipe can have it's own timer. Now THIS is awesome.

  • Importing new recipes is a breeze. There's a built in browser that's fairly fast and imports from almost every site in one click. No joke. I was testing out how it worked with non-supported sites and really had a hard time finding one.

  • For those rare blogs or sites that aren't supported, cut and paste into the app is done on the same browser screen and is EASY. Truly.

  • Plus, if I'm browsing in Safari and run across a website with a great recipe, I can copy the addy, and when I open Paprika, the app will automatically ask if I want to open that link, thus saving me the steps of clicking to the browser and pasting the addy in.

  • I haven't played with the "pantry" function, but I *think* I can tell the app what I have on hand so those things won't go on my grocery list. I'd rather check things off individually like BigO does, but I'd have to use this feature more to say more.

  • Like Pepperplate, I can scale a recipe when I add it to the planner. A nice feature for a big family where many/most recipes end up doubled (or more!).

What I don't like:

  • It gets tedious to change categories in the grocery cart. I wish the cart would just LEARN that aluminum foil is with Cleaning Supplies and not in Home and Garden. Is that so hard?

Conclusion: Although I like Pepperplate's price best (who wouldn't?), Paprika's ease of use is so superior, it's worth the normal "app" price of $4-5. Even paid twice, it's worth it. It could be improved a bit, but that goes for almost all apps. It's an invaluable kitchen tool and opens a whole world of culinary exploration that doesn't involve buying/storing dozens of cookbooks. If I seriously couldn't spend anything, Pepperplate would be ok. It would limp along and sort of serve my needs, kinda. BigOven, on the other hand, though really cool and packed with recipes, is just not worth the annual fee. Had it been a flat $19.99 purchase price, maybe I would have considered it. But that cost every year? I just don't dig subscriptions (another reason I don't do Evernote). Paprika does all BigO does, much of it better, all of it for a teeny-tiny cost.