If you find yourself spending more time in the kitchen and start wondering why some of your dishes work while others fail, pick up a copy of Cook's Illustrated magazine or download the free iPhone app.
The Cook's Illustrated app includes 50 of the magazine's best recipes (subscribers can access more) and makes a great introduction to Cook's Illustrated's scientific approach to cooking. In the magazine, each recipe is prefaced by an article that details the various methods the author tested to prepare a dish, and why the chosen method works best. The app includes a truncated version of the article for each dish along with a video.
Each recipe features three tabs: Article, Ingredient, and Instructions. We've covered the Article tab, and on the Ingredients tab you'll find a handful of preparation tips and a list of ingredients. To the right of each ingredient is a button, which you can tap to add that item to the app's shopping list feature. The only feedback you'll get when you tap to add an ingredient to your shopping list is with the small badge icon, which keeps count of the number of items you have on your list. If your cupboard is bare, you can add all of the ingredients of a recipe to your shopping list by tapping the share button in the upper-right corner and tapping Add to Shopping List. You can also e-mail the recipe or add it to your favorites list using the share button.
The Instructions tab features clear, step-by-step instructions to prepare the dish. Also included are illustrated tips that explain how to speed preparation or improve the dish. It's likely your microwave and oven both feature kitchen timers, but if you need another, the app features a timer.
In addition to recipes, the app includes dozens of taste tests. These are helpful if you find yourself looking at five different brands of canned tomatoes, chicken broth, or vanilla extract and wonder what the experts in America's Test Kitchen prefer. You won't find, however, any of Cook's Illustrated equipment reviews.
Being able to create a shopping list and access the taste test results on the go make the app a great shopping companion, but the app would be more useful, particularly with the illustrated instructions, if Christopher Kimball and company would release an iPad version of the app.
If you have a favorite cookbook app that delivers delicious recipes and useful functionality, please share in the comments below. And for another of my recommendations, check out my post on Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything app.