Reader Poll: Cookbooks or Cooking Apps?


Check out this NPR piece about the role of the cookbook in the age of the app. Spoiler alert: according to one home cook, using the iPad in the kitchen requires “lots of paper towels.” Just when you thought technology had rendered paper nearly obsolete. . .

So, do you cook from books or from apps? Which are better? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts; please post them in the comments section.


40 thoughts on “Reader Poll: Cookbooks or Cooking Apps?

  1. I have How to Cook Everything as well as the app on my ipod. I probably use the app more–its easy to just punch in whatever I’ve thawed out for dinner at some point during the day and run with it. I have a small kitchen, so its hard to have a book open while cooking. The app also has timers built into it which are handy when I have multiple things going. I still enjoy having the book though. I like to pour through it and plan things down the road. If I had to pick one, I’d probably go with the app and my ipod–smaller, more portable. Of course, it can’t be read without being charged, either.

  2. While I love the convenience of having all my recipes digitally (ease of searching, saving, categorising, shopping), I actually find it annoying to constantly having to re-activate my screen when I actually cooking to see my recipe.So, for all the lead up before cooking, I prefer an app. When I’m actually in the kitchen, I prefer paper of some kind – either book or print-out.

  3. I use apps when I’m on the road and looking for something specific and wil be shopping on my way home. If I’m already at home and have something specific in mind, I’ll probably refer to something like epicurious first, but have the old standby books that I browse through too. In the "google" age, it’s hard not to look for a recipe and see others feedback about it. A cookbook can’t tell you about others experiences making the recipe, but there is something cathartic about turning the pages on a Saturday afternoon.

  4. foodpron has it right. The app lets me plan meals and shop, no matter where I am. The book is much easier to use in the kitchen, and it allows me to make notes. I suppose I could live without the app, but I would really miss it. (Still eagerly awaiting the HTCE Vegetarian app…)

  5. I love cookbooks and I switch among them as I’m cooking – often looking for an idea for a new twist. It’s easier to turn the pages of a cook book than to click or scroll through an app.

  6. I find that both apps and books work for me, because I use them quite differently. I have the HTCE app on my phone, and I use it quite a bit. It’s particularly handy when I’m out and about and then remember that I’ll have to feed my family when I get home; I can usually come up with both and idea and a shopping list and then arrive home well prepared, perpetuating the myth that I’m an organized and competent mother who always knows what’s for dinner.That said, my cookbooks are my treasures. I like to hold them; I like to look at the beautiful photos; books, as many of us old-style readers know, have a value as objects that goes far beyond their value as reference material. And while I don’t like to prop up my laptop or phone on the kitchen counter, because I’m a messy cook, I consider the splashes and stains on my cookbook pages signs of my deeply committed relationship with them. Both books and apps are part of my kitchen arsenal, and I use them quite differently. The digital resources may be faster and broader in scope, but I can’t show them off on a kitchen shelf the way I can my cookbook collection. An internet search is a pleasant little fling, but a cookbook is a lifetime love.

  7. Cookbooks, mostly, including your "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" that I just made cranberry bread from, but also Epicurious for trying new things. Once a recipe meets approval and hit the rotation, I print it and put it in a folder that sits on the kitchen shelf with the cookbooks.

  8. I love to cook from a book. With a book I can write notes and changes in the margins and I never have to "refresh" the page just to see it! And call me sentimental, but there’s just something about seeing the well worn pages of a much loved cook book in your kitchen. It reminds me that I’m doing something right for my family.

  9. I use a cookbook mainly but I also have a file of favorite recipes on my laptop. I save things I see on blogs and end up trying new recipes from there as opposed to a cookbook (I read food blogs daily and a cookbook less often). I don’t like that putting my laptop on the kitchen counter makes it dirty; a food-spattered cookbook is much more appealing than a food-spattered laptop or phone.

  10. Like many of the others I like to use apps or google to search recipes and create my shopping list and meal plan. But when cooking I prefer either a book or print out. When will there be an Android app?!!?!

  11. I love having the HTCE app along with the book. I use it for inspiration and shopping before I get home at night. If I wait until I have to get home and look a recipe up, I am far more likely to eat out than brave the store. After I’ve done my shopping, I tend to use the book….to cut down on paper towel usage. I’d love to see the Food Matters Cookbook as an app.

  12. As a newbie cook, I prefer to search for recipes online. That way, you can see which are highly rated or have consistent reviews ("Needs more broth," "Make sure the corn kernels are defrosted first," etc.). The problem with cooking out of books is you have no idea how they recipe is going to turn out until you’ve made it. That said, I usually print out the recipe from the web before I cook, because food on my laptop makes me sad.

  13. No doubt about it, I prefer a cookbook any day. I judge how good the recipe is (my memory is not what it used to be) by how splattered the page is. Not only that but I make notes in my cookbooks to remind me what to add or subtract, if I liked it or not etc. Something about a book that can’t be replaced.

  14. If there is one thing my iPad has taught me, it’s the value of potential. I haven’t found an app I’d use in the kitchen… yet. Ask again next year and you might get a whole different set of answers. Extensibility rules.

  15. I use both. I have HTCE on my iPod and use it more as a reference when shopping. When I’m in the thick of cooking, especially preparing a new dish, I want a physical book to consult and spatter with food.

  16. I like cookbooks because they’re nice to hold and leaf through.For most recipes, I look at a bunch online and mash them together.

  17. Definitely cookbooks. I make notes on what I changed and how we liked it, who was here when I served it, what I served with it, etc. Sometimes in a hurry I’ll pull my laptop into the kitchen rather than printing off something. No way do I want to read something on the iPhone while cooking, although playing Scrabble on it via Facebook is fun while you’re waiting for something in the kitchen. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Apps are handy for deciding what to make for dinner during the day, so you know what to pick up at the store (IF you know for sure what you already have at home!). For cooking or sitting on the couch drooling over food ideas — definitely cookbooks. First, they are just more enjoyable – even the splatters! 2nd — I prefer jotting notes on a cookbook. Cookbooks just have a sense of your cooking history that is a joy to revisit.3rd – cleaning an ipod (or whatever) while cooking stinks. 4th – accidentally navigating your way away from a recipe is harder with an ipod. with a cookbook – you used a bookmark, of course! (or, with favorite recipes – the book just opens there) ipod — you have to stop, clean your hands, and click click click. So convenience & sentimentality.

  19. I use aps on my iPad. I don’t find that I have to wipe the screen. I prop it up with a stand, and use my pinky :D. I LOVE cookbooks and have about a hundred in the kitchen. I use them to do meal planning, but I find myself more and more using aps and google for a lot more.

  20. I use the Internet. I Google for recipes with the ingredients I have on hand, select the one that seems the best (or can be modified to suit), and go from there.I have books, but don’t use them much any more.

  21. Cookbooks are waaaaaaaaaay better. I do have some food blogs I read and cook from regularly, but no apps, and I love my cookbooks.

  22. I use cookbooks–especially yours–all the time and would hate to see them replaced by apps. My cookbooks are full of my annotations. They don’t require any electricity, they stand alone without requiring use or purchase of technology (except, maybe, reading glasses). I do also use the internet for recipes but I don’t use "apps." I think there’s an important distinction between making things available on the internet and requiring the use (and possible purchase) of a platform-specific app that won’t run on a laptop or desktop and requires use or purchase of an iphone, ipad, or whatever.

  23. I’d like to see an app that was more than just the book in a database. Currently I use and ipad and use cookbooks via a reader app (Kindle). But, I want an app that is useful for how I cook…. multiple levels of bookmarks (make this now, make this later), add ingredients to grocery list, ability to make menus…. I could go on and on!

  24. Def. apps. I love the searchability. Only problem I see lomming is that, same as during introduction cd, I’ll have to pay again for the same content I have in the books by having to pay for the apps. I want one big dbase searchable with all the recipes. I make my own now by using Bento in which I copy all favorite recipes which by turn I get through bloggers mostly. They should make a Itunes like recipe store.

  25. Neither. I primarily use cookbooks to get a spark or an idea when I don’t have one. Now and then I look at one to learn something. I’ll mine something like Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, which is densely packed with ideas and thoughts about cooking. I do have 3-4 cookbook apps on my iphone, including yours. So far, they are just curiosities.

  26. Cookbooks mostly, but apps are very helpful especially when I’m menu planning while at work and don’t have access to cookbooks. Now, an app that was connected to a cookbook, say, for example, How to Cook Everything – That would be awesome! Wouldn’t it be great if something like that was available for Android phones? (hint, hint)

  27. Since I do not own a phone that lets you download apps (no, I am not 90 years old. It is more a cost issue than anything else), I cannot speak to which I like better. I think I would like to have the apps while grocery shopping but would still continue to use cookbooks while in the kitchen. As much as I spill stuff on my books, it is cheaper to dry your cookbook pages out than it is to buy a new phone, iPad, etc. Also, as a previous poster said, I like to be able to write down notes and comments. I love going through old cookbooks that have previous owners comments.

  28. I think I still prefer books. I’ve got HTCE Vegetarian in hardback and the HTCE App on my ipod. I agree with the other comments that the app is very convenient when you’re out in the world and need to look something up. But I tend to treat cookbooks more as reference books and inspiration. I love reaching for my stained copy of Joy or more recently since I married a Vegetarian, HTCE-V. Apps have their place though. Maybe you get a free download with your purchase of the hardcopy? Like the digital downloads you get with some DVDs.

  29. Mark, I am an avid supporter of books … I like to flip through them and hold them in my hands. I realize the paper issues and the saving the trees campaign; and i am computer-friendly. However, there is just something about a book that remains enjoyable for me. I like seeing the worn pages on my favourite recipes and sometimes I add my own ideas or cooking times … it something i will pass down to my children, as a reflection of who I was in the kitchen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Books. They are fun to browse through, and they are easier to read during the actual cooking process. The app is great idea for researching recipes and for the search capabilities (such as trying to find a recipe with a certain ingredient). Please always publish books, Mark! Love your recipes!!!!

  31. I just put away a favorite cookbook I’ve had for 25 years after baking Christmas cookies all day. The cookbook was stained, pages torn, binder falling off, and pages flying to the floor. Memories flooded back of previous holidays and favorite recipes as I stood for hours in my warm kitchen reading it. I realized I was holding something special to me. I don’t think 25 years from now I will be saying the same thing about an app! I like the books.

  32. I really want to make my iPad work in the kitchen, but more often than not a paper recipe taped to my kitchen cupboard gets the job done. Cookbooks don’t run out of batteries either.

  33. If it’s the first time I’m going to make a certain dish I reach for my cook books. I’ll read through the common recipe found in each of them determine which one fits my time constraints and skill level best and go from there. I only own a few cook books (including yours) but they are quality ones and I know that they are likely to produce a tasty end result. However once I’ve successful made the dish, my mind continually wanders it to how I could make the dish better. The internet proves useful then because I can see how thousands of people have put their own touches on the dish and use the knowledge provided in the web to produce my own variation….tweaking until I find something I like. As for phone apps…I have them…but I use them on those nights that I have weird ingredients in my fridge and want to find that one recipe to use them all up. I usually don’t explore a dish on an app since it is limited as to the amount of cross referencing I can do. With books I can have multiple recipes open at once, on the internet as well. but most of the recipe apps don’t flip nicely from recipe to recipe so I tend to get frustrated. That’s my philosophy…Books first… Net later… and apps for the weird ingredient days.

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