Published on April 7th, 2013 | by Heather Carr1
Cooking Plan It – Make Meal Planning Easier
Cooking Plan It is an app that makes meal planning and cooking easier. Select a meal or recipes from their list and the app organizes the shopping list, preparation, and cooking steps for you. All the food is ready to be served at the same time.
Cooking Plan It is available on the web and also as an app for the iPad. The web version is free. The iPad version has a free version with limited recipes and a full version for $4.99. I used the web version and the free app for this review.
Start your search as “Plan Meal”. Cooking Plan It offers preplanned meals, but you can also select individual recipes from their library. Meals have cute names, like Steak and Easy, Very Veggie, and Homemade in Minutes.
Walking Through the App
I selected Make It Mediterranean to test, since the Mediterranean diet is so healthy. The recipes in this meal were grilled lamb with cucumber raita, balsamic-glazed carrots, and pine nut and cranberry couscous.
The first page of the planner shows the recipes included in the meal, total time and prep and cook times, and ingredients and tools. The tools section in this meal was as specific as saying “stove top” and “aluminum foil”, and not just listing knives and pans.
When you click the start button, the app asks how many servings you need – two, four, or six for all the recipes I looked at. Then it goes into cook mode, which even has a voice control feature, so that you can move backwards and forwards through the recipe without touching the screen. A timer at the top recalibrates after each step based on your pace. It’s nice to know at a glance that the recipe will be ready at 7:08.
Each step is a single page with something like: Cut the cucumber in quarters lengthwise, then slice into ¼ inch thick pieces to measure the indicated amount. Place on the plate with paper towels and let drain while you prep other ingredients. To the side, it tells you the quantity of each ingredient needed in that step. Once the step is complete, simply click or tell the app to move on and it goes to the next step.
Some of the steps include individual timers. The lamb needs five minutes to a side. Once the lamb is started, the app tells you to go set the table or just sit back and have a glass of wine. On another step, the carrots need to cook for 9-12 minutes, but the app doesn’t tell you to kick back, so you know to continue on to the next step.
When it’s time to flip the lamb, the timer beeps gently. If you don’t dismiss the timer, the voice guidance will tell you the timer is done. We let the voice guidance run for a while and it wasn’t repetitive. It was pretty funny.
Before you start any meal or recipe, there are options to preview the steps, modify the meal by adding and removing recipes, and add groceries. You can also share, bookmark, or like the recipes and meals.
The grocery list that the app creates comes in a checklist form and a picture form. The picture form would be great if you’re shopping with small children, but remember to check the amounts needed on the checklist first by clicking on the arrow to the right.
A Browse tab has filters that help you find meals and recipes by ingredient, type of dish, occasion, or restrictions. The first time I used the restrictions filter (which lets you select gluten-free foods or no meat, for instance), I left it on “view all”. My restriction was “No meat”, but Steak and Easy showed up in the list. The meal is centered around beef, but because the accompanying recipes don’t have meat in them, the filter doesn’t exclude that meal. My suggestion – if you use the restriction filter, search on recipes only. The ingredient and occasion filters work well with both meals and recipes.
The My Cookbook section allows you to save your favorite meals and recipes. In the Account Info, there is a cook history tab that allows you to find that tasty meal you made but can’t remember the name of. The web version and the app sync up almost immediately, so you can easily bookmark a meal while sitting at your computer, then carry your iPad into the kitchen to cook.
One thing I would like to see in future versions of this app is more photos. Right now, each step includes a photo of the completed dish the step is for (in the iPad app) or a photo of a whole ingredient (in the web version). It would be nice to have a photo of ¼ inch diced red onion next to that step.