Many of us dearly treasure dog-eared recipe books that have been handed down through the family. Quite clearly, the humble recipe book will never be replaced; however, it cannot be denied that recipe websites are becoming ever more popular and sophisticated. Like mushrooms after a rain, more and more are popping up each day, each with its own particular form, focus and function.
Why use online recipe websites?
Everyone knows that it is quite easy to simply type into your search engine “recipe for such and such” and a variety of recipes of that type will invariably pop up. So what are the advantage of having a specific “go to” recipe website and which one should you choose? Here at No1Reviews.com we’ve road tested a selection of the most popular recipe websites out there so that you can quickly and easily choose one that suits you. You may already have something specific in mind. If not, then please take a minute to read this buying guide in which we shall go through the key features of recipe websites, what to look out for and what will be best for you.
Some people claim not to use recipes, others swear by them; some follow the instructions and measurements to the letter, others just glance over them, but we have all used a recipe at some point in our lives. If you haven’t progressed past “just add water”, then you should certainly consider looking a bit further in the near future!
As with most things in life, each recipe website we have reviewed has presented us with a both a different quantity and descriptiveness of recipes. Some are highly detailed with step by step guides, convertible measurements and pictures, while others simply consist of text. Which type you prefer will depend on what type of cook you are. Beginners, however, should always go for the most detailed recipes unless they want to simply learn by trial and error! Whether detailed or basic, what is most important is the end result. Some recipes can be badly written and may simply not work while others are clearly written and kitchen tested. We have based our ratings of recipe quality a combination of detail, clarity and results.
High quality recipes are, of course, vital to a recipe website, but quantity of recipes is also an important factor. Some websites in this category claim hundreds of thousands of recipes whiles others contain just hundreds. A large database is very useful for browsing for ideas or when looking for something very specific. However, if these recipes are of poor quality then it can be frustrating, sifting through the rubbish until you find something good, and this could also ruin your dinner! For us, quantity is a bonus, but a website with a few great recipes trumps one with thousands of bad ones.
Website design and ease of use
Having a massive archive of high quality recipes is all very well and good, but without user-friendly website design and good search tools, accessing them can be another question. When it came to website design and ease of use there was a high degree of variation between the websites we reviewed. We were very disappointed to find some websites with great recipes but such a dated and low-budget user interface that finding them was more trouble than it was worth; some seemed to be nothing more than a big blog or forum. On the other hand, all of our highest rated websites are easy to navigate, easy on the eye, and boast advanced search features that make finding a recipe a straight forward procedure.
As well as quantity of recipes and ease of access, it is additional features that set the best recipe websites apart from the traditional cookbook. Tired of muddling through post-its and falling apart cookbooks or trying to decipher your grandmother’s handwriting? Call it cold and soulless, but more and more websites these days allow users to save, print and share recipes. This means that you can slowly build up an online cookbook of all your favorite recipes that can be accessed and shared with the click of a button.
Some of the higher end websites also feature links within each recipe to further information on certain ingredients and cooking techniques, related dishes, and associated articles. This means that all the information you need to get your dinner, from the recipe to your plate, is accessible in one place. For example, a Christmas pudding recipe may be linked to one for brandy butter, an article on Christmas dinners and a how-to guide on the perfect icing - fantastic
! Those of us looking for a recipe website to manage our day-to-day culinary needs will love the meal planner and shopping list features that are becoming increasingly common. Use the meal planner to plan your food intake for the week, choosing a different recipe for each meal, and the required ingredients will be automatically added to your shopping list - genius!
Cooking is not an objective science; even if you do manage to follow each step of a recipe exactly, there will always be an element of luck in the outcome. This is because no two kitchens, ingredients, cooks or connoisseurs will be the same. Hence, as any good cook will tell you, a certain amount of initiative and intuition are always needed in the kitchen.
To tweak and tailor your recipes to suit your individual needs, user reviews and comments are a fantastic aid. By basing your decision on what to cook tonight on ratings other users have left and skimming through user reviews and comments you are far more likely to avoid disappointment. You can find out what users liked and didn’t like about a recipe, potential pitfalls to avoid, and how to customize it to suit different tastes (dietary or culinary).
Many websites in this category host cooking forums where you can post culinary questions, debate food related topics or browse for cooking tips and secrets. However, the quality of these range greatly; from vibrant communities to “ghost town” forums frequented only by spammers.
Some websites in this category have taken this community aspect to whole new levels, attempting to replicate social networking sites such as facebook. Users can create advanced profiles, upload pictures, recipes and videos, join chat rooms and private message each other. Obviously community aspects certainly enhance recipe websites but, for us, the jury is still out on whether this level of sophistication is really necessary.
How-to Guides and Tutorials
Many experienced cooks take simple tasks such as cutting an onion, boiling an egg, or cooking pasta for granted. However, for some who want to cook but don’t know how, without this information they are likely to fall at the first hurdle, no matter how straight forward the recipe itself may be. Luckily, many websites in this category have taken it upon themselves to get those unfortunate souls hooked to Kraft Dinners, off their buts and into the kitchen.
Cooking 101s and how-to guides are available that will take you through the absolute basics ensuring that you build solid foundations upon which to advance your culinary skills. Videos are especially helpful in demonstrating techniques that are quite manual such as de-boning a chicken or separating the white and yoke of an egg. Some websites offer a selection of short videos while others boast an archive of entire T.V. shows, which brings us onto entertainment.
Turn on your T.V. and flick through the channels, in all likelihood you will come across a cooking show sooner or later. From the instructional and informational to the comic and dramatic, cooking is entertainment. Online you will find that many of the top recipes sites are written in an entertaining and engaging way, featuring celebrity input, T.V. shows and podcasts. Purists will consider this aspect of recipe websites an unnecessary gimmick, for most of us, however, cooking is made interesting and fun. This may be just the push you need to ditch the takeaways and dust off the chopping board!
Almost all the websites in this category feature topical articles which can be informative as well as entertaining. However, they certainly vary in quality and in how up to date they are. A good set of articles can really make your visit to your chosen website an interesting and revealing experience. You may read comic stories, seasonal food guides, articles on all lifestyle aspects related to food, and recommendations for local eateries and culinary travel.
Many websites in this category represent a great source of reading material as well as an easy way to keep up to date with culinary trends. Some take this even further by including complete restaurant listings and reviews from across the world; perfect for the traveling foodie or those looking to discover some gems in their backyard.
The Bottom Line
A little bit of research into this category can help you uncover some great sources of recipes, education and entertainment without having to trawl the net and worry about quality. We promise that a little time spent reading our reviews will pay dividends, making your life both easier and tastier - a winning combination we’re sure you’ll agree.
Each recipe has its good and bad points. However, with every site in this category, please remember that a recipe, no matter how good or bad, is always without soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. Good luck and bon appétit!