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Unlike many websites in this category that take some digging around in order to work them out, it is immediately obvious that Chow is one of the best designed in this category. Instead of links, tabs and pop-ups flying all over the place, Chow’s homepage simply consists of featured stories and recipes and three tabs; recipes, top stories and video. For those simply browsing, Chow’s homepage is a great place to start as their top stories are sure to grab your attention, featured recipes can be a great source of inspiration and further links will move you onto related material. From start to finish we found Chow’s user interface to be simple, intuitive and engaging.
For those looking for a specific recipe, although Chow’s recipes don’t number in the tens of thousands as do the recipes of some sites in this category, their quality and accessibility are impeccable. Recipes are either hand picked and licensed from well known cookbooks or are put together and tested in Chow’s very own test kitchen. Excellent community features greatly enhance Chow’s recipes, but we shall cover this later. Finding these great recipes is a doddle on Chow. Either browse their well cataloged categories or use one of Chow’s advanced search engines; unless you have something very specific in mind, your search will likely present you with several options from which to choose from. This final choice is facilitated by pictures, user ratings and comments. Those of us in a hurry can use the new Dish Decider; simply input up to three key ingredients and Chow will find a selection of recipes which include them. If you are looking for something more specific, the advanced search engine will help you narrow down your search using a set of intuitive categories and specifications. These search features take 90% of the hassle out of finding the right recipe and were wholly refreshing when compared to some sites which simply list thousands of recipes. Each recipe is enhanced by features such as the option to save, print and share, user comments and reviews and relevant links within the recipe.
Chow clearly know that food is not just about recipes, but is a big part of all of our lives. Hence they include loads of material to inform, entertain and enlighten. Their How-to videos are very clear and cover a range of techniques from the basics to advanced cooking method; they even do it with a touch of humor along the way. The top stories section consists of a range of entertaining and informative articles on all things food, entertainment and lifestyle related; most articles make interesting reading and include links to related resources. This section also includes articles on a selection of seasonal recipes which can be a great source of inspiration for that upcoming Halloween party or Thanksgiving. Many other websites boast similar sections, but Chow’s articles stand out as being well written, frequently updated and topical. We especially liked Chow’s restaurant and culinary event listings on ChowHound which are updated and regulated to ensure a constant stream of reliable information on the best food shops, events and eateries throughout the world.
Overall, we were impressed with every aspect of Chow.com. However, what made it stand out from the competition was its emphasis on community features. Taking cue from pages such as Facebook, Chow users are able to put together a sophisticated profile, save and share recipes,contribute to forums and listings, upload recipes and photos and enter competitions. This adds a real personal touch to Chow.com that simply cannot be replicated by high production values.
In conclusion, the only real drawback we found with Chow.com was a slight over emphasis on the gourmet. Chow is certainly for food lovers and those looking for quick and easy dishes will find some here, although they will be thin on the ground. We give Chow a top ten spot for its user friendly interface, high quality content and well thought out additions.
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