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How Smartphones and Tablets Have Changed the Way We Cook

Do you remember a time when if you were unsure about the best way to cook a steak, that’s how you stayed? Unsure, stuck in a strange fact-less limbo, without Google coming to the rescue in a few clicks of your phone.

If you called a friend to find out, you just had to trust them. The internet has changed nearly every aspect of modern life – the advent of smartphones and tablet computers has served to accelerate that.

The business behind home-cooking has experienced a fairly increase in growth for quite a while now. As necessary as eating is, it has evolved from just simply being a life skill, to becoming a hobby for a lot of people – and a multi-billion pound business.

The industry has not found this technologically advanced age difficult – at least not in the same way something such as the music business has. Perhaps it is because you rarely buy ingredients from a TV chef.

The trade in cookbooks has been somewhat unaffected by economic decline. At the same time, TV chefs and cookery programmes are increasing in popularity. TV chefs, in particular, are everywhere.

It is far easier to find a delicious recipe online, especially when you compare copy-and-pasting that to illegally downloading a song. It seems, more than anything else, that Gordon Ramsay, Michel Roux Jr and their peers provide something others cannot touch. People enjoy watching a skilled professional doing what he or she does best. Often, these will be dishes the viewer has not chance of making at home – it is little more than escapism.

The joy of watching food that you are never going to eat has bled into other shows. Food and cooking has become a simple start point for other entertainment programmes. Very few people will tune into Come Dine with me to find out the best way to peel a potato. Similarly, Channel Four’s Sunday Brunch is as much a lifestyle magazine show as it is one dedicated to the culinary arts.

Food writer Joe Warwick told the Guardian:

"I think a lot of food TV is dumbed down because they're not aiming it at people who cook or have [knowledge] of food, they're pushing it as entertainment. There is so much interesting food. I would love a programme that goes to Japan and explains the food in detail. Will they put that on TV? No, it's too esoteric."

The dedicated amateur chef has also seen a significant growth in the amount of technology available to help their experiments in the kitchen. Smartphones and tablet computers have put a wealth of recipes within easy reach. It does not stop at the cooking process either; a phone can now help you when you’re looking for the nearest store with squid ink in stock.

A free application Grocery IQ is the perfect accompaniment to a monthly or weekly shop. It combines handy features such as a barcode scanner and list sharing services with coupon offers. If you’re one of the shoppers who tends to buy the same thing every week, all it takes is adding the items to a favourites list to make sure they’re never forgotten.

It is now exaggeration to say there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of applications out there to make shopping or cooking that little bit easier. They can even go some way to improving your lifestyle – perhaps by encouraging you to eat more healthy food or lose weight.

A recent survey by AllRecipes showed that 14 per cent of people use a digital shopping list of some sort and 16 per cent have used a grocery voucher with their smartphone. Even more people – 23 per cent – use their mobile to look at a recipe while they are in the supermarket.

Once all the food has been brought home, you don’t even need to be Lenôtre-trained to be confident in front of the stove. Some may know the best way to check if an egg is fresh is to place it in a bowl of cold water. Those who don’t know needn’t worry. Ask Google, and then the information is yours until something else pushes it out of your head. If that happens, Google will be more than happy to remind you.

As well as the apps that help your lifestyle, there are those which will aid you in the kitchen.

Staying on the subject of eggs, if you have a spare £1.19, the Perfect Egg Timer app does pretty much what you would expect it to. Simple enter the egg’s diameter and the temperature of the water for your perfect egg – from a liquid yolk, through to soft and hard. You can even adjust the cooking time depending on your altitude, should you happen to be cooking eggs on top of a mountain.

As technology advances and mobile devices get smaller, it becomes easier to work alongside one in the kitchen – this is especially true for tablet computers and iPads. According to the AllRecipies survey mentioned earlier, three quarters of those questioned view online videos to help with their cooking.

An application made by AllRecipes puts thousands of recipes at your fingertips. A scanner feature means that as you run out of something while you are cooking, a quick swipe of the phone will add it to your shopping list.

When you are looking at the sorry remains of what you have left in your cupboard – trying to work out a mid-week tea – the AllRecipes app will also help you concoct something out of the last can of tomatoes. Another app that helps during the cooking process is Time to Roast. By entering weight and size, it will work out exactly how long your Sunday joint should spend in the oven. When cooking lamb or beef, it will also take into account how you rare you like your meat.

These being the things you would usually associate with a cookbook, you would be forgiven for thinking their sales had struggled over the same time the popularity of smartphones has soared. Cookbooks are selling better than they have ever been.

The print business as a whole still looks bleak. According to The Bookseller, physical book sales in the first three months of 2012 were down £39 million on the previous year. At the same time, the sale of e-books rose by 366 per cent.

This is a trend culinary literature has effectively bucked. Sales in 2012 only experienced a slight dip on figures from 2011 – but that has been attributed to Jamie Oliver’s record-smashing 30 Minute Meals being released that year.

"Very basically, the food and drink sector has been one of the most reliable sectors of the book market in recent years. In total, £87m was spent on food and drink titles last year, down slightly (6 per cent) on the previous year when Jamie's 30-minute Meals broke all sorts of sales records, but well ahead of five years previously when the sector was worth £20m less"

The economy’s decline has been tied to the health of the cookbook industry. The idea is, that in straitened times people are eating at home more. When you’re saving money, nights out at fancy restaurants are one of the first things to stop. Although Stone says he would be surprised that there was an e-edition for one in every 100 cooks (“I think home chefs would much rather their cheap paperback books get accidentally splattered with pasta sauce than their shiny iPads”), technology has been finding more and more of a home in the kitchen.

According to Anne Kostick of Digital Book World, the future of cookbooks must walk hand in hand with tablets and smartphones. Rather than simply publishing two versions – one for hardback and the other for an e-reader – tradition and technology must embrace each other.

She said:

"Digital-born cookbooks will span the gap between reading and doing while still presenting beautiful photography and illustration; lively narrative and commentary; and the well-crafted (and now highly searchable) recipes of an expert, a TV star, or a talented teacher. They’ll offer a real-time, filtered connection to the best information the Web can supply, in the container of a curated digital book. Who wouldn’t want that?"

Incidentally, there is a growing community of amateur chefs willing to share and interact online – AllRecipes is a prime example of this. Around 12 per cent of people say they have shared at least one of their own creations through a forum or social media. Celebrity chefs are now also getting in on the act.

Jamie Oliver has a reasonably significant Twitter presence. He uses the micro blogging site with YouTube to present a series of three minute video guides on a variety of simple dishes. He calls it FoodTube. This year, it has been opened up to members of the public who can now send in their own ideas and recipes.

At the same time as shifting a huge amount of books, Oliver has also made steps into the app market. His 20 Minute Meal programme gives step-by-step instructions by way of on-screen videos and voice prompts, guiding the user every step of the way.

Jamie Oliver Food App image

As any user of social media will know, people like sharing their achievements once they have created their culinary masterpiece. Approximately 29 per cent of people have taken a photograph of their dish and posted it online. In the US, photo sharing service Instagram experienced its biggest ever day on Thanksgiving last year. Between 10am and 2pm, around 200 photos a second were posted with some kind of food tag.

Such behaviour does not go down well everywhere, so it is probably best to keep it to your own kitchen. In January 2013, the New Yorker reported certain Manhattan restaurants had banned customers from using their mobile to snap their food.

Five great food apps

Come Dine With Me App

Come Dine With Me App


The come dine with me app is a great app if you are looking to setup your own dinner party. The app helps everything run smoothly. The app can help you organise your dinner party by finding recipes, creating your shopping list as well as helping you learn about what wine will compliment your meals.

Epicurious App



Epicurious is a great app for creating your meals and planning out a full menu. Just simply pick your category, be it healthy lunches, or desserts and the Epicurious app will tell you what ingredients & appliances you will need to create the dish as well as the recipe. Epicurious also has an interactive shopping list so you can tick off your items once you pick them up from the shop!

BigOven App


£10.55 per year

BigOven is one of the simplest apps, yet one that you might be using the most! BigOven is, simply put, a database of over 140,000 recipes. With this mind boggling number of recipes, you’ll never have to cook the same thing twice! Not content with just being a huge recipe databse, the BigOven app lets you save your favourites, upload photos as well as the ability to plan your meals.

Ocadog App



Ocado is the only app you need when it comes to doing your shop. Ocado has been receiving rave reviews from iPad users. Use Ocado to do your supermarket shop whilst you are on the move. Handy features also include Instant Shop which will order your previous weeks delivery if you are not looking to change anything.

MasterChef Academy UK App

MasterChef Academy UK


Cooking skills & tips from the TV series champions!