Release Your Inner Chef With Pepperplate

While I love looking up recipes and cooking for my family, I hadn’t been doing either as often as I would’ve liked to over the previous year. Now, armed with a new freelancer’s flexible work schedule, I started to hunger for a way to put my recipes in order, buy the right ingredients (and the right quantities), and get productive in the kitchen. Thankfully, I found a helping hand in the form of Pepperplate.

There are plenty of apps on the Android Market to help you with collecting recipes, buying groceries and planning your menus, but I haven’t been able to stick to using them. Pepperplate does all these things, and looks good at the same time. It’s also dead simple to use, and free. So whip out those smartphones and let’s whip up some grub!

Overview

Pepperplate combines a recipe viewer, menu planner, meal schedule and shopping list in one elegant app, giving you everything you need to get organized before you cook. The mobile app (which requires Android 2.1 or newer) works in conjunction with its web counterpart. Both versions are free to use and are definitely worth trying out.

An example recipe on Pepperplate

An example recipe on Pepperplate

Getting Started

Pepperplate’s Android app doesn’t allow you to add recipes – you’ll have to do so using your browser. Now while this sound like a bummer, it actually makes sense from a usability point of view; adding a recipe on your phone would be pretty cumbersome. So the first thing you’ll want to do is sign up over at their website and add the bookmarklet to your browser. You can then import recipes easily, either by pasting URLS of recipe pages from supported sites into the web app, or by visiting any recipe page and using the bookmarklet. The bookmarklet instantly adds recipes from certain supported sites; on other sites, it still allows you to manually copy and paste information (title, description, image, ingredients, directions and so on).

Saving a recipe from an as-yet-unsupported site with Pepperplate's bookmarklet

Saving a recipe from an as-yet-unsupported site with Pepperplate's bookmarklet

Planning Menus and Scheduling Meals

Once you’ve got a bunch of recipes saved in the web app, you can create menus using those recipes for any events you have coming up. I put together menus for a Saturday barbeque, a Sunday brunch and a Valentine’s Day dinner by creating new menus and then typing in keywords to retrieve recipes from my list. Similarly, you can schedule which recipes you’ll be cooking when by heading to the Planner tab. Here you’ll find a calendar showing a week at a time, where you can add recipes for morning, midday and evening.

Pepperplate on the Move

Now that you’ve got everything set up, you can fire up Pepperplate on your Android device. When you log in you’ll be greeted by a list of your recipes, which you can sort by name or by the date they’re scheduled in your planner. Clicking on a recipe name brings up its ingredients and directions. You can hit the Menu button to bring up options to let you add it to your planner, add the ingredients to your shopping list, or share a link to the recipe.

The Menu section and a sample menu

The Menu section and a sample menu

You can navigate through the app by clicking on the various sections’ icons at the bottom of the screen, including the recipe viewer, menu viewer, planner, shopping list and settings. The menu viewer shows you a list of your menus and the recipes you’ve added to each – you can choose to add a menu to your planner or add all the ingredients to your shopping list. The planner shows a calendar with the days of the month, and the menus and recipes scheduled for the date you tap.

Planner and shopping list

Planner and shopping list

The shopping list shows all the ingredients you need for the menus and recipes you’ve chosen to add to it, along with their quantities. They’re also grouped into categories such as Produce, Dairy, Wine and Spirits, and so on – a nice touch. Ingredients that aren’t easily recognized (such as a pinch of salt) are added to the top of the list in gray for you to check out, edit and add or delete from your list. It’s also a checklist so you can easily tick off items as you purchase them.

Using Pepperplate

After having added several recipes and choosing a few to try over the next few days, I went out to my local department store, armed with my automatically-filled shopping list. Pepperplate’s elegant interface is very legible and a joy to use. When I got home, I opened the easiest recipe (quick pasta with cream and garlic – it’s delicious!) and got to work. It’d nice if Pepperplate allowed you to keep the screen on for as long as you need, negating the need to handle the phone with (possibly) messy hands.

I also noticed that you can’t view recipes from the Menu and Planner sections – which seems like an unnecessary crippling of the navigation. Menus can’t be edited either, so if you mean to add a recipe to tonight’s dinner, you’ll need to add the ingredients from the recipe list. The app could also do with a help section or a quick tour, since it’s not immediately clear how the menu and planner sections work on the device.

Conclusion

Pepperplate is a beautiful app that works well but could use a few minor adjustments to make it really usable. After all, any app built to help you get organized should be as flexible as its users. Pepperplate also faces competition from ZipList, which is quite similar but focuses more on locating stores and offering coupons over menus and planning. (It also faces competition from Food Planner – Ed.)

For a casual cook like me based in India where ZipList’s location-based features aren’t useful, Pepperplate works great. I really enjoyed using the smart bookmarklet and the sleek mobile app. Why not try it out and finally get around to serving up that fancy meal you’ve been dreaming of?


Summary

Pepperplate combines a recipe viewer, menu planner, meal schedule and shopping list in one elegant app, giving you everything you need to get organized before you cook.

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