iPhone Thanksgiving apps
This Thursday will mark the ninth year I've handled the cooking duties on Thanksgiving. I'm not complaining--I enjoy cooking, I like the challenge of putting together a meal for half-a-dozen (or more) diners, and it gives me the opportunity to rule over my kitchen like an iron-fisted dictator.
After all these years, I've pretty much got the preparation, cooking, and serving down to a science. Still, I'm always looking for ways to step up my game. The App Store offers an assortment of apps that aim to make your Thanksgiving dinner run as smoothly as possible. From dinner planning to recipes to timing how long you should keep that bird in the oven, iPhone and iPod touch users have plenty of would-be Turkey Day companions. But which apps will have you giving thanks, and which ones will leave you cursing to the heavens?
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On the planning front, iFeast: Thanksgiving from Digital Laundry looks to help you synchronize your meal's prep work and cook times so that your gravy hasn't cooled off by the time the mashed potatoes are ready. The pleasant-looking app comes preloaded with four menus, each one scheduled so that you can get your meal to the table by 6 p.m. You can also enter your own recipes to build your own schedules and menus. You can even use iFeast's settings to send you push notifications for when it's time to get cracking on those cranberries.
Unfortunately, there are design and implementation issues with the $3 app. The otherwise useful schedules for the pre-assembled menus are arranged in reverse chronological order, meaning the stuff you need to prepare first is at the bottom of a very long list. You've also got no way to tick off tasks as you complete them. iFeast cuts off the names of activities in the schedule--baking homemade rolls, for example, appears as "Start: Cook Homemad..." on my iPhone screen, which is not very conducive to at-a-glance scheduling. The app has some clever icons in its Recipe Details screen for turkey, side dishes, potatoes, and so forth; perhaps incorporating those icons into the schedules would have given cooks a more easy-to-navigate to-do list.
Entering your own recipes into iFeast is a tedious process, which becomes especially problematic if you need to edit data; despite there being an edit button in the recipes tab, I could find no way to change or add to recipes I had already entered. You enter prep time and cook time when you enter a recipe, but that information doesn't transfer over to scheduling or menus--when you're trying to plan out cook times, you'll have to enter that data all over again. There also doesn't seem to be a field for entering ingredients, rendering the app's shopping list feature fairly useless if you're preparing your own menu.
Not that iFeast's shopping list is that well thought out in the first place. You're restricted to the items preloaded into iFeast. Want to use vegetable broth for brining your turkey? iFeast only lets you add chicken broth to your shopping list. Quantities of items are also in set amounts--cups for flour, brown sugar, and chicken broth, teaspoons for ginger, and so on. It's as frustrating as it is inflexible.