iPhone Thanksgiving apps
Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes has a quirk or two. Flipping through recipe pictures isn't as smooth as it should be--on occasion, you'll get a blank screen as the app tries to keep up with your finger flicks. As with the other recipe apps, there's no easy way to get the cooking instructions off your iPhone and onto a printed page. But overall, this is a solid app and clearly the class of the App Store's Thanksgiving offerings.
Feather & Moor also offers Turkey Recipes, which strips down the app to two dozen or so dishes incorporating poultry. It'd be a fine choice for users who've already settled on their side dishes but are less confident when it comes to cooking turkey, but the main Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes app is a more thorough offering.
Let's wrap things up with two decent apps that are ultimately undone by the limitations Apple imposes on third-party apps. Both GrillTimer from Ayefon.com and TurkeyTimer from ID345 aim to help you master cook times. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they're limited by the inability to fully run third-party apps in the background.
TurkeyTimer draws upon algorithms from sources that include Essentials of Cooking and The New Doubleday Cookbook to figure out how long it will take for your turkey to cook. You enter the weight of the bird and pick a desired internal temperature (145 degrees cooking in a 325-degree oven or 180 degrees in a 350-degree hotbox), and TurkeyTimer calculates the cook time. You have the option of adjusting for basting and stuffing if you prefer those unsavory options. (Note: The author of this review is a card-carrying member of the anti-stuffing camp.) The app displays an analog watch that counts down the cook time, along with screens that show the estimated temperature and browning of your bird.
"Estimated" is the key word in that sentence. Every oven is different, and not every turkey cooks precisely at 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Even the makers of TurkeyTimer tell you to use the app in conjunction with an actual thermometer to ensure your bird doesn't wind up undercooked or a dry wasteland of flavor. Personally, I'd never cook a turkey without first sticking a trusty probe thermometer into the breast meat, so that I can remove the bird when it reaches 161 degrees, per the instructions in this excellent turkey recipe.
But that's not the biggest problem with TurkeyTimer, nor is it the decision to use a nifty-looking analog timer when a digital readout would be easier to read. (I also had problems with the app crashing when I tried to set cook times during my testing, but your mileage may vary.) Rather, it's the fact that you have to keep the app open to get any use from it. Oh, TurkeyTimer will keep counting down if you leave the app to answer a phone call or check your mail or do whatever it is to pass the time while your turkey is browning. But you need to have the app open when time winds down in order to hear the alarm. (It's the sound of a turkey gobbling by default, though you have other choices, including a vibrate option.) Leaving an app open for the two-to-three hours it might take to cook a turkey is a recipe for draining your iPhone's battery.
TurkeyTimer is really useful for cooking turkey, and nothing else. Grill Timer has uses beyond the holidays, though it's plagued by the same inability to run in the background. Like TurkeyTimer, Grill Timer will keep ticking away if you leave the app to do other things on your iPhone or iPod touch. And like TurkeyTimer, you'll never hear the alarm on Grill Timer unless you've got the app open.