Official Crock-Pot Slow Cooker iOS app is a tasty addition to your device
Just about every couple that gets married in America can expect to get a Crock-Pot slow cooker as a wedding present, which is why I expect that the new Crock-Pot Recipes app (US$3.99, universal) is going to be wildly popular.
For me, a Crock-Pot is a relatively new acquisition. My wife and I were vegetarians for many years, so cooking stews, soups and other long and slow-cooking meals with meat was not something we did. When we bought our Crock-Pot, I still didn't use it all that much since none of the included recipes really excited me. Since the Crock-Pot Recipes app has come out, I've pulled the slow cooker out of storage and made two really great meals, filling our house with enticing cooking aromas for hours in the process. Yes, and it's not even Crocktober!
The app comes with more than 250 recipes preloaded. Every month, you can download new free recipes as well -- a nice little bonus that ensures you'll never get bored with the same recipes. There are also a number of recipe "packages" that are available as in-app purchased through a built-in store. Those include a $0.99 "Soups and Stews" package, desserts in the $1.99 "Sweet Endings" package and one package that's perfect for the upcoming Super Bowl -- the $2.99 "Game Day Grub."
The app does more than just let you look up a bunch of recipes. When you're using it on your iPad or iPhone, the app goes into a "prepare mode" that puts the instructions in an easy-to-read mode. There are many voice commands that can be used to scroll through the steps without putting greasy or messy hands onto your screen. In some cases, some items in a recipe may turn green when using the voice command system, which means that they can be controlled by voice as well.
Each recipe includes three primary categories: details, ingredients and preparation. Details shows a picture of the prepared recipe, a rating by other owners of the app, preparation time, a theme (such as "500 calories or less" or "Holiday") and the level of difficulty rated from easiest (one spoon) to hardest (three spoons). Ingredients shows all of the ingredients and quantities you'll need to prepare the recipe, and preparation either shows a detail instruction set or the "prepare mode" bullet list discussed earlier.
Crock-Pot Recipes also has a personal recipes box. You can drag recipes into the recipe box for future reference or add your own recipes. That's perfect for those family recipes that have been passed down through the generations on scraps of paper, since you can finally get them in a digital format.
One tab I didn't really "get" was the Meal Builder, which allows you to drag multiple recipes into a single area. I can see that this might be useful if you're considering using a fleet of Crock-Pots to create a multi-course meal, but it seems superfluous since you can just call up individual recipes.
There's a built-in Crock-Pot Store for buying those recipe packages described earlier and adding the free monthly recipe packages.
Finally, an Info button provides a ton of information you may need while cooking. Conversions gives you info on imperial and metric equivalents for baking pan sizes, dimensions, oven temperatures, dry and fluid volume measurements and weights. Have you run out of an ingredient during cooking? A substitutions list shows you what you can use instead (for example, a substitute for 1/4 cup of butter is 3-1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil).
There's a shopping list button as well that is quite helpful. In any recipe, there's a "+" button that is used to add the recipe to your personal recipe box, add to the meal builder, share the recipe (on Facebook or by email) and add it to your shopping list. You get a nice list of ingredients, sorted by the area in the store in which you'd most likely find them.
Crock-Pot Recipes has multiple timers, all of which can be voice-controlled while cooking, and what looks like the beginning of a series of how-to videos. Unfortunately, there's only one video available right now, although I'd assume that the publishers plan on adding more in the future. There are some much more useful articles that are part of the app.
If you're in a quandary about what to make for dinner, you can always use the "Stir" feature. Choose a theme or ingredient ("I feel like Italian tonight"), and then shake your iPhone (or tap Stir on the iPad) to get a list of alternatives.
Knowing the popularity of Crock-Pots and slow cooking in general, I think this app is going to be quite popular. There are a few minor quirks I ran into during my review, but for the most part Crock-Pot Recipes is amazingly polished for a new app.
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