I was trying to make oven-roasted duck breasts for dinner for 5 on Christmas day last year. The vaguely-worded recipe I was following instructed me to brown the duck in a pan on the stove first for, and this is a direct quote, “a good few minutes.” Well, not 90 seconds into browning time my duck breasts were solid black charcoal briquettes, my smoke detector was screaming its’ fool head off, and if it weren’t for some quick work on my wife’s behalf and a LOT of bacon Christmas dinner would have been ruined.

The experienced cooks in the audience tonight already likely know where my mistake was, and the point here is that if I’d had a better recipe to follow (one that included, say, how hot the stove needed to be), then perhaps my Christmas guests wouldn’t have eaten bacon-flavored carbon for dinner.¬†Epicurious to the rescue!

I'll have one of each, please
462 Main Courses with Bacon? Am I in heaven?

Epicurious is an incredible free iPhone app that combines a meal planner, recipes, dish reviews, drink guides, and shopping lists all in one. First off, it’s an absolutlely enormous recipe database (25,000+ as of this writing), containing hundreds of different soups, salads, main courses, desserts, drinks, snacks, and pretty much anything edible you can think of. However, the search function in the app makes it very easy to either find something very specific or give yourself a broad range of ideas to choose from. Trying to find a great recipe for a Lentil Garlic Soup? Searching for “Lentil soup with garlic” offered 92 results, but then adding “Low Sodium” as a Dietary Consideration dropped that number all the way down to 1. Need to whip something Kosher up in a hurry? Epicurious has got you covered there as well.

Bacon. The Magic Ingredient in any dish.
Bacon. The Magic Ingredient in any dish.

On the other hand, what if you don’t know what to make for supper? What if you’re dying to use up those avacados and that corn taking up space in your fridge? Well, according to epicurious, you can use those two items to whip up a delicious Rotini and Black Bean Salad that 8 users have said they’d make again.

This brings up another point: The reviews of recipes are often better than the recipes themselves. This is where you find the real gold info, things like “I used chicken stock instead of water in the gravy and it was fantastic!” or “Wait until the meat’s nearly browned before adding the green pepper, that way they stay crispy in the final serving.” Have your own bit of insider info on a recipe to share? Head on over to Epicurious.com and have your say.

OH GOD I'M SO HUNGRY
OH GOD I'M SO HUNGRY

And what would any good kitchen tool be without an integrated grocery list? If you’re planning a full meal, just tap on the “+” sign beside any recipe name to add it to your Favorites list, and begin building a grocery list to make your masterpiece complete. As neat of an idea as the grocery list is, this is the one area where I found this app to be a little bit lacking. While it does attempt to group like items together (nicely organizing your list into sections such as Canned Items, Fresh Produce, etc.), sometimes it gets thrown off by the way a recipe is worded. For instance, from two different recipes it listed 1 Teaspoon of Salt twice in my list, and also listed 1 Pound of Applewood Smoked Bacon and 6 Slices of Thick Applewood Bacon separately. A little bit more “fuzzy logic” in the grocery list would streamline that a little bit, but it’s a start.

I really don’t have anything else bad to say about Epicurious. It’s a free app, so there’s some in-app advertising, but that’s to be expected. Overall, it feels really slick and professional, and is one of those apps that makes you go “Really? This is free?”

So what are you waiting for? Go get it, and become the Foodie you were always meant to be. Gordon Ramsay would want you to.

Photo Credit: oskay