Listen, cookbooks are great. That's fine. But do you know what else is great? Friggin' apps. With the right apps, your smartphone or tablet is your new cookbook—and cooking instructor, and sous chef. Here are the best.
GOLD MEDAL: Epicurious
Arguably the iPhone's first serious recipe app, and by far its best. First and foremost, Epicurious is a front-end for a bogglingly huge library of recipes lifted from the pages of Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and other generally reputable sources, most of which are accompanied by delicious photos. Recipe choice is effectively endless, the iPhone interface is straightforward and functional, and the iPad interface is kind of gorgeous. The included shopping list tool is (baby raspberry) icing on the (flourless espresso) cake. Free, Universal.
SILVER MEDAL: How To Cook Everything
Based on Mark Bittman's legendary cookbook/kitchen guide of the same name, How To Cook Everything holds a new cook's hand through embarrassing basics, and give them plenty to work with once they've found their feet. $5, iPhone only.
BRONZE MEDAL: Ratio
Michael Ruhlman's app is equal parts introduction to a cooking philosophy and tool. Luckily, this philosophy—cooking by ratio—is fascinating. $5, iPhone only.
GOLD MEDAL: Epicurious
Epicurious is also available on Android and it's just as awesome there. It's pretty much a clone of the iPhone version—same recipes, same easy-to-use interface, and same oh so tasty pictures—with a few bonus Android-y features, like voice search and a recipe-of-the-day widget, thrown in. Big plus: there's a shopping list tool that lists the ingredients you'll need to buy for each recipe. One negative: We ran into a few force close—incredibly annoying when you're trying to figure out what's the next step after washing the vegetables. Free, Android.
SILVER MEDAL: Healthy Recipes
Giz is hardly the home of healthy eaters, but with SparkRecipes.com's Healthy Recipes we can at least try. The app packs fewer frills than Epicurious and swaps delicious photos for cold, hard nutritional facts but the recipes sound lovely and it even allows you to search for dishes by calories. Free, Android.
BRONZE MEDAL (tie): Cooking Capsules Taster
Of all the apps, Cooking Capsules Taster is the only one that actually tries to teach you how to cook. How? Because for every recipe there's an accompanying video with a host that literally shows you what to do. Only problem? There's only 8 recipes. Free, Android.
BRONZE MEDAL (tie): BigOven
The BigOven app is really just a glorified mobile version of their website but there's a gazillion recipes complete with pictures and a sizeable community contributing and commenting on the quality of each dish. Free, Android.