Foodie Tuesday: Food Network in the Kitchen

The Food Network is a big operation: celebrity chefs, reality TV and shows featuring a large variety of cooking styles. Their app, Food Network in the Kitchen, has been listed in the App Store Hall of Fame. All of this adds up to big expectations for an app that will deliver tons of recipes plus great functionality. People will generally fall into one of two camps: those who still watch the Food Network on TV and those who used to watch Food Network TV back in the day (me). For those of us with a nostalgic connection to Food Network, the app could be a wonderful trip down memory lane. Alternatively, it could be a complete waste of time and money.

Can Food Network in the Kitchen live up to these high expectations or will it only appeal to Food Network foodies? Keep reading to find out.

Getting Started

Launching the app takes a bit of time, as content refreshes over the Internet. While you wait, a slideshow of yummy photos plays, whetting your appetite with chocolaty brownies and perfectly grilled steaks. Food Network is all about their celebrity chefs, and the home screen always displays photos the same four: Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, Anne Burrell and Giada De Laurentis. Below that is a list of other Food Network celebrity chefs, organized alphabetically by first name.

Meet the Food Network Chefs, the same four celebrities are always featured, The rest of the chefs are listed in alphabetical order.

Meet the Food Network Chefs, the same four celebrities are always featured, The rest of the chefs are listed in alphabetical order.

It would be more interesting if the featured four chefs changed every time you opened the app—or if every chef was represented by a thumbnail photo. Food Network should be encouraging users to discover new favorite chefs to follow. Swipe left and right on the big red bar to see what else the app has to offer.

The app also has a featured page where dishes are promoted by a common theme, like Family & Kids, left. View recipes in Collections by course, food type or ingredient, right.

The app also has a featured page where dishes are promoted by a common theme, like Family & Kids, left. View recipes in Collections by course, food type or ingredient, right.

The next screen is a themed collection of Featured categories; at the moment, it’s Family & Kids. This is a great idea for keeping people interested in the app, and you would hope it’s updated frequently. You can also view the recipe Collections for dishes according to course, cuisine, meal type or main ingredient (for example: appetizers, chicken, brunch, Italian, Fan Favorites, Healthy, etc.). The app makes it easy to fall down the rabbit hole perusing recipe collections.

The search tool is great for finding recipes according to all your criteria.

The search tool is great for finding recipes according to all your criteria.

You’ll be especially impressed by the search engine, which looks for your entries in the ingredients and chef name. Looking for all Ina Garten’s scallop recipes? No problem. Want to see the many ways Bobby Flay grills a steak? Done. You can rest assured the app will show you all the relevant recipes. So many apps fail to provide a useful search tool; it’s refreshing to see this app hit a home run.

The Recipes

I grew up in the dawn of The Food Network and so my first instinct with this app is to take a trip down memory lane, searching for old favorites. Select a chef to read their bio and get access to all their recipes. It’s interesting that the app displays the number of results (Ina Garten has 968 recipes), but it’s not entirely accurate. I noticed a lot of repeat recipes as I browsed deeper and deeper through the list.

Take a trip down memory lane by browsing all the recipes from your favorite Food Network chef.

Take a trip down memory lane by browsing all the recipes from your favorite Food Network chef.

I like how you can filter the recipe results by Recent, Popular, Editor Picks or All. The Food Network Community of users is very passionate about rating and reviewing recipes, so it would seem the Popular category might be useful for crowdsourcing the best. The Editor Picks list is short, indicating these truly are a few hand-selected dishes you might want to try. Thumbnail photos load quickly as you scroll, but you can also browse by swiping left and right through each recipe, which is more appropriate for mobile.

Recipes are introduced by a photo, date published, chef, cooking time, servings and expertise level, left. Ingredients lists are easy to read (adjust the font size if you need).

Recipes are introduced by a photo, date published, chef, cooking time, servings and expertise level, left. Ingredients lists are easy to read (adjust the font size if you need).

Tap on a recipe and you get an enlarged photo plus details on cook time, servings and difficulty level. You can see when the recipe was created, but it would be nice if the app displayed the show title and season number. Food Network doesn’t do introductions to recipes, which is also a shame. I always like to read a little backstory before I select a dish to cook.

Recipes are written in straight text, with no cook mode, left. You’ll find a ton of comments and ratings (some helpful) by the passionate community of users, right.

Recipes are written in straight text, with no cook mode, left. You’ll find a ton of comments and ratings (some helpful) by the passionate community of users, right.

Photos range from not so great to absolutely gorgeous. Ingredients lists are easy to read, and it’s nice to be able to adjust the font size up or down. Recipe directions are presented in straight text, which flows across several screens. Food Network really needs to add cook mode functionality to this app. You can add your own notes and create a simple shopping list.

Additional Features

The app has one feature that’s unique from other cooking apps: Quick List. Here you can bookmark recipes and swipe left and right to compare them side-by-side. This is especially helpful if (like me) you often make a dish using more than one recipe. It’s also great for collecting a bunch of recipes for the same dish and then picking your favorite. You can also share recipes via Facebook, Twitter and Email, or print them from your phone.

I used the Quicklist to compare Tiramisu recipes side-by-side, left. Your saved recipes are in the Recipe Box, arranged by alphabetical order, right.

I used the Quicklist to compare Tiramisu recipes side-by-side, left. Your saved recipes are in the Recipe Box, arranged by alphabetical order, right.

It’s good to have the Recipe Box to keep all your favorite recipes in one place, but they are organized alphabetically in one long list — not very user friendly. It would be better to have the functionality to organize the recipes into categories.

Conclusion

Food Network in the Kitchen two big strengths: it’s a database of thousands of recipes with a good search engine. Another plus is the app adds new recipes every month to keep things fresh. Users are expecting more and more functionality from recipe apps, so Food Network needs to keep on top of their game and focus on making it easier for users to cook along with the mobile device.

I’m all for paying for apps, but it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much more than a mobile version of the Food Network website. The app creators could do a few things to make users feel they’re getting a lot for their money. If you are a dedicated Food Network fan you’ll probably be happy to drop $1.99 on the app, but anyone else might feel like it’s a slight waste of money.


Summary

Food Network in the Kitchen is a collection of thousands of recipes from your favorite celebrity chefs.

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