Are you an aspiring amateur chef looking for a big hit with the family? Got a BIG dinner with the boss planned and have no idea what to cook? Kid tells you at the last second that you need to bring an appetizer to school that night? If you said YES to any of the above, or if you just want to have a nifty electronic cookbook, then Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner is the perfect iPhone or iPod Touch application for you.
Dinner Spinner is a small (1.8MB) application for your iPhone or iPod Touch that accesses Allrecipes.com’s database of user-submitted easy-to-make recipes. You pick a type of course, a main component, and the cooking time (or scramble them if you wish) and it finds recipes for you. Take a look at the shopping list, hit the store, and then do some cooking. By connecting to Allrepcipes.com’s database of thousands of homemade recipes, Dinner Spinner is able to give you a large selection, or exactly what you want, in no time at all. Plus, it does this all for free.
One of the nicest features about Dinner Spinner is the interface. Simplicity is not only a goal of Feng Shui, but it seemed to be the primary philosophy of the application designers. The interface has three real options: a type of meal, a type of ingredient, and a cooking time. That's it, pure simplicity. The application works perfectly with both the touch features and the accelerometer of the iPhone. If you want to randomize one, two, or even all three parts of the selection process, just shake your phone. This interface along with the great way the application works within the iPhone makes it stand out from the crowd.
Another nice feature is how the recipes are set up. You get a step-by-step guide on how to cook the meal (just like any cookbook) and you get perfect instructions on every aspect. You also will get a shopping list and the full nutrition information. This is helpful to both people at the store and those dieting. Also, there are ratings (as done by other users) that help you decide exactly what you will and will not like. Along with the ratings are user comments that sometimes tell you little hints or add-ins that make the meal even better and easier. Additionally, as all of these recipes are user-submitted, you can trust that they are easy to make and quite tasty.
One of the problems with user-based submissions is the fact that people tend to put things in the wrong categories. I mean, sure, the Swedish meatballs do have cranberry sauce on them, but that does not make them a fruit entry. This sort of screw-up plagues online recipe sites, and Dinner Spinner is not immune. When I go to look up a specific type of meal with a specific ingredient, I expect that ingredient to be featured, not just an add-on. Heck, I even found one where the specific ingredient (fruit in bread) was an OPTIONAL ingredient. To me, this flaw is a big problem, and allrecipes.com needs to work on this.
Another problem with Dinner Spinner is the lack of more search options. This is not really a flaw as it is more of a missing feature. Sure, it is nice to pick by ingredient, type, and time, but what if I only care about two (or even one) of these items? Currently you must have all three picked (though you can randomize any of them). I want to be able to see all breakfast chicken entries at once, not have to sort through them by timing. This seems like an easy fix, and will hopefully show up soon.
I have to say that as a fledgling cook (who worships cookbooks like they were Bibles), I really like the concept and execution of Dinner Spinner. The ease of use, the shopping lists, and the helpful hints from other users makes it well worth it (if you check a few recipes, you will notice my own tips). The only thing holding this application back is the shoddy categorical placement by the users and the lack of less specific searching. As one of these is fixable, the good parts of Dinner Spinner quickly outweigh the negatives. So, if you want to start cooking, then grab Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner from the app store for free today.