Digital Recipe Sidekick
Are you tired of living off a diet of Pop Tarts, Hot Pockets, and potato chips? Have you yearned to develop your culinary talents but been unsure how to proceed? Digital Recipe Sidekick is a free app that will help you build, manage, and share your recipe collection; it will also read recipes to you, hands-free, step-by-step. Now you can become a master chef without having to audition for a Food Channel reality show.
DRS comes preloaded with 14 recipes, but you can import more recipes from the DRS Library or from AllRecipes.com (both are accessible within the app). I find AllRecipes.com the better choice, as it has a more extensive recipe collection with user ratings and photos to show you what the finished dish looks like. You can also input your own recipes.
Using DRS is simple--just select a recipe and press Start Cooking. You then have three control modes to choose from: 'Speech and buttons', 'Claps and buttons', and 'Buttons only'. Next, you set the sensitivity of the microphone to High, Medium, or Low (I found that Low is actually the most sensitive setting). With 'Speech and buttons' enabled, you simply speak to prompt the app. For example, you say "hello" to get the app's attention, and then say "ingredients" to have DRS read the ingredients list out loud. Similarly, say "first step" to begin, "next step," "repeat," and so on. For a complete list of commands, you can use the help feature (via the question-mark icon in the menu)
In practice, DRS works nicely as a hands-free recipe reader. It responds well and generally understands commands. The synthesized voice is sometimes a bit oddly accented, but you can always tell DRS to "repeat" if you don't understand it. On rare occasions it doesn't properly pronounce words (for example it pronounces filet as "FILE-ett"), but usually you can grasp what DRS is trying to say.
Unfortunately, DRS does not include a timer--something almost every recipe could use. It would be great if DRS could recognize "bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes" and offer to set the timer for you, but unfortunately it cannot.
Nevertheless, Digital Recipe Sidekick is a great alternative to a traditional paper cookbook. The option to have a recipe read out loud to you while your hands are covered in batter or other food is a major benefit, and having the vast catalog of AllRecipes.com is like keeping a whole bookshelf of cookbooks in your pocket, for free.