MacGourmet: iTunes for Your Recipes?

The internet has opened up a whole new world of recipes, available to anyone, anytime, without the need for piles of sauce-stained cookbooks. With so many amazing recipes out there, it can be hard to keep track of your favourites. Some people are content to use bookmarks, but what if you want to keep your recipes more organized, or want to add recipes of your own?

MacGourmet is designed as an “iTunes for your recipes”, allowing you to import, store, sort and update a huge library of recipes. Can an app take the place of a stack of recipe books and loose hand-writen recipes? Find out after the jump.

Using MacGourmet

There are two ways of getting recipes into MacGourmet: inputing them yourselves, or importing them from websites:

Importing Recipes

MacGourmet supports importing from many of the most popular recipe websites, including my two favourites, Allrecipes.com and Epicurious.com. I had some trouble importing recipes the way specified in the user guide, which involves selecting the url in the address bar, and selecting “add recipe to MacGourmet” from the browser’s “services” menu.

When I tried to import recipes from supported sites, I got an error message in MacGourmet saying that a valid web address was not found.

To get the import function to work, I had to drag the url directly into the recipes panel in MacGourmet. And yes, this was clumsy and a bit irritating.

Dragging a URL into the recipe column

Dragging a URL into the recipe column

Adding the recipe brings up the Recipe Import Assistant, which automatically fills in much of the information from the recipe. To change the information, you can click on the field or use useful keyboard shortcuts to select the field you want to edit (e.g. command + 5 for ingredients).

I found MacGourmet handled importing a recipe from Allrecipes perfectly, with all fields accurately filled out. A recipe imported from Vegetarian Times fared almost as well, filling in everything but the servings field.

Importing a Recipe from Allrecipes

Importing a Recipe from Allrecipes

Adding Your Own Recipes

If you’d like to keep your own recipes stored, MacGourmet offers a powerful interface for inputing all the details. My favourite part of the process was adding the ingredients, where previously used ingredients are auto-filled, and the fields are tab-able so you don’t have to leave the keyboard.

Unfortunately, adding the preparation steps was less convenient. It would be nice if a new step could be added by hitting “enter” for example. You can also add preparation details, notes, pictures (for the whole recipe and for individual steps), and nutrition.

Adding Ingredients

Adding Ingredients

Adding Steps

Adding Steps

Viewing Recipes

Once added to MacGourmet, your recipes are formatted according to one of many themes you can select under preferences. Design snob that I am, I didn’t really love any of the themes, but most of them are readable and usable.

You also have the option of viewing recipes in “Chef View” which is a simplified, full-screen mode useful for using in the kitchen when you want to keep your hands away from the computer as much as possible. This feature could be improved upon by making it easier to scroll through steps, perhaps even one at a time would be simpler.

Viewing a recipe in the recipe panel

Viewing a recipe in the recipe panel

Full-screen "chef's mode"

Full-screen "chef's mode"

Shopping Lists

MacGourmet allows you to create shopping lists from recipes by dragging-and-dropping, and by manual entry. It auto-fills common items, and you can add items to “favourites” to quickly drop them into new shopping lists.

The shopping lists feature is mainly for those who use the iPhone or iPad app as well, which syncs with MacGourmet’s recipes, notes, lists and wine notes.

Editing a shopping list

Editing a shopping list

Other Features

MacGourmet comes with a lot of features, some useful, some arguably superfluous, but here’s a run-dwon of the most notable ones:

Wine Notes

For people who like to keep meticulous records of their wine drinking experience, the Wine Notes feature allows you to enter all sorts of information about wines, including winery information, tasting notes, reviews, label image, and pretty much anything else you could possibly think of. It’s not so much wine “notes” as it is wine database.

Clippings

For websites not supported by MacGourmet, you can drag and drop the text from a recipe into the app and it will create a “clipping” which is basically just a plain-text version of the recipe. To add it to the recipe database, double click the clipping and copy-and-paste the information into the appropriate fields.

A recipe clipping

A recipe clipping

MacGourmet also includes printing themes to fit recipes to paper, and typical iTunes-like features like smart lists and folders. You can also relate items to each other, so a recipe will display “related items” such as a pairing wine or a side dish.

Plug-ins: They’re Not Free!

The MacGourmet website engages in a bit of trickery: some of the features listed on the website such as Meal Planner, Cookbooks, and Nutritional Analysis, are paid plug-ins that cost about $10.

You can use the trial versions of these plug-ins for a limited number of recipes, but I was pretty disappointed and irked that they advertised these features as part of the app itself.

Conclusion

I’m a big fan of online recipes, and I do get annoyed trying to organize them all and having to look at ads on websites. Accordingly, I thought MacGourmet would be an ideal application to solve my recipe woes.

Essentially, MacGourmet does what I need it to do: it keeps track of recipes, ingredients and shopping lists and keeps them organized. However, there are some interface and usability issues that left me disappointed.

The web importing feature was tricky to figure out and took me a while, and the solution I found is clumsy. Additionally, many of the drag-and-drop interfaces open in separate windows making it difficult to drag items between them.

MacGourmet tries to do too much in my opinion, I doubt many of the features will be used by most cooks, I think it’s a category that requires simplicity and ease of use, not advanced features and a steep learning curve. I’ve tried the much cheaper YummySoup and found it had all the functionality I needed with a more straightforward interface.

MacGourmet is one of a couple apps I’ve reviewed that attempt to be the “itunes for your x”, and apps like this have only made me wonder why we need an “iTunes for everything.” iTunes works great for music, iPhoto is handy for photos, but why not try to make the “Address Book for recipes”? What are your thoughts, do we need an iTunes for everything?


Summary

MacGourmet offers an iTunes-like interface for importing, storing, and organizing recipes.

7
  • Neal O

    Parika on iOS is just brilliant. Who wants to take a Mac into the kitchen?

  • jesus

    i’m still using my mom for this.

  • Paul J

    I bought this for my wife a few months ago. She’s uses it quite a bit. We have places to set the macbookpro outside of the kitchen, yet still visible while she’s cooking, so that’s no big deal. All in all, she like it alot. I found the import to be really good, once we figured it out. It doesn’t support all recipe sites, but a decent amount of the good ones out there.

    My main advice is, if you purchase it, is purchase the deluxe version through mariner software. if you google, you can find good % off coupons. I think we bought the deluxe for $35

  • Sly

    I love this app, I have some of my great-grandmothers recipies on it now even, but the only thing i have against is that the iOS application only lets your read your recipies.

  • http://dogearedpages.org Marc

    I’m a huge fan of Sous Chef [http://acaciatreesoftware.com/]. It’s got a lot of the same functionality and I think it’s a little cleaner looking.

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