Look out: Android in the kitchen

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I was a late comer to the legions of mobile device owners. However, when I finally crossed over with my purchase of the first generation Kindle Fire, there was no looking back. To the Kindle Fire has now been added an Android smart phone and other tablets —the number of which I’ll keep to myself, or I’ll mark myself an Android junkie.

I watch TV shows and movies on the devices, do most of my research on them (paging through PDFs is much simpler with a touch screen), scan products at the store for background information not listed on the can, navigate to new locations, and yes, play games. Where the crafty devices shine, though, is in the kitchen.

I have an old red binder filled with recipes (not *women) I’ve collected, modified, or created over the years. Recently, I purchased the Living Cookbook software to manage my collection, as well as back it up to Dropbox for safekeeping. What I didn’t want to do with the new software, though, was continue to use paper recipes. With paper, I’ll inevitably spill something on the page, and the large letter size paper actually takes up a lot of counter space.

What I needed was to transfer my recipes from the software to my Android tablet (my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 inch tablet in this case—sorry Apple). Luckily, there really is an Android app for that (don’t sue me Apple).

I downloaded My Cookbook, a free/pay app that allows us to create our own cookbooks. Though the interface is rather primitive, what it lacks in gewgaws it makes up for by being able to parse recipe files from many cookbook software applications, including Living Cookbook.

The work flow goes as follows:

  1. Enter the recipe into Living Cookbook. Cry a little when I see how many calories per serving. Vow to eat less.
  2. Export the recipe in any of the supported formats. I use the Living Cookbook .fdx format. Ummm, XML. Long time no see.
  3. Create a synch folder on Dropbox using a built-in My Cookbook feature. Copy the exported recipe to this folder from my computer.
  4. In my tablet, import the recipe into the application and I’m ready to go.

I bought a little tablet stand at Amazon, so the device sits upright and stable on my counter (away from the oven and sink, of course).

When I’m ready to cook something, I pull up the recipe, gather my ingredients, and then follow the directions. I would prefer having both ingredients and directions on same page, but it’s simple to swipe the page to move between views.

If I’m feeling text weary, I can use the My Cookbook feature that allows audio output of the directions. For the most part, though, it’s easy enough to read the instructions.

Once the ingredient manipulation is complete, I can return to the summary page and click the little timer icon. This triggers another Android application that runs a timer, My Cooking Timer programmed with each recipe’s cooking time.

While the end product is boiling/steaming/baking, I can pick up the tablet and check my email, read an article using Pocket, or even make notes for my book using a speech to text application or sound recorder. The speech-to-text app ListNote sometimes results in an some interesting wording, but at least I have enough to work with.

None of the applications impact on the timer—an important feature, because I have been known to get distracted and burn things. Just to note: a smoke detector is not designed to be a food timer.

From a food safety perspective, the use of the tablet is a plus, because using it ensures that I’m washing my hands frequently so as not to smear up the device. Washing hands frequently while cooking is essential to prevent cross-contamination. Going from handling chicken to chopping lettuce can make an interesting science experiment, but not necessarily an enjoyable eating experience.

Of course, you don’t need an Android tablet to do all of this. You can use your iPad or iPhone—if you have money left over from buying the device to actually purchase food to cook.

Ingredients for Cooking in the Kitchen with Android:

  • Cloud storage helps when it comes to interfacing a PC to an Android to share data. I’m partial to Dropbox, primarily because so many Android apps support it. And it’s free for most uses.
  • You can input recipes directly using most Android cookbook apps, but I find an application like Living Cookbook to be simpler and more comprehensive. The key is the ability to export the recipe (unless the software has a comparable mobile app that supports your device, which Living Cookbook does not).
  • A mobile cookbook app, such as My Cookbook that allows recipe import and/or direct addition. Be careful when selecting an app. A cookbook app is not the same type of app as a recipe app, which provides access to existing recipes, but rarely allows you to input your own.
  • Timer software that either works with your cookbook app, or that you can use outside the application. The My Cooking Timers Android app works with the My Cookbook app. There are freeware and pay versions of both apps.
  • A tablet stand that makes it easy to read the recipe and that securely holds the tablet out of the way on the counter. If you’re clever you can probably make something.
  • Soap, water, hand towel—because egg and Android don’t mix.