The Internet is a great place to find recipes. Start with a search engine, and a few clicks later, you can find almost any recipe using any ingredient possible. But if you cook a lot and have built up a store of recipes, a strong, flexible database program can be very useful for finding and accessing favorite recipes quickly and easily. BigOven ($16/year, limited demo) is an easy-to-use and powerful database that lets you organize recipes and find them in a flash.
BigOven's word-processing-style interface has multiple panes so that you can click on a recipe and bring it up on the same page. It offers many different ways to browse for a recipe, including by cuisine, main ingredient, course, and keyword. Once you’ve found a recipe, you can easily edit it, add notes and tags to it, convert from Imperial to metric system, rate it, and add it to your favorites.
You access all of these functions via buttons on the main page of BigOven, which makes the interface seem crowded at first. But once you’ve sifted through the many functions to find the ones you want to use and the ones you don’t, this design makes navigating, choosing and printing recipes as quick as it can be. Everything has been pared down to fewest clicks possible. The quickness and ease is what makes BigOven so powerful.
In addition to the standard functions, such as find, edit, print, and share, you can create a shopping list from a recipe, add the recipe to the calendar to create meal plans, post a recipe to BigOven’s website, and put together a nutritional profile. The Pro version will allow you to access the nutritional info and grocery lists from its free mobile applications.
Those who already have a pile of recipes sitting in a box or scattered through a shelf of cookbooks can add their own. BigOven also comes stocked with a limited number of recipes, and you can access more recipes by upgrading to the professional version for $16 a year. Pro users get other extras as well, including a scan recipe option for uploading a jpg of a recipe that BigOven will convert, and a leftover wizard for creating recipes based on ingredients on hand.
BigOven has a website, but it’s not nearly as robust as the program itself. It includes a few instructional videos and some weakly attended forums and a Twitter-style stream where members can post pics of their meals. There are also free apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows Phone, so you can access recipes from your mobile device.
It seems odd that BigOven’s website is its least interesting aspect, given how strong the cooking community’s presence is on the Internet. But that doesn’t hurt its overall ease and usefulness. The standalone program, as well as the mobile apps, syncs nicely with the recipes stored on the website, and they all work well to provide a flexible system with which to store, organize, and access any number of recipes.