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Summary:

Home cooks are using digital tools to help them cook: smartphones, video streaming, cooking apps and social media sites, according to an Allrecipes.com poll. But our increased dependence on the internet for cooking advice is also destroying our faith in the recipe itself.

Allrecipes measuring cup poll logo

The first cooking implements home cooks are turning toward aren’t sauté pans or whisks; they’re smartphones, how-to video sites and other digital cooking resources, according to community recipe portal Allrecipes.com.

In its Measuring Cup online poll, the cooking site found that 35 percent of online cooks used smartphones to look up recipes. While recipe research was by far the most common smartphone activity, cooks are using the handheld gadgets to do a lot more inside and outside the kitchen: 29 percent said they have used their phones to photograph finished dishes, 18 percent created digital shopping lists with apps like Grocery IQ and Ziplist, 16 percent redeemed digital coupons at the grocery store and 12 percent used the phone to share a recipe on a social media site.

The number of people using smartphones to watch cooking videos is still small at just 15 percent, but on the PC and tablet, streamed video has exploded among women (Many of the poll results only include women since not enough men responded to form a suitable statistical sample).  Allrecipe’s first Measuring Cup report in 1999 found that 45 percent of women watched cooking videos online. In 2012, that number increased to 74 percent. Furthermore, nearly half of respondent believed that in 15 years how-to videos would become the primary media for conveying culinary knowledge – replacing Mom.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from the report:

  • The most popular digital culinary resources weren’t cooking portals like Allrecipes or Food Network, but search engines, according to 43 percent of online cooks. Recipe sites were a close second, though, at 42 percent. The number one search term, you guessed it, was “chicken”.
  • Digital cuisine is a big business: citing eMarketer, Allrecipes said consumer packaged good advertising spend online is increasing from $134 million in 200 to a projected $3.6 billion in 2012.
  • Allrecipes found that mindshare in online cooking is drifting to more general social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter. One third of female cooks polled said it was important that cooking portals keep up by integrating with those big social networks.
  • Expectations are high that more of the shopping and meal planning process will become digital: a majority of respondents stated that in 15 years the paper coupon will become extinct, the digital wallet will replace the leather billfold and that groceries will be ordered online and delivered to the home.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the report, however, is its more subtle findings on how the digital media have changed our views of the hallowed recipe and cookbook. Paradoxically the internet has made finding recipes far easier but it’s also destroyed our faith in the recipe itself.

Forty-four percent of men and women polled named Cooking websites as their preferred cooking resource, compared to 19 percent who said cookbooks and 9 percent who said their parents. However, confidence in the recipe has degraded. In 1999, Allrecipe’s poll found that 73 percent of online cooks said recipes made cooking easier. In 2012, only 35 percent returned the same response.

The Internet may be democratizing cooking – anyone can circulate a recipe widely and anyone can publish a cookbook. But let’s face it, there are a lot of bad recipes out there, and there’s growing trend to emphasize the aesthetics of food over the quality of the recipes behind them (The study found that the top reason for sharing recipes online was “attractive photos”). Sites like Pinterest have made cooking an artfully presented aspirational pursuit, but in many ways it’s turned the internet into a gigantic coffee table cookbook – a collection of pretty pictures and lush descriptions backed up by unvetted, incomplete and often awful recipes.

As always, though, the internet will adapt. Not only have sophisticated online review engines helped distinguish good recipes from bad, many sites such as Food52 have emerged that take crowdsourced approaches to testing and refining recipes. Allrecipes itself has long allowed its community to customize any recipe submitted to the site, and in many cases those customized recipes have become more popular than the originals, according to an Allrecipes spokesperson. Maybe we can have our democracy, but also a little bit of quality control as well.

Allrecipes, which was recently acquired by Meredith, polled roughly 2,200 people, about half of which were Allrecipes members and the other half online panelists taken from other, often non-cooking, sites. Very few men participated in the poll, so on questions where more than 200 men participated, their results were included, the spokesperson said.

All graphics courtesy of Allrecipes.com

  1. chuck mccullagh Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    great article. Mobile + recipes one of the most promising content channels

    1. I just love it. Get my ipad then find a recipe that I want to use and start cooking!

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