Summary:

These low-cost apps will help you make a better meal in the kitchen, so your Turkey Day is more pleasant.

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“If I Had a Dollar” is a series that highlights one useful or entertaining app per week that costs less than $1. Skip your vending machine soda and try some new apps!

It’s the most fattening time of the year: Thanksgiving. If all goes well, then many Americans will be passed out in front of the television before 6pm on Thursday, stuffed to the point of incoherency with traditional holiday cuisine. But in order to actually get to that sweet food coma, someone actually has to make dinner, and that is where things get tricky.

For this week’s dollar, I wanted to find resources that would avoid the shame of a lackluster holiday dinner contribution while helping out in a pinch. While there are certainly no shortage of resources to help home cooks achieve their best in the kitchen, many are expensive and continue to require payment for access to new materials, recipes and cooking guides. But a dollar is all that I have, so a dollar is what I’ll use.

SubstitutionsPerhaps nothing produces quite as unique a panic as the moment when you realize you don’t have the right ingredients. Sure, the family pumpkin pie wouldn’t be the same without the pumpkin, but did you remember the eggs? Or the spices? When grocery store Thanksgiving aisles are in severely limited supply (not to mention often closed entirely), panic can set in easily.

There’s actually a pretty nifty remedy in Substitutions, an iPhone and iPad app that — you guessed it — offers substitutions for common ingredients. The interface itself is bare, but it does offer smart ingredient substitutions when you’re knee-deep in your cupboards and you need to find a way to replace vegetable oil.

One of the recent add-ons to the system is an easy way to search for substitutions for the ten most common allergens, including nuts, fish, eggs, dairy and soy. It’s a nice fix when you’re looking for an easy substitution for an allergy-prone guest without losing out on flavor.

Experienced cooks should note that the system does have plenty of common sense advice that will make spending a dollar on the tool a bit steep. However, it does provide substitutions for niche ingredients (who keeps arrowroot powder on hand?) that can be found in certain specialty cookbooks.

Unlike the iTunes store, Google Play has yet to truly capitalize on promoting food apps — any cooking tool will actually be found under “Lifestyle,” which makes it a hassle to search. But one app to try is iCook, which offers 2,000 recipes step-by-step and often adds a curated group of recipes every month that can be saved for free, unlike most premium cooking apps.

iCook

In addition to offering a well-rounded list of recipes that can be enhanced to read from afar in a special “Prepare Mode,” the app comes with smaller tools, including multiple timers, that are useful throughout the cooking process. It also offers the ability to share recipes with friends, and even build up your own collection. For just a dollar, it really offers some nifty tools that will inspire any cook.

It’s important to stress that cooking apps these days aren’t only good for cooking. In fact, just a dollar can help bring some much needed creativity and structure to the kitchen, so you can crash on the couch afterwards in peace.

Purchase Substitutions on the iTunes App Store and iCook on Google Play.

Do you have an app that is worth my dollar? Send it to me at lauren.hockenson@gigaom.com with “Dollar App” and the app’s name in the subject line.

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