Aptly named, the recently updated BigOven app is super-sized in ways vast and various. With an archive of over 250,000 recipes, the app, which works on nearly any device, has been downloaded over 8 million times and has 2 million registered users (Which perhaps suggests that it also boasts 6 million non-users?). The free version has no shortage of advertising, while the paid version, at $20 a year, is ad-free and offers bonus functionality such as providing nutritional information for each recipe.
The search and read functions of BigOven are a thing of integrated beauty. Keyword searches span 10 meal categories, and the paid version even allows for excluding ingredients (no anchovies, please). Or, use the “Use Up Leftovers” search to pick three or more items from the fridge to see what can be made with whatever is on hand.
Once a recipe is chosen, the ingredients and instructions are displayed along with various control options. Change the number of servings and the ingredient list immediately recalibrates. Tap the meal planner button to add the recipe to a calendar which, for good measure, provides a five-day weather forecast. Ingredient lists populate a shopping list with one touch. The shopping list auto-sorts by grocery aisle, and places a checkbox next to each item so you can check off each as you shop.
But what’s most fascinating about this app are the ways in which users can add and share their own content. There are three options. The first, and most basic, is just to type in any recipe using a provided template. The second, and most amazing, allows one to take a photo of a typed or hand-written recipe and upload it to BigOven. They will then have an actual human transcribe it into the database within 2 to 5 days. The free version lets you do this thrice, while the paid version welcomes as many as you can snap.
The third, and most ominous, option allows a person to navigate to any food website and import a recipe right from that page. To many a home cook, that sounds quite handy. But to many an attorney, that sounds quite like copyright infringement. When BigOven recognizes that a site is copyright protected, it still imports the recipe, but makes it available only to that user... unless that user cares to employ the app’s share functionality which sends out a link to the recipe via email, Twitter, Facebook and/or Pinterest. The app makes no mention of what can and cannot be added to its system, while the company website offers a copyright notice that asks forgiveness rather than denies permission: “We review the recipes posted to the site in the course of daily business. But we host over one hundred thousand recipes posted on the site, with more being added every day by hundreds of thousands of members, and we can only do so much in a day while keeping it low-cost for our members.”