Thursday, January 24, 2013

No-Fail Zone: Cook's Illustrated

Isn't it refreshing in today's world when a [fill in the blank] does what is says it will do? A company that delivers on time, or a soap scum remover that actually removes soap scum. Well, the Cook's Illustrated brand is one of those promise keepers. America's Test Kitchen publishes Cook's Illustrated, and not only do they test every recipe thoroughly until The Best Version can be found, they also test equipment and brand-name ingredients in order to suggest purchases, similar to Consumer Reports.

My favorite cookbook of the bunch is their comprehensive (890 pages) Cook's Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of Recipes From America's Most Trusted Food Magazine (left). Normally I dislike cookbooks without photos, but this book does have occasional illustrations (hence the title). Also, I generally don't care about the science behind why this recipe is superior over all others, but some explanations can be insightful. Admittedly, some of their methods can be fussy: just their chocolate chip cookie or banana bread recipes are a bit more involved than most, but I have yet to find a recipe of theirs that does not come through. Ultimately, every recipe I have tried from any of the America's Test Kitchen venues (show on PBS, Cook's Illustrated magazine, Cook's Country magazine or cookbooks) is consistently good.

The great thing about this is, if you can read, measure, and generally follow directions, you're guaranteed to gain compliments on your finished products when you have the guidance of a Cook's Illustrated recipe. I just made the Cheese & Ham Impossible Pie from the February/March issue of Cook's Country and it was perfect, which I do not take credit for.