Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Afterburner

"Cook's Illustrated"

Recommended Posts

My favorite Cook's Illustrated parody (perhaps because I lovingly crafted it many years ago):

Cook's Illustrated does Pop-Tarts

(Warning: it contains one potentially objectionable four-letter word.)

You win.

As Mom used to say, "It's not a contest, hon."

--Josh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David Lebovits includes these instructions on his website:

"To Peel the Banana: Hold the banana in one hand near the base. With your other hand, grab the top stem, and pull it firmly downward. If it gives you trouble, rock it back-and-forth, trying to break the area between the stem and the skin just beneath. If that doesn't work, take a sharp paring knife, being careful not to cut yourself, hold the blade facing away from you and make a small incision on the side of the skin near the tip. Set the knife aside the tear the skin of the banana using your hands, which should make the skin peel away nicely.

Pull each side of skin down from the banana, exposing the fleshy fruit beneath. Once the banana is almost completely visible, firmly yank the skin down as far as possible and extract the banana from the skin. Discard the skin (it can be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to six month and saved for another use, if desired.) The banana should be used immediately. If not, it can be pureed then stored in a container with a sheet of plastic film pressed against the top, and refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

(Disclosure: The International Association of Banana Peelers, Slicers and Blenders, nor any liquor companies, are sponsors of the site. The instructions for peeling bananas and the recipe are a direct result of my trial-and-error methods, which I developed exclusively for readers.)"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for once again giving my husband reason to think I am a total dork-I read the 'pop tart' essay and kept laughing out loud- what a perfect parity of CI. As I try to explain why I'm laughing, the looks I get proves he just doesn't get it.

That's why I love egullet---you get it!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the fact that CI has no paid advertising. I was going through the April Gourmet yesterday and the thing that stuck me the most was the adverts. I love that CI has none. I make something from CI at least twice a month. Current faves are the Soups & Stews Winter 2008 and the Best Recipes and Reviews 2008.

I love the Cream of Tomato soup recipe and the Chocolate Lava Cake recipe. Sorry no pics but I will try to capture some of my future CI experiments on film:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What really put me over the let my subscription lapse edge was the "mexican" pulled pork recipe last month. The recipe was good (not my best ever, but very tasty), but it is called Carnitas.

It isn't barbeque.

It isn't saucy.

It isn't pulled.

It's Carnitas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, I'm in the camp of originally loved CI but now feel mixed as their tone has started to grate on me... HOWEVER, I do have their "best recipe" cookbook, and have to give them credit for their BBQ ribs dry rub, which is truly fantastic. I have made very minor modifications (subbing some smoked paprika for a bit of the regular paprika called for), but it is really fantastic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What really put me over the let my subscription lapse edge was the "mexican" pulled pork recipe last month.  The recipe was good (not my best ever, but very tasty), but it is called Carnitas. 

It isn't barbeque. 

It isn't saucy. 

It isn't pulled.

It's Carnitas.

I think you hit the nail on the head with this post; what's wrong with using the REAL NAME of the dish? Is someone afraid of a little Spanish? Somehow everything in CI seems sanitized, americanized, systematized.....the whole mag is far too stiflingly whitebread and rigid; it reads like a '50s home-ec publication to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Somehow everything in CI seems sanitized, americanized, systematized.....the whole mag is far too stiflingly whitebread and rigid; it reads like a '50s home-ec publication to me.

I was trying to figure out how to describe what it is about CI that gives me the "eh" feeling. Don't need to anymore as I'm pretty much says what I was trying to figure out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I made the Chicken Satay wth Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce and we practically inhaled it. It was that good. However, and this is true with a lot of CI's international recipes, it wasn't authentic. Like I said before, this really bothers me with chinese recipes since I have a strong sense of what is "right" in that cuisine, but for other cuisines, including other asian cuisines, I don't mind as long as it tastes good. And this was definitely delicious.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking of inauthentic Asian dishes, I just remembered that I very much like the Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken recipe from Sept. '04. I'm not sure what an authentic recipe would be, but I don't imagine it would include peanut butter.

Tonight I made the Lasagna with Hearty Meat Sauce from The New Best Recipe. My first attempt at a standard lasagna, and it turned out quite good. Not earth-shattering but a good basic recipe with room for experimentation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Speaking of inauthentic Asian dishes, I just remembered that I very much like the Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken recipe from Sept. '04. I'm not sure what an authentic recipe would be, but I don't imagine it would include peanut butter.

Tonight I made the Lasagna with Hearty Meat Sauce from The New Best Recipe. My first attempt at a standard lasagna, and it turned out quite good. Not earth-shattering but a good basic recipe with room for experimentation.

This, maybe?

I like the idea of Cook's Illustrated, but every time I open a copy, it seems fully 9/10ths of all the recipes require an oven for some step, which I do not have. I realize ovens are used for most Western dishes, but I wonder how much of it is really necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have several issues with CI:

First of all, its freakin' ridiculous to find some of their recommendations if you don't live in Boston. Since it is a national magazine, you'd figure they'd take into account.

They point out something as best value for the price, but once you start calculating the gas you used driving to look for the item or the mail and shipping, is it really best value anymore?

And, the only reason they started off with no advertising is because they initially couldn't find any advertisers. These days, they don't put any ads into their magazines but that doesn't mean there's no promotions or advertising. On PBS, you see ads and when you buy an OXO salad spinner, there was a promotion about CI magazine.

Plus, I actually wouldn't mind if they accepted advertising, esp. something non-cooking related, if it would stop the shilling. I've noticed how their recommendations have changed through the years, even with really no new products in that marketplace. For example, this month's recommendations for mandolines and how much that varied from its previous testing. If CI wasn't as reliant on subscriptions, would they keep on needing to always change their previous recommendations?


Edited by mcohen (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Speaking of inauthentic Asian dishes, I just remembered that I very much like the Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken recipe from Sept. '04. I'm not sure what an authentic recipe would be, but I don't imagine it would include peanut butter.

Tonight I made the Lasagna with Hearty Meat Sauce from The New Best Recipe. My first attempt at a standard lasagna, and it turned out quite good. Not earth-shattering but a good basic recipe with room for experimentation.

This, maybe?

I like the idea of Cook's Illustrated, but every time I open a copy, it seems fully 9/10ths of all the recipes require an oven for some step, which I do not have. I realize ovens are used for most Western dishes, but I wonder how much of it is really necessary.

Is not having an oven common in Japan? In my experience all but perhaps the smallest apartment in the US has an oven. Others can correct me if I am wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is not having an oven common in Japan?  In my experience all but perhaps the smallest apartment in the US has an oven. Others can correct me if I am wrong.

I wouldn't say it's common, but in Japan an oven in almost always a separate purchase. The only people I know in Japan who don't have ovens are ex-pats who aren't in Japan on ex-pat deals (i.e. are not working for large multi-national corporations, so they don't get the standard perks that come with those kinds of deals).

There may be some young single Japanese who don't have ovens, as well, but they're usually people who don't cook much (other than to reheat things in the microwave).

I'm still waiting to find a CI recipe I like. I've tried some of the baking recipes that people have raved about (a chocolate cake, etc.), but I was disappointed in all of them. They're usually too sweet for my tastes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm still waiting to find a CI recipe I like.  I've tried some of the baking recipes that people have raved about (a chocolate cake, etc.), but I was disappointed in all of them.  They're usually too sweet for my tastes.

Have you tried their Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake? That's not sweet at all.


Edited by merstar (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Somehow everything in CI seems sanitized, americanized, systematized.....the whole mag is far too stiflingly whitebread and rigid; it reads like a '50s home-ec publication to me.

I was trying to figure out how to describe what it is about CI that gives me the "eh" feeling. Don't need to anymore as I'm pretty much says what I was trying to figure out.

Kinda like Consumer's Reports - very detailed info on the trees, but blind to the forest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kinda like Consumer's Reports - very detailed info on the trees, but blind to the forest.

I wonder how much of this is perception, and how much is reality.

I wonder what folks would say about the CI recipes if they weren't each preceded by a page-and-a-half of pseudo-scientific* detailed analysis, and instead started with something like, "Here's a recipe handed down to me by my great-grandmother."

Would people still think the recipes were soulless, or would they simply say, "Terrific recipe, but I needed to give it a little more (fill in the blank) to suit my own tastes"?

Don't most people end up adjusting *most* recipes to suit their tastes? And isn't that what the CI cooks are doing when they start off by identifying what suits THEIR taste in a given dish, and then adjusting over and over 'til they achieve it dependably?

I wish all cookbook authors were that willing to test, and retest, their recipes before putting them into print.

BTW, I just finished "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles," and in it, Jennifer 8 Lee talks about how ovens are very rare in Chinese homes.

--Josh

*I shouldn't have said "pseudo-scientific." Much of it IS scientific, and often good science. But the desired results are entirely subjective.


Edited by Josho (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm still waiting to find a CI recipe I like.  I've tried some of the baking recipes that people have raved about (a chocolate cake, etc.), but I was disappointed in all of them.  They're usually too sweet for my tastes.

Have you tried their Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake? That's not sweet at all.

That was one of the first ones I tried. I can't remember what it was I didn't like about it--I think it turned out too dry and it overflowed in my pan (despite my measuring how many cups the pan would hold, to make sure it was the right size).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kinda like Consumer's Reports - very detailed info on the trees, but blind to the forest.

I wonder how much of this is perception, and how much is reality.

I wonder what folks would say about the CI recipes if they weren't each preceded by a page-and-a-half of pseudo-scientific* detailed analysis, and instead started with something like, "Here's a recipe handed down to me by my great-grandmother."

That is an interesting point, Josh. Of course, it is hard to separate one's opinion of the article from one's opinion of the recipe, but I appreciate the reporting of the iterations they go though, and I use that information to guide the iterations I then go through. Almost all of the CI recipes I am posting about have been tweaked in one way or another, just like all the recipes I post about from other sources. I personally feel like I have a better ability to tweak the CI recipes due to the detailed articles, but of course others' mileage may (and does!) vary. For me it comes down to hit rate: I am not willing to tweak a poor recipe to meet my requirements, only to make a decent recipe a good one. And to my tastes, CI provides a consistently high percentage of easily-tweaked, decent-to-start-out-with recipes, as compared to almost any conventional cookbook (there are a few notable exceptions, of course...Zuni comes to mind).

I personally believe it is up to the cook to add soul to the dish: you can't get that from a recipe, no matter how florid the prose or exotic the ingredient list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm still waiting to find a CI recipe I like.  I've tried some of the baking recipes that people have raved about (a chocolate cake, etc.), but I was disappointed in all of them.  They're usually too sweet for my tastes.

Have you tried their Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake? That's not sweet at all.

That was one of the first ones I tried. I can't remember what it was I didn't like about it--I think it turned out too dry and it overflowed in my pan (despite my measuring how many cups the pan would hold, to make sure it was the right size).

That's too bad. I've made it countless times and it's very moist. Could you have baked it too long? Or maybe you used a higher percentage chocolate? I usually use a 60% - a higher percentage could yield a drier result.


Edited by merstar (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For me it comes down to hit rate: I am not willing to tweak a poor recipe to meet my requirements, only to make a decent recipe a good one. And to my tastes, CI provides a consistently high percentage of easily-tweaked, decent-to-start-out-with recipes, as compared to almost any conventional cookbook (there are a few notable exceptions, of course...Zuni comes to mind).

I personally believe it is up to the cook to add soul to the dish: you can't get that from a recipe, no matter how florid the prose or exotic the ingredient list.

I agree fully; I think CI's hit rate is better than just about any other single source of recipes. Moreover, their articles do a far, far better job of letting me *understand* why certain techniques work the way they do. So when I improvise, or tweak, I'm not doing it in a vacuum.

And I also agree about the soul in a dish coming from the cook, not from the book.

--Josh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is not having an oven common in Japan? In my experience all but perhaps the smallest apartment in the US has an oven. Others can correct me if I am wrong.

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that ovens weren't common in Japan, just that I don't have one. It makes cooking most western dishes difficult for me, since most recipes call for one. I have a recipe from the February 2008 issue for chicken in a pot - it looked interesting, until I read that the chicken is put in a dutch oven, then put inside a regular oven. I guess I was wrong, but I thought the whole point of using a dutch oven was so that it could be cooked over a direct flame. But anyway, it called for being cooked for 80-110 minutes, and then I thought about what that would do to my gas bill, and I hurled the magazine into a corner. Where it has sat until I dusted it off just now to see what month it was.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I  made the Chicken Satay wth Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce and we practically inhaled it.  It was that good.  However, and this is true with a lot of CI's international recipes, it wasn't authentic.  Like I said before, this really bothers me with chinese recipes since I have a strong sense of what is "right" in that cuisine, but for other cuisines, including other asian cuisines, I don't mind as long as it tastes good.  And this was definitely delicious.

This is my observation as well. The ethnic stuff isn't too authentic. But typically, they are pretty good versions of non-authentic cooking. In many cases, probably better than what you can get at your supposed "ethnic" restaurant. So many of those are for far from authentic, too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×