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Chris Kimball/America's Test Kitchen

t
themirthmobile Nov 16, 2006 07:58 PM

I saw Chris Kimball give a short talk and book signing at Vroman's in Pasadena last night. He read a few humorous emails from viewers and talked about how his staff likes to trick him when he's doing the blind taste testing. I really enjoy his show, mostly for the equipment recommendations and tips on cooking methods. However, I have never actually used one of the recipes from Cook's Illustrated or any of his cookbooks. They must be prety foolproof right? I bought the America's Test Kitchen Family cookbook and was wondering if anyone has suggestions for recipes that I should try from it.

  1. Dommy Nov 16, 2006 08:56 PM

    I've been exploring that book myself!! I made a few of the soups. So far I've made mostly soups.

    For the most part, I've been very happy having such a great reference guide (I look up tools and techniques...). However, they still require a bit of tweaking to get the flavors JUST right. For example, the Chili was a little flat, so we added beer and it came out JUST right.

    --Dommy!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dommy
      t
      themirthmobile Nov 16, 2006 10:17 PM

      i agree, it's a great reference. i like the substitutions on the inside cover.

    2. litchick Nov 16, 2006 09:00 PM

      I LOVE LOVE LOVE the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. They appeal to the sciency side of me that wonders why X works instead of Y, and if I want to go rogue and radically reimagine a recipe, which things I can change and which I should just leave be. The books are SO easy to follow, and as someone who mainly uses recipes as inspiration, it's a relief to know I can turn to ATK books for solid recipes of the things I don't yet feel comfortable improvising. They're well organized, and with all the tons of other cookbooks on my shelf (good ones too) I use ATK's The New Best Recipe as my go-to guide, and the Family Cookbook as a supplement (the puff pastry tomato tart in there is to die for and so easy).

      1. NYchowcook Nov 16, 2006 10:33 PM

        I'm a naysayer re Chris Kimball. I own The Best Recipe cookbook, and used to read Cook's Illustrated magazine.

        It irks me that his thesis is: there is One Best Way. Any other, and you're headed for disaster. I resent the rigidity and then once I read his technique, I'm anxious about proceeding in another way. The opposite of pleasurable cooking, IMO.

        10 Replies
        1. re: NYchowcook
          Dommy Nov 16, 2006 11:05 PM

          Yeah, I feel the same way about Alton Brown... But for some reason I feel more comfy messing with Chris' recipes than Alton... I think it's because ATC because also factors in a simple approach in their 'best recipes'... Like I don't have to outfit one of my power drills with a pepper grinder to do one of their recipes... LOL!!

          --Dommy!

          1. re: NYchowcook
            Will Owen Nov 17, 2006 02:00 AM

            Well, the guy who writes the Curmudgeon newsletter frequently mentions what he calls "Chris Kimball's ongoing battle with reality." I just got a sample copy of his new Cooking Country, and thought it looked good enough to try a subscription, until I saw a line saying that chicken breasts MUST be cooked to an internal temperature of 165. Oops, there he goes again...

            1. re: Will Owen
              b
              bruce Nov 17, 2006 03:30 PM

              What is this Curmudgeon Newsletter? Thx.

              1. re: bruce
                c
                Curmudgeon Nov 20, 2006 03:48 AM

                I think that I actually said that Cooks illustrated should be called Re-inventing the Wheel. www.curmudgeon.com

              2. re: Will Owen
                Davwud Nov 17, 2006 06:05 PM

                "chicken breasts MUST be cooked to an internal temperature of 165."

                That's most likely a lawyer talking. Not Chris

                DT

              3. re: NYchowcook
                DanaB Nov 17, 2006 09:04 AM

                Agree with you 100%, Nychowcook. Used to subscribe to Cooks Illustrated and have The Classic Cookbook and the Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. I stopped subscribing to the magazine, because I found Chris Kimball's take on things to be, in a way, too scientific, over the quality or caliber of the foods or ingredients used. I guess it comes down to the fact that I do not think cooking is scientific. Like art, I think you need the chef to be involved.

                Anyhow, if I want "perfect" recipes that are fail-safe, I go to Julia Child, or Marcella Hazan, or Richard Olney, or Rick Bayless, etc. I'd rather cook with instruction from a person I believe loves food as much as I do, than a technician aiming for perfection in a vacuum. My go-to book for basics lately has been Mark Bittman. He loves food and has good instruction in his book on basic stuff, like how to cook a steak or a potato. I like that.

                The only book of Kimball's that I do like is one called "How to Grill". It's a little volume which deals with the technical aspects of grilling. There, I value the input, but not over the technique or the recipes I get from elsewhere.

                Cooking is never foolproof.

                1. re: DanaB
                  NYchowcook Nov 17, 2006 01:24 PM

                  Yes Bittman (How to Cook Everything) is my go-to book now, particularly fast weeknight dinners. Suggestions -- rather than dictates -- on techniques and lots of variations. So much friendlier than Kimball. And yes, Marcella is my constant companion.

                  1. re: NYchowcook
                    b
                    Bob E Jan 13, 2007 10:29 PM

                    Marcella is the queen of the culinary dictators, at least that is the tenor of her writing.

                2. re: NYchowcook
                  Chocolatechipkt Nov 17, 2006 03:48 PM

                  I feel the same way! And not all their recipes are The Best (and Only) Way. The show I just find snarky--this is how everyone else does things wrong, so now we're going to do it TBW and aren't we wonderful for telling you. That's not to say that *all* the recipes are off--some are very good, but I resent the attitude that goes with them.

                  1. re: NYchowcook
                    s
                    sheiladeedee Jan 5, 2007 09:39 PM

                    I like the approach CI and ATK take because they explain how they want the dish to turn out, then what effect different variables have on the final product, and finally their recipe. If I want to tweak it, I know what ingredient or process will be most likely to give the effect I want. For instance, if they say that using sour cream made the dish too tangy, and I like tangy, I know to substitute sour cream for the dairy they recommend. It's the discussion of the variables they discard that makes the recipes for me.

                  2. b
                    bruce Nov 16, 2006 11:36 PM

                    I mostly like the America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated Stuff. I have that Family cookbook. I have only made one thing from it: caramelized onions for dip. I forget which section it's in. I was very pleased with them.

                    I also have a couple of smaller books from the "How to Cook..." series. I have Quick Breads, Muffins, and Scones & the American Layer cake one.

                    The scone recipe in Quick Breads, etc. is EXCELLENT! I really like it. The American Layer cake is nothing special, to me.

                    But, aside from the recipes, I enjoy the magazine (like others have said) for the equipment reviews & the techniques. I look at the recipes & think "that might be fun to try" but I usually don't. Although I did make a fritatta from the magazine that was really great, too. I didn't follow the exact recipe so much as the technique.

                    1. l
                      lowwolf Nov 17, 2006 12:15 AM

                      Gotta say, everything I've tried from ATK has come out flawlessly. Their technique for pan seared scallops has become a staple in my repertoire.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lowwolf
                        f
                        fauchon Nov 17, 2006 06:13 PM

                        Could you outline this technique for me? I'm not happy with the way my scallops come out...thanks!

                      2. The Dive Nov 17, 2006 12:29 AM

                        I've been pleased with all the recipes from Cook's Illustrated. I think the best approach is view the magazine's technique as a starting point, rather than succomb to the dictatorship of Kimball. That being said, I like the guy. Plus, I have found the Vegetables cookbook to be invaluable.

                        1. Mmmonica Nov 17, 2006 12:32 AM

                          If you're like me and sit around reading On Food and Cooking, then you will definitely love cooking ATK recipes. The Cook's Illustrated pumpkin cheesecake and the ATK's shrimp fra diavolo and four cheese baked pastas are my favorites. The recipes are fussy but they results have always been great.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Mmmonica
                            w
                            walker Nov 17, 2006 08:36 AM

                            Last Christmas I made both Cook's pumpkin cheesecake and Sunset Magazine's pumpkin cheesecake. I loved them both but lean more toward Sunset Magazine's -- more pumpkin flavor, and it's pretty because it's marbled in.

                          2. j
                            jovicevic Nov 17, 2006 01:54 AM

                            wow maybe ATK cookbook will be on my christmas list this year I love the show and I like the idea that they test and test some more so you get a rounded recipe that you can change to you own taste. I like sara moultons stuff to for that and her show was great I thing because she started her career in food TV

                            1. p
                              pixlpi Nov 17, 2006 02:11 AM

                              Absolutely LOVE America's Test Kitchen! I TIVO all the cooking shows and have most of their books. I love Kimballs' style of writing(he's obviously multi-talented!). Iremember him from my youth when he put out was it "East-West Journal"? One of my heroes. PIXLPI

                              1. Bluehound Nov 17, 2006 03:48 PM

                                Unlike some of the other posters, I don't view his Best recipes as that rigid. Hazan is rigid (and has the right to be). "The Best of" and CI both give detailed explanations of how they arrived at the recipe and what happens with the variations. I love this as it allows you to tweak the recipe to your liking and have some sense of what will happen when you make the various adjustments.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Bluehound
                                  Karl S Nov 17, 2006 08:43 PM

                                  Exactly. What ATK approach does is create an informed cook. It is not focused on the restaurant context, but the average American home with mostly supermarket ingredients, and it takes that context into account. There's some gimmickry, too, for brand identification, which is fine.

                                  1. re: Karl S
                                    oakjoan Nov 18, 2006 01:31 AM

                                    I don't know..I am really put off by their description of how NOT to do the dish at the beginning of each show..."We all love blahblah, but most of the time it's a limp, soggy, dried-out horror that would be better off in the garbage pail." Then they show you how to make sole meuniere or chili. I just can't stand that exaggerated intro.

                                    Oh, yeah, and as I've said before (probably way too many times) I can't stand one of the chefs always saying "Et VOYla!" all the time. It's as if one said "This is FORBulous!" If you're going to use French, learn how to say VWAHlah or don't say it.

                                    1. re: oakjoan
                                      Bill on Capitol Hill Nov 18, 2006 02:25 AM

                                      I started to give them the benefit of the doubt and credit them for excellent self-parody on those intros.

                                      1. re: oakjoan
                                        Karl S Nov 18, 2006 05:17 PM

                                        Uh, that's parody humor, it's not straight. They are poking fun at themselves. It's part of the gimmick. I don't mind it at all in that context.

                                        1. re: Karl S
                                          oakjoan Jan 5, 2007 09:08 PM

                                          Yeah, right. She never seems to say it in any way that sounds as if she's exaggerating or joking.

                                          I know they're a fun-loving bunch of happy-go-lucky types. They keep telling us so. Yuck on all of them except for the guy who tests equipment

                                        2. re: oakjoan
                                          janedoe67 Nov 20, 2006 01:06 AM

                                          I tivo it and Fast Forward through that whole intro.

                                    2. 4
                                      4chowpups Nov 17, 2006 03:55 PM

                                      I like the cookbook, although I don't own it. I do love his chocolate chip cookie recipe (the chewy ones) and that is the recipe I use all of the time now. I like basic recipes the best because I tend to make more complicated things which come out great but my simple stuff is lacking because of technique ie. how to cook paillard of chicken, basic gravy etc.

                                      1. Davwud Nov 17, 2006 06:10 PM

                                        I love ATK, we subscribe to CI and have 4 of their books.
                                        For the most part, things in there are simple and come out very well. There are some things that are just plain wrong though. Some of the southern food recipes I've seen are way, way too over complicated. I also find that they'll make you do an extra 15 minutes of work to produce something that's just barely better than it would've been without the work.

                                        The bottom line is. You make a recipe once to see what it tastes like. Then you make the adjustments you like and it's yours.

                                        Keep in mind that ATK has food tasters and go with a majority. If your palate is in agreement with the majority, great. If not, add more salt or whatever it is that you think it's lacking. It's called cooking.

                                        DT

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Davwud
                                          The Dive Nov 17, 2006 08:38 PM

                                          Exactly. I also like that CI has come up with techniques I would not have thought of or seen in other recipes (grilling corn with only the very last layer of husk, for example). I use CI's recipes for many of my basics (with my own tweaks), such as the corn, garlic bread, BBQ beef ribs, beer-can chicken, four-cheese pasta, seared shrimp, ratatouille, tunafish salad (really), cucumber salad, steel-cut oatmeal, berry gratin, etc.

                                        2. yumyum Nov 17, 2006 09:05 PM

                                          Everything I've made from the magazine has turned out great. And I'm a sucker for the product reviews and taste tests on the show. But I do agree the recipes can be a little bit fiddly farty and fussy, like Chris.

                                          1. MsMaryMc Nov 17, 2006 09:13 PM

                                            Don't know if it's in the cookbooks, but the Quiche Lorraine recipe on the Cook's Illustrated website (http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recip..., if you're a member) is the out of this world.

                                            1. e
                                              emilief Nov 17, 2006 09:52 PM

                                              I subscribe to Cook's Illustrated and have to say that every recip I have tried ahs turned out beautiful.I love the chicken picatta recipe, among others. Also great that there are no ads in the mag, unlike Martha's!

                                              1. JasmineG Nov 18, 2006 01:37 AM

                                                I have the Best Recipe Cookbook, and everything that I've ever made out of it has turned out well. That said, I think that Christopher Kimball is completely insuffrable and irritating, which is why I've stopped watching the show. I like most everyone else on the show, but he really rubs me the wrong way.

                                                1. Neuromancer Nov 18, 2006 01:35 PM

                                                  I enjoy reading the magazine, but recognize that there's never just one way to make any dish. I take the "attitude" with a grain of salt, and I'm not a big fan of the show. Most of the recipes I've tried from the magazine have been delicious -- eggplant parmesan, green bean casserole, carrot cake (it's my husband's birthday cake every year, now), baked macaroni and cheese, and more.

                                                  1. h
                                                    huruta Nov 18, 2006 03:10 PM

                                                    CI certainly takes an opinion about what constitutes "The Best", which I think is good and bad. I've subscribed to their magazine for the better part of the last ten years and have learned a tremendous amount. More than any other cooking source their recipes produce reliably delicious food.

                                                    However, they don't inspire creativity like many others such as Rick Bayless, Julia Child and Claudia Roden. And I think they generally use too much fat in their recipes. Yet, they are an incredibly valuable addition to the cooking literature. They often a more scientific perspective. I regard cooking as the intersection between science, art and culture. And they offer an important piece to that equation.

                                                    1. j
                                                      JudiAU Nov 18, 2006 05:03 PM

                                                      We get the magazine but I don't love it. I am always annoyed by how poor anything ethnic is, i.e. if you can't buy something in rural Vermont you don't need to include it. Everything from chili to asian food tastes like something my grandmother made in the 50s.

                                                      I don't believe that there is *one* perfect recipe and I almost always disagree with what a *perfect* recipe for the dish would include.

                                                      Frankly, I find the whole premesis to be terrible rude. There isn't a good recipe out there until we make it.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: JudiAU
                                                        oakjoan Nov 19, 2006 11:31 PM

                                                        Rotfl! I totally agree about the bad ethnic recipes.

                                                        1. re: JudiAU
                                                          p
                                                          personalcheffie Jan 15, 2007 02:34 AM

                                                          And any other method, other than the way we come up with doing it, is inferior, incorrect, or will send you straight to hell.

                                                        2. Davwud Nov 19, 2006 01:49 AM

                                                          I think some of you people are taking "The Best...." a little too seriously. What are they supposed to call it?? "The Fairly Half Decent Recipe??"

                                                          I never took it to mean there way was the best and only way to do it. Like I said above. I've looked at some of their recipes and knew they were wrong. So I didn't use them.

                                                          Do you take all your other cook books as the gospel??

                                                          DT

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Davwud
                                                            Scagnetti Nov 20, 2006 05:38 AM

                                                            I lost faith in them when they published a recipe for "Ultimate Home Fries" and then less than two years later followed up with another "Home Fries" recipe. Yankee ingenuity, reckon?

                                                            1. re: Scagnetti
                                                              gridder Nov 25, 2006 01:20 AM

                                                              Actually, I have subscribed off and on over the years and feel like there is a lot of repitition; if not exact, then very, very close.

                                                              1. re: gridder
                                                                p
                                                                personalcheffie Jan 15, 2007 02:38 AM

                                                                And they have you test recipes that have been published in mags already.

                                                                I got one sent to me, it was called a 'Mojo Marinade'. IT HAD SOY SAUCE IN THE MARINADE!! Don't know 'bout you, but to me, soy sauce is pretty much Asian, and not found in Mexican Mojo. They try, but they are not experts on everything like they claim.

                                                          2. DanaB Nov 19, 2006 08:57 AM

                                                            Nobody is calling the Cooks Illustrated people bad people. I for one just disagree with their premise, which is, self-evidently, that they are presenting what they think is the "best" way to prepare a particular dish, and they do so in a somewhat meticulous fashion. Like I said in an earlier post, I love the BBQ book I have from them, because sometimes exactitude is needed. But nothing I've cooked from C.I. recipes has inspired me like other authors have.

                                                            I'm glad they are out there, as Cooks Illustrated and Chris Kimball present a thoughtful, interesting take on food preparation, but personally I don't take them as gospel. To each their own, though -- that is what makes the world go round -- viva la difference! I'm glad we have such varied sources to learn from ;-)

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: DanaB
                                                              ChowFun_derek Nov 19, 2006 09:54 PM

                                                              For me, I see that they always define what they consider the traits of a dish to be if it is
                                                              "BEST"...if I don't agree with these parameters, I know in advance, and I move on.....to another recipe that more readilly reflects my tastes.

                                                            2. v
                                                              vanillagrrl Nov 20, 2006 02:49 AM

                                                              We love the CI books and magazine -- they do a lot of work trying out different combinations of ingredients so I don't have to.

                                                              Their advice on brining has changed the way I cook chicken and pork for the better. I love the lemon bars recipe more than anything, and we probably make the sauteed chicken breasts (from the master recipe) with the Oaxacan sauce once a month or so. Their elaborate meatloaf recipe is to die for, and they recently published a simpler recipe that I have yet to try. We like the scones recipe (I always add some kind of toasted nuts, grated lemon or orange rind, and dried cranberries). I also like the corn muffins recipe. It makes a much sweeter, moister bread than the more traditionally Southern one my mom makes, but they hold up so well that you can keep the muffins around for a week and reheat them in the microwave -- and I usually hate bread products reheated in the micro.

                                                              Sometimes I find the CI folks' tastes a little bland; I wouldn't make the Parker House rolls again, for example. They were a little too soft and gooey for me. And I was recently disappointed by their take on roasted chicken and vegetables. They had you cook the chicken and after the chicken was done you were supposed to cook the vegetables separately (to avoid saturating the veggies in the rendered chicken fat). Not only was I not impressed by the flavors of the dish, I also feel most home cooks would not appreciate taking that long to get dinner on the table (and by the time your veggies are cooked, the chicken is lukewarm at best).

                                                              So not every recipe is great, but many of them are. Their cookbooks are still among the top three I reach for when I'm trying to figure out what to make or find a good recipe for something specific (Bittman and Joy being the others).

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: vanillagrrl
                                                                ChowFun_derek Nov 20, 2006 08:10 AM

                                                                Your post proves my previous point...their definition of vegetables NOT being bathed in flavorful chicken fat...would NOT be MY definition of the "Perfect Recipe"...so I would have just skipped this one....
                                                                Schmaltz Rules!!!...those Lemon Bars are good!

                                                                1. re: vanillagrrl
                                                                  s
                                                                  Shazam Nov 25, 2006 08:12 AM

                                                                  Although I didn't care for the way they cooked the vegetables in their roasted chicken and vegetables recipe, the way they recommend cooking the chicken was great. I tried it out this week and it turned out fabulous. I didn't even bother brining the chicken and it was scrumptious - the whole bird cooked evenly.

                                                                2. a
                                                                  Ace_Mclean Nov 20, 2006 12:42 PM

                                                                  I like ATK for the most part, and have made a number of dishes with good results, and one or 2 clunkers. Kinda like some other's have said, if I already know how to make something pretty well, I take what they say with a grain of salt. But if it's something I've never tried, their techniques are usually clear enough for a first go at it.

                                                                  I'm not so bothered by them claiming to have to best recipes or techniques. What bother's me most are some of their matter of fact statements that soooo many other products or techniques are lousy. They also tend to tweak a recipe for their liking, which throws their whole premise off. Like when they made southern corn-bread, and threw a little sugar in there anyway. All this told me is that they never really prefected the recipe.

                                                                  Also, they got to talking about how pork these days has so much less flavor than it used to because they're making it leaner, etc - so you need to brine it or marinade to make it taste good. I was totally perplexed and wondered where in the heck they were buying their pork.

                                                                  Like I said, generally a good show, but sometimes they solve problems that don't exist.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Ace_Mclean
                                                                    v
                                                                    vanillagrrl Nov 24, 2006 08:14 PM

                                                                    I hate to be the one to break it to you, Ace, but there is a lot of flavorless pork out there. Supermarket pork -- meat in general -- is not always laden with fine flavors the way natural and organic meats are. And when people do cook it badly, it tastes really awful. The many who now live closer to a Super Wal-Mart than anything need all the help they can get, I'm sure.

                                                                    1. re: vanillagrrl
                                                                      a
                                                                      Ace_Mclean Nov 25, 2006 02:42 AM

                                                                      I see what you're saying. I guess I am lucky to live in a pork producting area. Plus, the locally owned grocery stores have local brands and on-site butchers where even the non-organic stuff still tastes darn good to me.

                                                                  2. t
                                                                    themirthmobile Jan 5, 2007 08:36 PM

                                                                    just wanted to give an update: i've used many recipes as a base for things i've made lately, but didn't follow the recipes exactly (due to ingredient constraints).

                                                                    however, i did exactly follow the recipe for the peanut butter cookies (which includes ground up peanuts for extra peanutty flavor!) and they were EXCELLENT

                                                                    1. e
                                                                      emilief Jan 5, 2007 11:03 PM

                                                                      I subscribe to Cook's Illustrated and find that many of their recipes are excellent. E.g. Chicken piccata, coq au vin, pasta with garlic and oi, six hour pork roast, eggplant parmesan,etc.
                                                                      I think that it is quite a service for them to try numerous recipes until they find the recipe that works. Also, their tips and testing of various products is very informative.

                                                                      1. f
                                                                        Fritz Jan 5, 2007 11:44 PM

                                                                        I like ATK. But since I'm not a skilled chef and have problems with what anyone tells me is the way, I'll vary anything I get when it comes to cooking, even my very accomplished MiL.
                                                                        Eating and cooking are for experimentation.

                                                                        1. t
                                                                          tomishungry Jan 7, 2007 06:32 AM

                                                                          Their recipes work incredibly well. I scoffed at all the minor tweaks they make to the recipes, then was converted when I followed a few of the recipes exactly. Now I follow the instructions to the letter the first time, then vary once I've set the baseline.

                                                                          The exceptions are the ethnic food. Yuck. Don't even try the Asian or Indian recipes.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tomishungry
                                                                            s
                                                                            Shazam Jan 14, 2007 06:01 PM

                                                                            Eh? Their asian recipes are fine. Their dumpling recipe is spot on, their Kung-Pao chicken is a great version of a Chinese dish and follows the philosophy of asian cooking perfectly.

                                                                            Their spring roll and Pho soup recipes are correct if you're looking for authenticity.

                                                                            I have heard some criticism of their Italian recipes, but considering some of the terrible renditions of traditional dishes I've had at Italian friend's houses and at Italian restaurants, I'd say that their recipes are quite fine (at least the ones I've made).

                                                                            1. re: Shazam
                                                                              t
                                                                              tomishungry Jan 30, 2007 08:41 PM

                                                                              I'm chinese and I don't bother with their chinese recipes after I read one or two. I tried one of their Indian recipes and it resulted in a soggy mess than I tossed. I've successfully cooked Indian food from my friend's recipes as well as the cookbooks I've got.

                                                                              Their Italian recipes are fine. I still prefer my Hazan cookbooks, so I'll read both versions of the recipe to decide which one looks better to me.

                                                                              1. re: tomishungry
                                                                                c
                                                                                cheryl_h Jan 31, 2007 06:22 AM

                                                                                I agree with tomishungry, the Asian recipes are really dumbed down to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. I've made the chicken biryani and one of the Thai curries from their recipes and found both very insipid, nothing like the real thing. I wouldn't bother with the Chinese stuff which is simply silly.

                                                                          2. jfood Jan 7, 2007 01:11 PM

                                                                            Rigid? only one way to do things? Very few chef's and cookbooks violate these edicts. And I have never felt that ATK was any more rigid than others.

                                                                            I like the way they openly try various means to achieve what they feel is a great dish. I am a very linear thinker and this helps me go through their recipe linear program and do-loops.

                                                                            That being said, I try to follow a recipe strictly if its my first try and i trust the source. If I see something in a recipe that I do not agree with I will change it. That when I kick in the other side of my brain and get somewhat creative in front of the stove.

                                                                            1. chowser Jan 7, 2007 01:18 PM

                                                                              I like the explanations they have of what they liked and didn't like. It's similar to talking to people here about recipes, ones they like and why, only more intensive. I read questions here about differences, too--eg, the difference between adding fat to biscotti and types and why it's different. You read what you can and make your own decision. Cookbooks print what they find to be the "best" recipe, only CI has the audacity to say so, and explains what they've tried.

                                                                              As a cookbook goes, I've liked most things I've made from it. Some are are lot more work for a little improvement and not worth it--like the split pea soup. But, it's only another reference book.

                                                                              1. f
                                                                                Fleur Jan 8, 2007 07:03 AM

                                                                                I enjoy reading the magazine, and I have some of the books, which I enjoy perusing.

                                                                                I have to agree with many of the OPs . The guy is just downright annoying. Everyone has his own taste in food, and he certainly does as well. He attributes his way as the best way, not taking into account differing food preferences. Many of his Italian recipes, like his meatballs, don't come anywhere close to the real deal.

                                                                                I have to admit, one tip I did pick up from Chris is just dynamite. When making Shrimp Fra Diavolo,I use his recipe . He calls for flambeeing the shrimp in brandy. His reasoning is that there are flavor compounds in shrimp that are soluble in alcohol. Who knew? I tried it and the shrimp were fabulous. Much shrimpier, if that is possible.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Fleur
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  Shazam Jan 14, 2007 06:11 PM

                                                                                  One thing to make clear: Chris Kimball is not the one who creates the recipes. They have chefs for that. Chris is simply the editor of CI and the host for ATK.

                                                                                  1. re: Shazam
                                                                                    Harp00n Jan 14, 2007 07:31 PM

                                                                                    Well to be fair about it, yes he has. His wonderful "Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook" is his reworking and interpretations of his Country Mouse upbringings. A lot of those recipes have appeared in CI. He is the overarching force behind ATK & CI. He doesn't pretend to carry the bulk of the creative culinary load like, oh say, Todd English for an example.

                                                                                    1. re: Harp00n
                                                                                      s
                                                                                      Shazam Jan 26, 2007 10:11 PM

                                                                                      If you're talking in terms of the philosophy of CI, then sure. But he's not really involved in the day-to-day operations of CI. The magazine and the TV show reflects the tastes and opinions of various tasters and chefs, rather than anything Chris expounds on.

                                                                                      1. re: Shazam
                                                                                        Harp00n Jan 26, 2007 10:21 PM

                                                                                        Well unless you have in-side contacts. which I don't, I'd say there's a lot of conjecture in your statements about the day to day of operations of ATK & CI.

                                                                                2. p
                                                                                  pastrytroll Jan 8, 2007 12:51 PM

                                                                                  I also have a love/frustration relationship with Cooks Illustrated. I love that they examine and explain techniques - and the green bean casserole made with fresh beans is a holiday classic in our house now. But every time I see a recipe specifying something like "6/17th's" of a teaspoon, all I can think is "Oh puhleeze!

                                                                                  Cooks Country is another puzzler: I know 'Taste of HOme' is one of the most successful magazines in the US, but why does CI want to claim that style of cooking? If it's only for the subscriber $ - what else? - I get cynical about the whole CI empire!

                                                                                  1. Becca Porter Jan 8, 2007 03:59 PM

                                                                                    Personally even as a long-time lover of CI, I love Cook's Country even more. One major plus is the sheer amount of recipes in one issue compared to CI. The recipes are just wonderful. The majority of the households in this country have mothers and fathers who have/get to cook dinner every night. This magazine is fantastic for them/me. The recipes are healthy (in a well rounded way, not necessarily low-fat), they are delicious, and you have quick options as well as more complex weekend options.

                                                                                    I can understand how people in large cities with a wide-range of restaurants, who eat out frequently, may be more likely to make more complex special meals when they cook. However, I need good recipes for 7 days a week.

                                                                                    I admit that occasionally some of CC's recipes include a product that I do not want to use. In the Feb/March 2007 issue they have wonderful chicken pot pies to freeze. It uses frozen pie dough. When I make them I will make my own piecrust. They do not happen too frequently and are handy for alot of otherwise good cooks.

                                                                                    I for one am very grateful that Cook's Illustrated "claimed" that style of cooking.
                                                                                    -Becca

                                                                                    1. Harp00n Jan 12, 2007 11:45 PM

                                                                                      Everything has been hashed and rehashed seven days till Sunday on this thread. The one thing that I haven't read or maybe its just escaped my aging eyes is this; Chris Kimball writes beautifully. If he never picked up a chef's knive I'd still buy CI for his touching, wry, self-deprecating essays.

                                                                                      1. j
                                                                                        jimctgc Jan 13, 2007 12:00 AM

                                                                                        I agree he writes well and his column is often the best part of the magazine. I agree with the posts that note the recipes always work out well. And I also agree that the magazine can be annoying and the recipes uninspired. How can they work out and be uninspired at the same time? Because it's recipe development by committee. The "some tasters thought..." and "others said.." reasoning means that every recipe hits somewhere in the middle. Kinda moist, kinda firm, kinda crunchy, kinda soft, kinda spicy, kinda bland, flavorful but not overpowering. It makes for respectible and successful recipes, but not exciting.

                                                                                        1. k
                                                                                          kerryfood Jan 13, 2007 05:00 PM

                                                                                          I'm also one of those who really enjoys the writing of Chris Kimball. I very much enjoy the ATK/CI books and magazines, for the semi-scientific info they include (which I just find fascinating), the equipment ratings (which for the most part I trust) and for many of the recipes. Agreed, sometimes the recipes need to be tweaked for our palates, and they are not necessarily foolproof, but I have yet to have anything that was just bad. And many of the recipes have been excellent - the previously-mentioned chewy chocolate chip cookie, the chicken marsala, and the snickerdoodles come immediately to mind. (I think those are all in The Best Recipe.)

                                                                                          I don't watch the show, but I am on the cooksillustrated.com mailing list, and I really enjoy the weekly(?) emails. I also have slowed down on buying the magazine, and instead wait until it's published in hardcover "anthology" form in a year or so - then I can usually get a special of 2 years of magazines (2004 & 2005 for instance) for the price of 1. And then all the issues are easier to keep track of, for me at least. Given the other comments, perhaps I need to take another look at my Mark Bittman book - I've only made a few things from it, but so far I haven't been impressed.

                                                                                          Oh, and FWIW, my favorites from the ATK/CI collections are the ATK Family Cookbook, and the Best Recipe. The Quick Recipe is quite handy as well.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: kerryfood
                                                                                            chowser Jan 13, 2007 05:02 PM

                                                                                            Do you find a lot of repeats in recipes from different books? I've always hesitated buying another because I didn't want the same recipes in a different format.

                                                                                          2. k
                                                                                            kerryfood Jan 13, 2007 09:52 PM

                                                                                            There are definitely some repeats - and also some differences in similar recipes. The chocolate chip cookies (labeled "big and chewy") in the ATK Family Cookbook are different than the ones in the Best Recipe - I've done both and I prefer the Best Recipe version. I've held off buying the "new" Best Recipe for fear of too many repeats. That said - I don't find a disturbing number of repeats between the Family Cookbook and the Best Recipe - or the Quick Recipe, for that matter. The Family Cookbook tends to have things that the Best Recipe wouldn't - less "standard" recipes I suppose (some casseroles, slow cooker/pressure cooker meals, a delish make-ahead french toast casserole, etc.). The Quick Recipe takes some shortcuts that the Best Recipe wouldn't, so there are differences there as well. If you are an avid reader of the magazines, you'll see overlap there, but again, it doesn't really bother me. But that's me. :-)

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: kerryfood
                                                                                              chowser Jan 14, 2007 01:04 AM

                                                                                              Thanks--The Quick Recipe sounds like something I could use for those busy nights. I've noticed differences in the CI magazine recipes and Best Recipe book, too, but I guess that's how they sell more.

                                                                                              1. re: chowser
                                                                                                Becca Porter Jan 14, 2007 11:17 PM

                                                                                                They have a newer cookbook out called the 30-minute recipe. I like it better than Quick Recipe.
                                                                                                -Becca

                                                                                                1. re: Becca Porter
                                                                                                  k
                                                                                                  kerryfood Jan 15, 2007 01:57 AM

                                                                                                  Becca - Great to hear! What do you like better about the 30 minute recipe? I have a feeling it will have to be a purchase...

                                                                                                  1. re: kerryfood
                                                                                                    Becca Porter Jan 15, 2007 04:04 PM

                                                                                                    It just seemed to have more recipes I would be interested in cooking.

                                                                                              2. re: kerryfood
                                                                                                ChowFun_derek Jan 14, 2007 04:24 PM

                                                                                                My feeling is that SO many cookbooks out there just give you 150 or 175 recipes, so if some or many are repeated it doesn't matter, when the sheer number of recipes in these boooks is SO high...

                                                                                                1. re: ChowFun_derek
                                                                                                  k
                                                                                                  kerryfood Jan 15, 2007 01:58 AM

                                                                                                  Agreed - and at least if it's repeated, I might possibly remember that I saw it... :-)

                                                                                              3. k
                                                                                                kerryfood Jan 14, 2007 02:22 PM

                                                                                                If you try it, we like the thai-style ground chicken in lettuce cups (with less fish sauce & rice powder) and the cinnamon rolls.. there are other recipes, but my mind is a blank. My only thing - I prefer the format of the Family Cookbook - more pictures. The Quick Recipe is the same format as the Best Recipe.

                                                                                                1. lollya Jan 31, 2007 08:16 AM

                                                                                                  I love it when I come home to a Cooks Illustrated in my mailbox! I guess I've never felt that the tone of the magazine was condescending, so I was a bit taken back that many of you find it so. I just see it as a resource and find the comparisons interesting to read and find that it saves me some time by getting me to a decent recipe that I then, can tinker with or add to. I'd like to hear more on why others find it so differently than I do.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: lollya
                                                                                                    Harp00n Jan 31, 2007 03:19 PM

                                                                                                    There are lots of people on this thread who do agree with you. You (plural) can disagree about the outcome of various recipes. That's fair enough. There are some Hounds, apparently, who take it as a personal insult to be told this or that recipe is the "best".and don't want their creativity stifled. Try the damn thing their way, at least once, before you start grousing. We all know people who've done some serious improvising on a new, to them, recipe and then have the stones to bitch about the results.

                                                                                                  2. AKR Jan 31, 2007 10:42 AM

                                                                                                    Whoever mentioned the quiche lorraine was dead on....one of my favorites to make in the fall so leftovers can be frozen....perfect after a day of skiing in vermont!

                                                                                                    1. Foodielicious Jan 31, 2007 03:50 PM

                                                                                                      I rely on "The New Best Recipe" cookbook for all sorts of basic home-cookin' recipes. Biggest hit with the fam so far is the pork tenderloin medalions with dried cherries and port sauce. I've also had great success with their pie crust, slow roast chicken, and scalloped potatoes. I don't turn to this book for anything particularly inventive/mod/fusion, but if I need instructions on how to prepare a standing rib-roast, I find this book much more helpful than just about any other cookbook on my shelf.

                                                                                                      1. h
                                                                                                        happygrrl Feb 3, 2007 07:42 PM

                                                                                                        I like CI magazine, the show and the cookbooks. I agree that you try the recipe once and tweek it to your tastes. I make their Chicken Marsala from the Family cookbook and have notes all over with changes I've made to suit my taste.

                                                                                                        I use the website as one of my go to's.

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