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should I subscribe to Cooks Illustrated?

Will I learn things I can't learn by searching the Chowhound Home Cooking board? I'm thinking of subscribing only to the online version, not the hard-copy version.

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  1. You will learn some interesting and useful things, whether you learn enough to justify the cost only you can say. I'm not too familiar with the website but I believe the magazine ran out of ideas about 5 years ago. That's a year before I let my subscription lapse.

    1 Reply
    1. re: inuksuk

      I subscribe and find it interesting to read. There are rebates sites and discount subscription services online that you can go through to save money on the subscription. For example, when I last renewed, I received 25% off of the regular price. Not trying to shill here, so if you would like more info, please let me know (don't want to break any rules here!)

    2. I find the website to be very informative, not only for recipes but also for pretty good product tests. They're thorough about describing the tests, so you don't just have to go by their list, you can make some decisions based on whether they tested the things you're looking for in a product. Ditto with the recipes...the big difference between CI and other magazines and sites is that they describe a process by which they ended up with their final recipe. So, you can alter the process if you're looking for something different as an end point.

      1. I've been a print subscriber for years. I think reading about the process to be the most valuable part. You don't get that anywhere else. I've been a recipe tester also. It's fun to do that occasionally and see how they develop recipes and instructions.

        They definately made Thanksgiving better with detailed brining instructions for turkeys. I don't like their approach to ethnic foods - especially Indian. They are very "Americanized and bland." However, that's not a big focus for them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: TexasIndia

          Most of my cooking is Chinese, Japanese, and southeast Asian. Thanksgiving dinner is the type of meal I'm least likely to cook. It's very helpful that you pointed out Cook's Illustrated bias.

          Are there other magazines or websites that have a strong emphasis on process, like Cooks Illustrated, but have broader coverage of cuisines?

          1. re: TexasIndia

            have to agree with you. good on method & technique. not so much on spice/ethnic. i've found that if i roughly double spice quanities, especially garlic & peppers, the rest of the recipe is usually good.

            what i do like about their approach to ethnic is that they try to do it without using too exotic of ingredients. in parts of the country where ethnic markets are few & far between (like where i live), that's a big boon; you can always use the real stuff if you have access, the recipe will just be that much better. i figure it's better to get a reasonable facsimile of the real thing than to not have it at all. if you really like it, you have a jumping off point. if you don't, at least you don't have $40 worth of spices/condiments you probably won't use.

            the other issue i have with ci is their definition of what constitutes week-night cooking. they will often tout something as having been streamlined enough to do on a weeknight, and yet it still winds up taking up to 3 hours, including clean-up, to be done with it. in my book, weeknight cooking takes no more than 45 minutes prep & cooking time, and 15 minutes clean-up.

            i also concur with inuksuk that ci seems to be running low on ideas. unlike inuksuk, i still subscribe.

          2. I have been a subscriber to CI since issue 1, and there is enough useful info to make it quite worthwhile. What I have done after a couple of years of getting the individual issues, was to bail on those and get the bound volume at the end of each year. This has all four issues in a hardbound book with an index for all. It is much more user friendly to have them organized this way. You can get set up so they will send you the volume when it comes out automatically.

            1. I do enjoy reading the articles, but rarely make the recipes. On the whole I've found their recipes to work well and be entirely satisfactory, but never WOW! Maybe their process of making a recipe hundreds of times so you only have to make it once beats the wow out of it.

              But I still enjoy reading what they did and their tips, reviews, and tastings. I've settled on subscribing to their website, instead of the physical magazine. That way I find updates, too, automatically. And I have no room to store the magazines.