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Jul 21, 2009 03:22 AM

Cooks Illustrated

I just received a free copy with a "special" price for a years subscription. I am leaning towards sending in a check but wondered what the opinion was about this magazine.

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  1. It's excellent. Be careful though, there are many horror stories on people trying to cancel their subscriptions and having to jump through many hoops.

    We got a subscription as a wedding gift. We kept it up for a few years but money got tight a few years back and it was up for renewal. We opted out without any trouble. We just pick it up at the store now.
    I've also bought books off them without all the troubles people have posted about on these boards.


    1. I got this for a few years and was not a fan. While I can appreciate the diligence that it takes to find the perfect way to make a recipe, I found reading the articles to be tedious. They have a big section of tips from readers, which would sound promising, but it felt almost juvenile at times. And, worst of all, the editor's column every month was the most disingenuous, annoying, and lame piece of writing I've seen in a long time. He tries to pass himself off as an "aw shucks" Vermont farmer, but at the same time he manages at least two monthly magazines, a TV show, and a book publishing operation. At best, he's a gentleman farmer and there's no shame in that, but he tries so desperately to pass himself off as a genuine Vermont farmer. It made me despise him.

      4 Replies
      1. re: glutton

        See, Mrs. Sippi sees it as, he's in charge of his little empire but in the end, he's still just this simple Vermont farmer.
        I on the other hand don't care enough about him to form an opinion. I like the books, magazines and the shows. That's about all I really care about.


        1. re: glutton

          He's a great writer, but he's critical of those TV food people who he really looks down upon like Rachael Ray and company. I personally like to look at all levels of cooking to learn.

          1. re: jchamberlain

            In our culture, true expertise is rapidly being diluted by non professionals (or enthusiastic amateurs) whose only exceptional talent is their ability to speak confidently. True expertise is a rapidly dwindling commodity. While everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion, it is important to recognize that not everyone's opinion is worth the same amount. I am most definitely an enthusiastic amateur cook, but I would never presuppose that my skills are equal to a properly trained chef. (Yes it's *possible*, but I would never presuppose this).

            So from my perspective, I really don't have a problem with Kimball calling out people who lack genuine talent or training, but present themselves to an audience as possessing those attributes (whether explicitly or implicitly). Kimball repeatedly admits that he has no formal cooking training. He *is* the enthusiastic amateur, but he surrounds himself by properly trained chefs. That's part of the magic of CI, and it's what makes it more genuine than a Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee who buys recipes and really just do what they're told. You're not getting the genuine article with them. But they both have their schtick, speak confidently, and present you with ideas that an audience assumes are their own.

            Having said that, I also can't stand Kimball's editor's commentary in each issue. It's the only part of the magazine I skip over. It's as if he and Garrison Keillor are duking it out for the Downhome Folksy Award.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              For all the issues with Chris Kimball and CI, I will forever adore him for being so forthright when a reporter asked him about cooking times in recipes...his response was "utter's all marketing."

              I do like CI; it's introduced me to some excellent tools and techniques, but just like every cooking magazine I've ever subscribed to, it gets repetitive and I dropped it after a couple of years.

        2. I've subscribed to Cook's Illustrated for several years, and I think it's the best cooking magazine on the market. (I also subscribe to Cook's Country, which I consider almost as good as CI.)

          Earlier this year, I took out a subscription to their website,, not knowing quite what to expect from it. (Cook's Country has a separate website.) As it turns out, I love it! The website contains all the recipes, taste tests, and equipment tests ever printed in the magazine, and their search engine is very efficient. When the time comes, I plan to let the CI subscription lapse and just go with the website.


          3 Replies
          1. re: lscanlon

            I did the same years ago; love the website, easy to save recipes.

            1. re: lscanlon

              I agree about the website being superior to the magazine: much of the same information in the magazine, plus a ton of additioanl resources.

              I had subsscribed for one year, then switched to online only.

              1. re: foodiefan6

                Me, too. Love the website AND you get the new issue there every month

            2. I subscribed for a few years, and I found that eventually the methods CI used to produce the "perfect" or "best" dish grew increasingly bizarre.

              Couldn't agree more about Kimball's precious, arrogant editorials.

              Taste test articles also grew increasingly unreliable. They seemed rigged to produce a different result than other sources (e.g., Maille dijon mustard being rated lowly in favor of a common American dijon). Book reviews disappeared.

              It's Kimball's magazine about Kimball's taste and Kimball's opinions. I live just fine without it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jmckee

                Dan Goldberg, who used to publish a great food'n'cookin' newsletter called The Curmudgeon's Home Companion, had a running gripe about what he called "Chris Kimball's ongoing battle with reality." If I'm going to tune into someone really opinionated I want a reliable one, like Goldberg or John Thorne. I'll trust any of Thorne's home-tested recipes before ones from Kimball and his flock of trained drudges.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I miss The Curmudgeon so much. Does Goldberg write anywhere else?

                  1. re: glutton

                    He claimed he was gonna blog. I haven't looked for it lately; if I started in reading all the blogs that come recommended to me I'd REALLY never get anything done!