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Cook's Illustrated Cookware picks

While reading the Oxo duds thread, I noticed that several of the Oxo products were called out even though they had been favorites of Cook Illustrated equipment reviews. For those who've never heard of them, CI is like the Consumer Reports of cooking.

What's been your experience with CI's equipment picks- were they really the best or did you end up being disappointed with them?

Even though I've heard horror stories about CI's website, I think I'd sign up for it just to read through their equipment reviews. But, if their reviews are off, then I can just avoid that whole mess.

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  1. I don't know about the CI reviews but I do know that the advice/experience of fellow chowhounders is excellent. I would rely their opinion before I'd pay attention to any website/magazine.

    My advice: save your $$$ & ask the chowhounders. Also the reviews on sites like Amazon & Williams-Sonoma are very helpful.

    1. I've always found CI recommendations to be spot-on. They put each piece of equipment, whether it's a $10 fish spatula or a $200+ dutch oven through an array of cooking tests, as well as testing for things such as whether something is truly dishwasher safe (after 100 washings) or the level of its breakability. They also take price into consideration -- when the winner is, say, an All-Clad skillet or a Le Creuset dutch oven, they always provide a cheaper "best buy" alternative.

      The other important thing to note is that the Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen organization is nonprofit. They don't accept advertising at all for their TV programs or magazine. So there's no worry that they're choosing according to advertising pressure. I'd suggest you get a free trial and judge for yourself. I find their assessments to be far superior to anything you'd read on Amazon. Fellow Chowsers are great at providing their own experiences (and I've benefited from much of the knowledge on this site), but CI fully explains their tests and rationale. Any time you'd buy a computer or some other expensive piece of equipment, you'd survey your friends as well as read something like Consumer Reports, right? Same idea.

      7 Replies
      1. re: herring

        Maybe, its just me, but I'm not a fan of CI's current model where they charge their readers and subscribers money to get access to their website. And, to ensure that their readers and subscribers will want to read their website, CI will publish truncated reviews in the magazine where you can only read the rest of that review on their website.

        If it meant CI didn't need to resort to such tactics, I wouldn't mind if CI accepted some advertising as long as it didn't compromise their material. Maybe, just accept advertising from people you know you're not going to review like companies that make kitchen ovens or ranges.

        The whole 'we don't accept advertising' was born out of necessity when CI started because they couldn't find advertisers, and they've succesfully spun that necessity into a virtue.

        1. re: hobbess

          Actually the magazine has full reviews, while the website has truncated reviews. I only subscribe online so I take notice.

          The online sub gets you access to all of their mag recipes from all the years. That is worth the charge. Plus, they do not accept advertisers and that is the way it should be.

          I love and trust their equipment reviews...

          1. re: Becca Porter

            I have to disagree with that. I know because that's happened to me several times.

            I wanted to see if there had reviews on a specific product, and found out that CI had done a review on that product in a specific month like June09. So, I'd comb through my food magazines to see if I had that particular issue and find that magazine. Yet, when I read through that magazine, I couldn't find the information I was looking for. CI might have an abbreviated comment about one product in the series of products they reviewed. To read the rest, the magazine would state 'for complete testing results, go to their www.CI/junXX."

            I wouldn't begrudge them if they wanted to charge non-subscribers. But, when you have the hardcopy of that month's magazine and yet can't find the complete equipment review, I think that's a bit too much.

            1. re: hobbess

              Can you give an example? I've never noticed a "you can't read this review unless you are a website subscriber" in the hard-copy magazine.

              Personally, as a magazine subscriber, I wish CI would offer a discounted rate to the site, but its their strategy, and I won't pay full-price for access to a magazine I already get, so no deal.. that's capitalism for ya. But I've never felt the website was superior, depriving me of material I couldn't get in the hardcopy.... maybe I don't have access to a blog or something, or maybe a few recipe variants, but nothing significant..

              And please stay on point.. your comments below about troubles with your internet service provider don't really relate to CI's performance and can confuse readers.

              1. re: grant.cook

                No example, but I can say for certain that many times the show, magazine, and website are not in sync. I love all three and start any research with their site, but you cannot take their word as the bible.

                1. re: grant.cook

                  I've got several specific examples where it literally said what I quoted, but I guess we're not allowed to talk about it...

                  1. re: grant.cook

                    I believe if you subscribe to the website, they do offer you a discount on your magazine subscription.

                    I only subscribe to the site as you can read the magazine online.

                    Also, I did the 14 day free trial online and then got an email offering a discount to subscribe so that's when I signed up.

                    Hope that's helpful.

                    And to stay on topic.. I have had good luck with their recommendations.
                    They've usually been spot on for me.
                    Maybe a few small gadget items they don't or no longer recommend work fine for me.. such as my zyliss garlic press is still going strong.

          2. I find their reviews to be pretty spot on... I've purchased a few of their top picks and have found them to be solid buys. They do tend to not cover niche products, so you might not see some super high end or imported line of cookware, but I think that's natural - you want to review products that you audience is likely to come into contact with. They also seem to be honest about value - they for example always seem to rank All-Clad high, but also mention that the Tramontina set at Wal-mart is almost as good and 1/3 the price..

            1. The only thing we have that CI recommended was a micro plane grater.
              Mrs. Sippi gave it to me for Christmas. For things like nutmeg it's great but too small for lemons or parm IMHO.
              So good but limited. Not what I would recommend.

              So I ended up with a larger MPG as well.

              DT

              1. While I may agree with the conclusions CI reaches about what it tests, I sometimes find that what they test is limited to choices I would not have included in the real of possible choices in the first place. However, for good assessments of mainstream stuff they seem to be good. The equipment reviews are probably the last reason I look at CI. I lke the way they break down recipes and tell you what works and what doesn't and why.