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Cook's Illustrated 'Editor's Choice'

I got an email a little while ago, from Cook's Illustrated, offering me an upgrade on my online subscription. The email indicates that this premium subscription will give me access to recipes in all their cookbooks. I think their online subscription is a bit pricy already, considering that I already pay for a magazine subscription. I am starting to feel a little bit nickel and dimed to death here. Did anyone else get this email? Does this mean if the recipe has appeared in the magazine, and the cookbook, it won't be on the website anymore? That'll be a pretty serious dent in their recipe list. It's another $14.95 per year, just FYI.

Here's the gist of the email -

Upgrade your CooksIllustrated.com membership today to include the Editors’ Choice Cookbook Collection and gain access to the very best recipes from the following Cook's Illustrated cookbooks (currently 17 titles and growing each year).

NEW and EXPANDED categories of recipes

With the Editors’ Choice Cookbook Collection, you will not only find expanded recipe options in all of the categories you are familiar with on our site, but we've added, or greatly increased, specific categories of recipes that are underrepresented in the CooksIllustrated.com recipe database, and that our online members continue to ask for:

30-Minute Recipes, etc etc.

I don't think they should be charging for this additional content.

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  1. Yes, and I went for it. I have two of their books, and many, many of the recipes are not on the website.

    1. Yes, I do feel nickeled and dimed! This is what I did: I don't have a subscription anymore, I wait for after the end of the year and I buy the hardbound year's worth of magazines as cheaply as I can find them, usually on eBay. Then if I do a search on the website, it won't show me the recipe, but it will show me when it appeared so I can look it up myself. I've done the same with Fine Cooking. I like having the hardbound books to peruse, and I don't feel ripped off.

      1 Reply
      1. re: runwestierun

        There's a comprehensive index, updated annually, that you can order for around $14 IIRC. I let my subscription lapse a year ago - prior to that, I bought the index every other year, figuring that if something was in the last 6 issues, I could find it, so I didn't need to update the index every year.

        I tend to agree with other posters who note that CI rehashes the same dishes over and over. But they always did - it's nothing new. I have every issue from their start, in 1993, through 2008. There are numerous variations of fruit pies, roast chickens, braised greens, etc.

        If they offered a reasonable combination print/online subscription I might re-up. To put complaints about recipe availability in perspective, all those from America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated are available free online. Contrast that with some other cooking shows, like Lidia's Italy. Very few of hers can be found for free, AND her cookbooks/DVDs are on the high end, price-wise.

      2. I didn't bite. I haven't missed what's in the cookbook yet....!

        http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

        1. Heads up -- I haven't been able to login since "upgrading." Thanks a lot, CI.

          1. I got one of their "America's Test Kitchen -- Recipes That Work" emails yesterday, and one of the videos wouldn't play. The website said it was available with the "TV on Demand" option. These people are getting waaaay too money-hungry to suit me.


            1. As a longtime CI subscriber, I would discourage anyone from encouraging the CI nickle-and-diming subscription mill that is looking more like a striptease by Gypsy Rose Lee but without quite the personal assets to make it worthwhile. CI's recipe repertoire is remarkably narrow considering how much and how long they've published (I've written to the editorial staff on this point, after a spreadsheet index of my own creation confirmed my observational sense of this), and they've shown every indication thus far of treading mostly on variations on past themes. I don't think they are adding as much value in terms of recipe repertoire (or even technique or ingredient/product testing) as they were a decade ago; they are resting on laurels. At least for now. Maybe if we are stingier with our affection and more demanding, they'll live up to what they can become.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                Honestly, the only reason that I prefer the online to the magazine subscription, is that I can search it. Well, that, and not having to store it all.

                1. re: jlunar

                  Ditto - my magazines reached to the ceiling in my bedroom at one point, and I was starting to feel like a bag lady. So I am very happy epicurious has so many recipes, and I suffer thru paying for my CI subscription. But I think they have gotten out of hand.

                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                    I agree - the additional fees for the "premium content" are many and terrible. I have only the basic sub, and that's all I'm okay with...!

                    http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                    1. re: jlunar

                      Agree, there are plenty of sources for good, reliable recipies that don't cost $14.95 a year, and I don't like thier sales methods. Bought my online subscription for the ingredient and product reviews and tips/techniques.

                    2. re: jeanmarieok

                      I was having the same problem and solved it (at least for me) by scanning the recipes and/or other things I wanted to keep from the magazines and storing them on an external hard disk in categories that make sense to me. I recycled about 9 shopping bags filled to the brim when I was finished!

                  2. re: Karl S

                    I'm a new member here at Chow, but longtime lurker...I just cancelled my Cooks Illustrated online membership. I was paying that money so I would have access to the recipes and a nice user experience, not so that they can dangle links which I can't go read or see them. I think that's misusing your customer.

                    I just joined epicurious.com, which seems free so far, and I have heard great things from a foodie friend I really trust.

                    Unfortunately the only way companies will change these dumb overmarketing policies is if the $ get up and walk out their door.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Ew. I just envisioned a Gypsy Rose Lee routine as performed by Chris Kimball. My retinae are fried now.

                      1. re: jmckee

                        >>Ew. I just envisioned a Gypsy Rose Lee routine as performed by Chris Kimball.<<

                        DOUBLE EW IN CAPS! I can't keep food down anymore. :)

                        1. re: jmckee

                          Take off the bowtie, Chris! Take off the bowtie!

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            Please stop - I will never look at him in the same way again... :)

                        2. re: Karl S

                          Karl S, I have every issue from the charter one through early 2009, when I let my subscription lapse. I agree with you about the narrowness of their recipe repertoire, although perhaps there's not a great deal left that doesn't go beyond their self-styled purview, which seems to be popular American cuisine. They've done chicken tikka masala, a lot of tex-mex, and some Thai, ethnic dishes that are now pretty commonplace in America. I wish they'd go a bit farther afield. I'd be interested in seeing what they can do with less common offal and recipes using ingredients for which readers would need to visit ethnic markets. For the last year or two that I subscribed, I didn't find many recipes that I wanted to try, and was mostly interested in the tips and product reviews. For me the final straw was the quick chicken soup recipe, which involved ground Perdue chicken. They typically state that they prefer Bell&Evans and advise using it or other more naturally-raised chicken. Not only does Perdue lack the flavor of "better" chickens, but it's expensive and the recipe discards it after using it to flavor the broth. That recipe betrayed their oft-expressed interest in frugality for the sake of speed. If they are going to shift their emphasis from quality to speed, I'm not in their target audience.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            We think alike! Here was the letter I sent them last summer - thus far, I am strongly inclined not to renew, either.

                            "I've been a subscriber since Issue 49. I would like to offer you congratulations on your 100th issue milestone.

                            As you prepare for your next 100 issues, I have a challenge to offer to you: you seriously need to open up your range of recipes. I don't expect CI to be Mark Bittman-esque in its breadth, but CI is timid in its recipe range. I can understand that timidity if CI were Cook's Country. But the advent of Cook's Country should have left CI freer to broaden its range.

                            For example, just dealing with main course animal flesh recipes, in the last 50 issues, you've offered 4 lamb dishes, 1 veal dish, and no dish for game, rabbit, duck or goose. No organ meats (how about dealing with selecting and preparing chicken livers, one of the cheapest and most nutritious bits of animal flesh commonly found in the market? The ubiquitous Tyson livers are appalling in quality, but DeMoulas' Market Basket offers lovely, clean, and glistening chicken livers that are more reliable than the B&E ones I can get for thrice the price at Whole Foods. By the way, guys, you should also be checking the great Market Baskets in Chelsea or Reading and the Price Rite on the Lynnway in Lynn when you do your Boston-area shopping or you are missing out seriously.) You have not only updated some recipes for beef, chicken, turkey or pork, but you've updated some more that once, some even more frequently. Your coverage of dried cereal grains other than rice and wheat in paste form is extraordinarily narrow. Bean dishes that are not soups number merely three. Your treatment of vegetables is notably narrow. For but one stunning example, other than a treatment of bok choy, there is not one focus on cabbage, one of the most valuable (and easily mishandled) vegetables there is. Corn: one recipe with it as a focus. Of about 4 dozen non-soup vegetable-focused recipes, about half appear to be mixed or tubers. You can count as well as, if not better, than I, so I will forego going on in this vein.

                            You can do better than this. Your team is obviously very talented and I get and value your shtick. Take this challenge as an expression of affection."

                            1. re: Karl S

                              That's a good letter. You have done your research.

                        3. Do you really expect more for free? Really? All they are trying to do is offer their book content online so it is searchable (note, that is what most consumers want.) Creating a completely different website would not be worth the building cost, but adding it in and charging extra, well that is downright reasonable. Nickel and diming would be charging per recipe similar to iTunes, which no one seems to have a problem with.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: CommonCentsForChange

                            The problem is the way they market it. I'm not paying a yearly fee so they can send me stuff which when I'll click through, I can't access it. It destroys the user experience of getting a predictable product. So while charging for extra content seems like a reasonable concept, it's annoying marketing that is the problem. Let me guess, you're in marketing and you feel that paying customers people should tolerate being upsold all the time.

                            1. re: CommonCentsForChange

                              I've been an online subscriber for around 6 years. About a year or two ago, the website was revamped and many recipes just disappeared. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of these "editor's choice" premium recipes were part of the regular paid website.

                              I don't expect more for free, but I don't want to be charged more for what was free to the regular subscriber.

                            2. I do not like the CONSTANT harrassment I get via spammy emails even after I opted out. Angry letters did not good either.

                              "Spammy and drunk is no way to go through life" -- Dean Wormer

                              1. 1) I agree with most of the comments posted here (and I feel a bit nickel-and-dimed too), but I don't feel ripped off with the pricing because
                                2) I am not fighting with a gazillion advertisements in the magazine or online.

                                I'm not sure if I will pay for the Editor's Choice bc of exactly the reasons cited here, but for those who don't want to pay the $14.95 or whatever it is... it is still a business

                                1. $14.95 a year is not bad. It's a very reasonable magazine subscription rate.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pdxgastro

                                    $14.95 wouldn't be bad - but that is added on TOP of the $34.95 annual membership which I already feel is a bit of a splurge. Add to that annoying emails several times a week peddling their cookbooks or other magazine. I just got my renewal notice and am trying to decide whether to renew - I've made pdf files of lots of recipes I want to try or have liked - so with the sparsity of novel content - and most product reviews being irrelevant to me because I don't live in the US - it's probably not worth it.

                                  2. I have been subscribing both to CI magazine and online for 2 years. Today I tried to access a recipe only to be denied unless I upgraded my online membership for an additional fee of $19.95. I was very disappointed and a little upset, I mean come on how much do they expect someone to pay. I'm seriously thinking of canceling both the magazine and online. I try to support local business but this is a little much.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Heatherlynn

                                      I think CI is now under the misapprehension that it is somehow the "Consumer Reports" of food. Or even the Vatican of food orthodoxy.

                                    2. Agreed. I decided to splurge $29,95 on their online service and one of the first times I tried to find a recipe, I was told that recipe was in their Editor's Choice Cookbook that I would have to pay even more for. Cancelled the whole shooting match! Maybe next time I tried to find something I'd need to splurge for the Platinum Edition something or other for even more money. Enuf is enuf.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Rozalia

                                        In order to access all recipes, you have to pay $19.95 for CooksCountry.com, $34.95 for America'stestKitchen.com and $14.95 for CooksIllustrated.com. In order to access their entire site, I'm paying $70 EVERY YEAR! And since I got rid of Tivo, I decided (like a sucker) to get the season 10 DVD. I was placed on the automatic book subscription plan, with no option to opt out. When I called customer service, I was told I'd need to call back when the next season's DVD came out because it's not in their system yet so I can't unsubscribe. What are we, still in the BMG/Columbia House CD subscription days?

                                        I would have just stuck to one part of their site, but they keep shifting recipes from one part of the site to another, to make me subscribe to everything. Grrrr! One of these days, I'll finally leave them.

                                        1. re: kmiffy

                                          This reads like an abusive relationship. It's another reason why I will let my subscription lapse - I don't want to do business with a company that does business this way,

                                          I can flip through new copies at the public library and make copies of anything I might need, which is usually once in a while.

                                          Chris Kimball, take note.

                                      2. Yup...they would get rid of this Editor's Choice BS if they knew what's good for them. I too am considering cancelling my membership(s) because of this reason alone.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                          However you'll still be inundated with requests to come back....and make sure they don't auto-charge your credit card at renewal time, as I've read they've done on occasion to others.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            I never figured out why, but at one point they sent me books that I didn't ask for and billed me for them. I sent them back and cancelled my online subscription. They haven't gotten my money since. I still like their recipes, and was willing to pay for them (annual online subscription fee and I sometimes bought the annual books). But the constant barrage of solicitations to spend more money, and then the unsolicited books, just made me feel I couldn't sign up with them at all without running the risk of being charged more money without my consent.

                                        2. I used to enjoy CI but they lost me as a subscriber years ago. Their bullish marketing tactics and blatant ripping off of their consumers is disgusting. I hope all of their subscribers take a stand and send a message. My wallet has spoken for me. Now I just find their cookbooks at my local library for free :)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: mels

                                            That Christopher Kimball is "thinking" all of the time !! Guess it takes quite a bit of revenue to keep that large kitchen staff going !

                                            I have been charmed by his "Cook's Country"......love the concept of ol' time rural home cooking, so broke down and subscribed to the magazine. I am also charmed by the "country" opening on the TV program. Had been thinking of subscribing on the web, but really can't afford it.

                                            Used to get the CI magazine, but after a few years accumulation, dropped that subscription. Thought that there must be a lot of repetition.....not so much on recipes, but on shopping, methods, and techniques.

                                            1. re: Lisbet

                                              I like CC too - subscribed for a year, then bought the bound annual volumes on eBay. The total for 2006, 2007, and 2008, with shipping, was only a few dollars more than one year's print subscription would have been.

                                          2. Concur. Allowed my subscription to lapse at, what, $36 for the online? C'mon man. I was loyal at $20, and added the hard copy for another $20-$25 for g-friend for years. Greed is bad. I hope we all "check" them back to reality. "You're not in Vermont, anymore. . ."

                                            1. I've been pretty upset with the online service. I was shocked when I ordered the magazine and found I had to pay more to use much of the website and it sounds like they are even worse now. I do love the CI magazine though. I like to sit and go through the magazines more than I like searching online. I'm on the computer all day.