Cooks Illustrated. For me, it's no longer the "authority" on everything.
Before becoming a CH, I took their tests and advice as the ultimate authority. I'd say, for instance, "Well, CI ran tests and determined that artificial vanilla is better than the real thing." Over the three years of reading CH, I find over and over that CI and ATK get proven wrong fairly often. I subscribed to the print magazine for a few years and stopped mainly cause I thought they were dumbing down their recipes. I still have some of their cookbooks and do refer to them. Their creme brulee is better, IMO, than any I've had in a restaurant. I think their Best Recipes is a terrific all-purpose reference and one that a beginning cook can have success with. But it's rarely ever the first book I turn to. No slight to them, just kudos to the Chowhounds who helped me become more proficient. Any other thoughts out there?
I agree with you on the vanilla issue, one of a number of points on which my taste/opinion differs from theirs. And I no longer subscribe because, owning all the issues since CI began, I was finding that their content had gotten repetitive, tweaking previous recipes so as to have something (unnecessarily) "new" to offer. The final straw was their inclusion of Perdue ground chicken in a shortcut chicken soup.
That said, I still regard their results as definitive, unless I have personally experienced otherwise. They do a better job of developing and explaining recipes than their competition, and do not appear to be beholden to anyone. Some of my disagreements with their recipes are doubtless just matters of personal preference and individuals' differing perceptions..
You're so right about both institiutions. I still look to both of them for information, but i've noticed that they both tend to give BIG demerits to price, period. I'd be more comfortable if they said "pricey but work REALLY well" more.
I think they're both victims of statistical research.
I don't consider anyone the ultimate authority, as tastes and opinions will vary. Their process is interesting. I happen to have a different palate I do enjoy reading about what happens when they try different techniques or alter percentages of ingredients, but I probably won't use their recipe or will wildly alter it to suit my needs That works for me.
Regarding their vanilla test, it seems to me that they said they couldn't tell the difference in most things. They also say that their chefs still use real vanilla most of the time.
I still like their recipes and their ratings. I don't see any sense in accepting them as a supreme source of knowledge and when they pick a stainless steel ice cream scoop as a winner, I have a tendency to think I want to make sure that the next ice cream scoop I buy is that style and stainless steel. I don't need to buy that one.
As far as chowhound goes, I have gotten some great tips and links from the most obscure threads. If advice or technique is given on chowhound, I look for confirmation from at least 2-3 chowhounders then if I am interested I seek further info elsewhere.
I have found that anywhere that personal opinion is involved they are subject to little prejudices and myths that come along for the ride.
Bottom line. I love to get others opinions, both personal and professional, but I prefer to confirm it on my own.