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My Aplogies, but I Need to Vent About America's Test Kitchen

jarona Dec 22, 2011 05:32 AM

You know--I'm kinda ticked off right now. I went to check my email and America's Test Kitchen sent me this email entitled "How to Make the Perfect Pepper Crusted"........

Well, I'm thinking--"This is good--maybe it is about making a perfect pepper crusted beef tenderloin, as I'm making for Christmas".. So, I open the email and it is nothing more than a teaser telling me I can get the recipe if I subscribe.

I should have known. I had a subscription to Cooks Illustrated, but I got so fed up with their constant hounding to purchase more and more stuff that I just ended it. It kills me. I love my ATK cookbook because it really is a great source of information. I do like the ATK shows as well, I find them concise and no-nonsense. However, Kimball has a set of 'em, is this guy for real??? He tries to come across as an "Aw shucks, Gee Whiz" kind of guy and he's the food equivalent of an ambulance chaser attorney. Arrrrrrgh...

Thank you for letting me vent. I appreciate it.

  1. b
    Bart Hound Dec 22, 2011 05:39 AM

    I'm with you!

    We get the magazine and pay more for the website, yet damn near every time I go on there and find a recipe I want to make, it's in "exclusive" section (or whatever it's called) and I'd have to pay even more to get it! WTF?!!?

    If it were up to me, we would cancel the subscription to the magazine and website just on princple, but my wife still likes them (and pays!) ;-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bart Hound
      jarona Dec 22, 2011 07:19 AM

      Exactly--its the principle. It kills me. Even Martha Stewart makes her recipes available on line. ATK is just so stingy...Prevention magazine is like that too. Just gets to me.

      1. re: jarona
        sr44 Dec 22, 2011 07:42 AM

        Of course, Cooks' Illustrated has no advertising, but I too still find the exclusivity of the web site extremely irritating.

    2. r
      rockycat Dec 22, 2011 07:43 AM

      Same e-mail this morning, same reaction. A few days ago my husband said something about a recipe he wanted to make from "You know, that guy you hate, the one from Vermont." Had to laugh. Yes, I like the show and the recipes work and I use many of them regularly, but his business practices make him such an obnoxious PIA.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rockycat
        jarona Dec 22, 2011 07:55 AM

        Yes he is, and it kills me that he always has that column that just sounds so sincere and honest -- go figure.

        1. re: jarona
          vintage31 Feb 17, 2012 08:24 AM

          If you watch him long enough - and think about the terrible marketing practices, you might start to see him differently. For me, sincere and honest became dishonest and sleazy. That said and like a lot of people here - I love the show and the cookbooks are bibles. These are truly recipes that work.

      2. kattyeyes Dec 22, 2011 08:29 AM

        You can unsubscribe from "Special Offers and Promotions e-mails"--I just did. That's pretty much all I get for signing up, so after reading your post and thinking it over (got the same pepper crusted e-mail today!), I cut 'em off!

        3 Replies
        1. re: kattyeyes
          Transplant_DK Dec 22, 2011 09:10 AM

          I did the same after receiving the same email and having the same reaction. For any of you that do pay and found out anything remarkable about that peppered beef, let us know ,-D

          1. re: kattyeyes
            MplsM ary Dec 23, 2011 01:16 PM

            I've unsubscribed countless times to no avail. Just like any other spammer they use that information to confirm that it's a real address - so they can send you more junk mail. This is over the course of seven (eight? ten?) years.

            My spam folder is filled with Ancestry.com, ATK and Cialis crap.

            1. re: MplsM ary
              kattyeyes Dec 23, 2011 01:23 PM

              Hmm. I believe you, but so far so good for me. I received an ATK e-mail today, "Notes from the Test Kitchen--Recipes and Kitchen Tips That Work." This is actually what I thought I was signing up for--featured recipes/tips similar to those I receive from subscribing to Food & Wine and Saveur. Today's topics: Garlic Mashed Potatoes | Roasted Carrots | Roast Beef
              White Chocolate Tasting | Perfect Kitchen Timer | Tie a Roast

          2. l
            LauraK42 Dec 22, 2011 09:45 AM

            Many faithful ATK/CI followers have said things to the effect of, "I love the concept and the recipes but the entire marketing department needs to be fired and/or shot." I've begun to agree with that sentiment the more I get to know the ATK machine. It's sad, because I don't think the super-obnoxious marketing tactics are going to help keep it going. People are going to get sick of it. ATK has been one of my main cooking and baking "tutors" the past few years and I recommend their stuff to everyone I meet who is interested in learning to cook. I hope they change.

            1. c
              Cachetes Dec 22, 2011 09:48 AM

              I really like Cooks Illustrated, but had to cut my subscription off a few years ago (I can't remember why now). For the past two years, I look fondly at my mags from the old days, which I saved. But I resist signing up for a new subscription b/c I don't want to get caught in that crazy web again. It's a shame.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Cachetes
                EWSflash Jan 19, 2012 08:12 PM

                You can pick up the magazines more easily now. Costco and other magazine purveyors carry it. I prefer doing it that way.

                1. re: EWSflash
                  coney with everything Jan 20, 2012 05:36 AM

                  And if you find them at Costco they are 30% cheaper than newstand, IIRC

                  1. re: coney with everything
                    Rella Jan 20, 2012 05:52 AM

                    Also, you can see what's in the latest issue and whether you can hold off until the end of the year to buy the 'Annual' instead of separate copies. I usually say to myself - I can wait.

              2. davis_sq_pro Dec 22, 2011 09:51 AM

                Agreed, wholeheartedly. And it gets even worse if you buy a book from them. There is some hidden checkbox or something that lets you opt out of them sending you books that you didn't order, and then making it very difficult for you to return them. An experience I unfortunately can report firsthand... Sad, because they have some good content. But the delivery mechanism is fatally flawed.

                7 Replies
                1. re: davis_sq_pro
                  goodhealthgourmet Dec 22, 2011 10:15 AM

                  the cookbook situation is a NIGHTMARE. even if you send them back, there's no guarantee they'll *acknowledge* the returns...and you end up getting calls & notices from their collection agency saying that you owe them money for books you don't own. hell, they came after me for payment on books i never even RECEIVED because they had sent them to an old address. boneheads.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                    cocoabrioche Jan 5, 2012 08:30 PM

                    Same here: Constant junk mail asking me to subscribe - and then I bought an Annual: What a nightmare. They kept sending them, and I too had problems with returns. On the other hand, i still get a laugh when a recipe calls for 7/18 tsp. Gotta be ATK. Doesn't anyone see that marketing HURTS their bottom line?

                  2. re: davis_sq_pro
                    Westy Dec 22, 2011 11:21 AM

                    I wonder why that happened. I remember back when I first started reading it, (say in 1998 or so), it had a great feel to it. A sense of 'by cooks. For cooks." And it gave a real sense of a small community.

                    And then someone must have takena (bad) marketing course, and it is one step ahead of TV infomercials. If I see a recipe I like, I get the book fromt he library. I really liked the Yellow Farmhouse cookbook, but I am done feeding The Machine.

                    1. re: Westy
                      Antilope Dec 22, 2011 06:13 PM

                      The cheapest way to get Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country is to buy used bound Annual Editions of the magazines on Amazon.com. I've purchased some years for $ 5 or $ 10.

                      1. re: Antilope
                        Vetter Jan 4, 2012 07:39 AM

                        Thanks - that's good to know! My mom constantly, glowingly references her subscriptions but I'm just not willing to fuss with all this trouble. But that's a cheap price for a decent reference.

                        1. re: Antilope
                          Antilope Jan 8, 2012 08:56 AM

                          Here's a link Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country Annual Editions on Amazon:

                          Cooks Illustrated Bound Annual Editions

                          Cooks Country Annual Bound Editions

                          1. re: Antilope
                            NonnieMuss Jan 19, 2012 07:54 AM

                            I've bought bulk lots of the old magazines on eBay several times - you can usually get 20 or so issues for around $30-$40.

                      2. e
                        eager Dec 22, 2011 06:57 PM

                        This issue brings up the competing interests of the owner/investors behind the TV show/magazines/books (no, not Santa's elves!) who need to make a living and us, the cooking public, who need high quality content, and dislike advertising and too thinly veiled hard sell marketing. My two cents? Sending books that weren't ordered, and similar behaviour isn't ethical. No matter how good the roast tenderloin recipes are, we can turn elsewhere! And, if we run into this sort of thing, so we will. Reputations are hard to build up, I hear.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: eager
                          emily Feb 21, 2012 07:32 AM

                          "Sending books that weren't ordered, and similar behaviour isn't ethical."

                          It's not only unethical, it's illegal:

                          1. re: emily
                            pine time Feb 4, 2013 12:20 PM

                            I thought that if you receive unordered merchandise, you do not have to pay for it and get to keep it. True?

                            1. re: pine time
                              LindaWhit Feb 4, 2013 12:29 PM

                              They are considered gifts and the recipient doesn't have to pay for them. Tell that to ATK, and they'll stop sending the freebies.

                            2. re: emily
                              EWSflash Mar 5, 2014 06:37 PM

                              I had to sent them a "cut it the fxxx out" letter a few years back. I don't remember the details, but they were sending me stuff that I hadn't ordered, and it needed to stop, because they were charging my bank account for the stuff they were sending. Companies like that don't get to mess with my bank account.

                              1. re: EWSflash
                                jarona Mar 6, 2014 05:02 PM

                                Luckily, they got the message from me and I no longer receive annoying emails from them anymore. The only thing I have is an Americas Test Kitchen cookbook that IS very good, but that's all I need!

                          2. g
                            gemuse Dec 23, 2011 01:59 PM

                            I had a subscription to Cook's Illustrated for about 12 years, from when they first started publishing in the early 90's, and I was a diehard fan. But over time the tone of the franchise became more and more anal and pompous, not to mention formulaic, and I started to lose interest. I find the show unbearable to watch. I still keep some of my favorite magazine issues from the 90s, but I think the business model got out of hand, and I no long subscribe or watch. They had a good thing going...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gemuse
                              EWSflash Jan 19, 2012 08:15 PM

                              I agree with you.

                            2. s
                              silence9 Dec 23, 2011 02:53 PM

                              I have received Cook's Illustrated as a gift subscription for years now, and I like the magazine. But when it arrives, each and every time I have to go through and remove 4 or 5 subscription renewal forms that they pepper through the magazine every 10 pages or so. I hate those subscription inserts with a white hot intensity, and usually end up screwing up the magazine's 'binding' by tugging too hard on the forms which are stapled in. Why do they think i need 4 or more subscription reminder/renewal forms? It's like they believe that for whatever reason I am not inclined to use the 1st one, after about 10 pages of reading i will begin to crave a renewal. And then do it again in another 10 pages. And yet again. Who's incomptenet brother-in-law was hired into their marketing department to implement _that_ decision... Listen up, Cooks' Illustrated: No double-dipping. Just put a single renewal form in the magazine, then END it...

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: silence9
                                JerryMe Jan 7, 2012 09:44 AM

                                It's like they believe that for whatever reason I am not inclined to use the 1st one, after about 10 pages of reading i will begin to crave a renewal. And then do it again in another 10 pages. And yet again

                                OMG - How funny! Too true, too true! Thanks for the laugh!

                                1. re: JerryMe
                                  skippy66 Jan 8, 2012 03:23 AM

                                  Take all those renewal forms and drop them in the nearest mailbox.

                                  1. re: skippy66
                                    Leepa Jan 8, 2012 05:27 AM


                              2. chipoltay Dec 23, 2011 03:01 PM

                                You wouldn't even begin to imagine how much money is allocated for bowties and costumes... to bring down costs one or the other could be cut from the budget. But I don't think anyone needs to see Kimball in just his bowtie.

                                1. s
                                  Shann Dec 27, 2011 04:51 AM

                                  I subscribe to the magazine and I have several of their cookbooks but I hate their sketchy marketing and teases. I signed up for the website once, but still couldn't get everything without paying more. Then my wife bought me a cookbook and they kept sending them. Finally, I hope that we've stopped them from doing it

                                  I would be much happier to wade through a few pages of advertising than dealing with their "no advertisements" way to make money.

                                  1. o
                                    observor Dec 28, 2011 01:04 AM

                                    I guess I can understand the marketing annoyances, but I have to say I have learned A LOT from CI over the years...I only subscribe to the web site and I am always using it...I like the idea they promote of perfect recipes...whether it is true, or not, is different, but I still use them quite a bit.

                                    1. a
                                      AsperGirl Dec 28, 2011 02:04 AM

                                      On a related issue, I got extremely annoyed after watching a how-to video, only to discover that I had to go to the website for the full recipe, which was then under subscription-only access. If you post a video on how to do something on iTunes, people expect exactly that -- that they will have the information on how-to do that thing after warching it. Instead, you spend time and attention on a teaser. There are some videos that are complete in themselves, and well worth watching, but some are just a waste of time.

                                      1. p
                                        Pomander Dec 29, 2011 03:18 PM

                                        I am over them, too. I had a mail subscription and the constant "offers" I would get - most from the ATK family - was way too much. I also didn't like that the cover of my magazine always had the postcard subscriptions all over it. For that matter, the covers could use a serious upgrade as well. They are not shy about promoting themselves to death. I agree on the frustration with the website, too. Constant teasers. I had a friend with a website subscription that was set to expire a few months ago. She let them know about 14 days ahead of time that she would not renew. They immediately cut her access to the site, even though she had paid for those last two weeks with her year's subscription. She didn't mind as she wasn't using the site, but still...it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Are they really that greedy? Apparently, yes.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Pomander
                                          monavano Dec 29, 2011 03:24 PM

                                          I agree about the darn magazine cover. This month's issue had a double cover and if you yank if off, you usually pull the staples out too.

                                        2. kattyeyes Dec 30, 2011 04:43 AM

                                          In a funny twist, guess what arrived in my inbox this morning? "Notes from the Test Kitchen--Recipes and Kitchen Tips That Work"--and within that e-mail, "Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon." :) A real recipe with no additional clicking or "sign up here" required.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: kattyeyes
                                            jarona Dec 30, 2011 05:48 AM

                                            WOW!!! I'm speechless...Maybe someone from ATK saw all of our concerns:)

                                            1. re: jarona
                                              monavano Dec 30, 2011 05:51 AM

                                              I thought that too... maybe wishful thinking but....

                                              1. re: jarona
                                                kattyeyes Dec 30, 2011 06:07 AM

                                                I was kinda wondering the same! ;)

                                            2. l
                                              Leepa Dec 30, 2011 06:03 AM

                                              I've been a long time detester (is that even a word??) of CI, ATK, et al. I think it came about when I received an issue with an article about "authentic" Southern cornbread and it wasn't authentic at all. Perhaps an authentic Vermont version of Southern cornbread.... I cut them off after that and haven't missed them at all. Too many good sources out there to put up with their condescending attitude and constant charges for each and every thing. Bah.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Leepa
                                                rasputina Dec 31, 2011 01:34 PM

                                                I feel the same way about their BBQ recipes. I'm sorry but it's not BBQ just because you put BBQ sauce on it. Their so called BBQ recipes spend more time in the oven than anything else.

                                                Kimball annoys the living heck out of me and the taste testing is too regional and limited. In general I liked the kitchen tool reviews but even he has does a couple real stinkers where they clearly were biased and ignored better options.

                                                1. re: rasputina
                                                  greygarious Jan 3, 2012 11:52 AM

                                                  Just the other day they dismissed the silicone mixing bowl that is one of the best pieces of kitchen equipment I have ever bought. Its completely rounded interior bottom (the outside is flat to stand stable) is great for mixing batters and doughs thoroughly with just a wooden spoon, and the flexible sides make for neat, easy pouring. Because silicone is nonstick, I don't need a spatula to get out the last of the cookie dough - I can get it all by running the ice cream scoop along the inside.

                                                  1. re: rasputina
                                                    Will Owen Jan 9, 2012 02:18 PM

                                                    I never paid enough attention to these guys to get really annoyed with them, not after one taste test/comparo they ran whose conclusions were so far from mine (I was familiar with several of the brands tested, but don't ask me "Of what?" because I don't remember) as to seem ludicrous. I do remember snorting out loud when I was reading an issue of Dan Goldberg's "Curmudgeon" newsletter, and Dan mentioned "Chris Kimball's ongoing struggle against reality."

                                                  2. re: Leepa
                                                    EWSflash Jan 19, 2012 08:21 PM

                                                    I stil watch the TV show sometimes, but when they do something "southwestern" and CK makes it clear that he doesn't like anything that's the least bit hot, I have to laugh. He's quite a pompous little bowtied ass, and very closed in his culinary thinking.

                                                    1. re: EWSflash
                                                      linus Jan 20, 2012 05:45 AM

                                                      i wonder if you could give an example of his "pompous" behaviour, or how not preferring spicy food makes you "very closed" in your culinary thinking.?

                                                      1. re: EWSflash
                                                        Rella Jan 20, 2012 05:56 AM

                                                        Wondering if a "meat and potatoes man" definition would be in order for a definition? I've heard many women describe their husbands this way, but I'm not sure he's that closed.

                                                        Do you suppose he has the final say on what recipes they'll be demonstrating, or he just stands around and comments.

                                                    2. r
                                                      rasputina Dec 31, 2011 01:26 PM

                                                      Their money grubbing marketing philosophy has completely turned me off of them. Well I have some other issues with them too, but I used to have multiple subs, but they finally ticked me off with their cash grab policy and I cancelled everything. I'm done. I even deleted my season pass to their show I was so pissed off.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: rasputina
                                                        Rella Jan 2, 2012 10:25 AM

                                                        I've been a good customer for years. I just got through responding to a poster asking about favorite DVD's. My favorite cookbooks with corresponding DVD's have been ATK's Seasons 2 through 10. I've also bought a number of annuals and MANY of their books.

                                                        But after my last few dealings with them by mail, I'm done, I'm done, I'm done. I will continue to buy their books when I see them at Costco. Otherwise, I'm DONE!

                                                      2. c
                                                        cstr Jan 2, 2012 12:22 PM

                                                        What really gets me is when they say, on their TV program, that the recipes are available online. So here's an example; They did a cupcake show a while back. I went online, yes I'm registered, and got the cupcake recipe but, when I looked for the frosting recipe, it was under the exclusive section. What's that about?? Needless to say, I don't watch them anymore, I'm done with ATK.

                                                        1. w
                                                          Westy Jan 3, 2012 06:40 AM

                                                          What I found as an interesting comparison are the jamie Oliver magazine, books, and shows as well as River cottage (you can get the shows off their web site). Better recipes, just as well thought out, and way less marketing. ATK could take a lesson.

                                                          1. Antilope Jan 3, 2012 11:05 AM

                                                            Well it is a test kitchen. They are just testing how many ways they can get money out of you. ;-)

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Antilope
                                                              basildip Feb 20, 2012 06:24 AM

                                                              Thanks for helping me laugh at this show and website. I was once signed up to receive their emails. I didn't even last a month. I couldn't find a way to move my curser, without "ordering" an unwanted book. This happened twice in a short space of time. After returning the books, I had a hard time getting them to cease and desist billing me. Needless to say, I cancelled my limited access to their website with some harsh words. After reading these posts, I now know I am not crazy. I carried that anger for 3 years. What a relief to finally laugh ai ATK.

                                                            2. r
                                                              Rella Jan 3, 2012 12:19 PM

                                                              Re: ATK TV shows. I was under the impression that they accept no advertising, thus making their testing of kitchen food/appliances unbiased.

                                                              And correct me if I'm wrong, are there not some sponsoring or advertising at the beginning of the program - is this advertising 'not' sponsored by ATK, but by the TV station producing the show?

                                                              Or am I mistaken that there are no ads, whatsoever, at the beginning and ending of their show?

                                                              I've always wondered about this.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Rella
                                                                Leepa Jan 3, 2012 07:10 PM

                                                                The "sponsor" of the show is not regional. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if there was a little bias in their equipment testing given this:


                                                                I find it interesting that the photo that accompanies this page is of the supposed "unbiased" testing segments. Comments?

                                                                1. re: Leepa
                                                                  Bart Hound Jan 4, 2012 06:56 AM

                                                                  Interesting!!! It seems like they are very much for sale.

                                                                  Here's a blurb one click away from the link above:

                                                                  Paper Towels to the Rescue
                                                                  We use a lot of paper towels when cooking, so paper towels gets a ton of exposure on every episode whether we’re patting down chicken, cleaning a grill, or squeezing the moisture out of shrimp! Let us know if your paper towel wants a starring role on America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country TV.

                                                                  1. re: Bart Hound
                                                                    Rella Jan 4, 2012 07:35 AM

                                                                    Probably I am too biased about ATK's appliance tests because there is one product that I dislike that millions - if not billions ;-)) -- of people adore and defend. I never mention the brand to anyone anymore; basically try to ignore the accolades.

                                                                    I must admit I did buy an expensive garlic press they recommended although I had maybe 3 others. How gullible I am. But it is good!

                                                              2. iL Divo Jan 8, 2012 07:19 AM

                                                                feel better jarona?
                                                                antilope, good idea about the Amazon buying thing.

                                                                this year the kids asked what I wanted for Christmas.
                                                                to our DD I said, the foodnetwork magazine, cause I just got one given to me at work, the lady who's it was had finished it and was ready to toss it, so offered me the mag.
                                                                when I thought later about it, I should have told our girl that I'd like a year of CI.
                                                                oh well, this year...........

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: iL Divo
                                                                  jarona Jan 10, 2012 07:01 AM

                                                                  LOL--I do feel better, thank you for asking. No. FN magazine, isn't worth the money. I also had a subscription to that as well, and cancelled it. I think I'm done with the magazines for a while--but it is reassuring to know that others share the same thoughts regarding the advertising schemes for CI.

                                                                2. f
                                                                  freia Jan 8, 2012 10:25 AM

                                                                  I'm so mixed about ATK and Cook's Illustrated. On one hand, I hate the pretentiousness of the host and the "culture" around him -- stories of his family sitting around the pot bellied stove in Vermont, cooking fresh caught squirrel and eating it with home made popovers. Seriously???? His take on "the good old days" is tainted with modern day excess and money. Its easy to pretend you are "getting back to the old ways" with your Aga cooker, custom built home, and no end of finances to fuel this fantasy. It was a different story, back in the day, with no money, no food, and poverty at your front door.
                                                                  Having said that, I'm quite prepared to purchase the information in the magazine -- lets face it, I'm not going to make 300 roast beefs to figure out how to do it well. I'm going to pay 5 bucks and let someone else do that.
                                                                  Now, having said THAT, it takes a bit of an OCD personality to do 300 roasts varying, for example, the amount of salt in the rub (1/2 tsp? 1 tsp? 8/9th tsp?). And it does reduce cooking to a mechanical method in some ways.
                                                                  And, having said THAT, I love a predictable good recipe that I can make reliably for friends on a Saturday night, and not worry if it will turn out. I've had good luck with ATK/Cook's recipes.
                                                                  As for the website, well, teasers, entreaties to subscribe, half-recipes with the "you can see it ALL if you buy...". Just doesn't sit well with me. I'll buy the annual bound magazine collections and leave it at that.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: freia
                                                                    Rella Jan 8, 2012 01:07 PM

                                                                    I've not thought of his talk of his personal "good ole days" as compared to his present financial situation because I've not connected to his talk in that way; but what I do not like about his presentment is that he's always physically 'in the way' of the cook and has an attitude of explaining everything that the cook has said, as if it needed more explanation. Always one-up.

                                                                    In a nicer way, but just the same, Julia Child always annoyed me hanging over the stove and counter and in the space of the guest. The difference is that Julia always said, "Can you buy that ingredient at a health store; I suppose?" Whereas the ATK says "You can buy that at a health store." Go figure my annoyance :-))

                                                                    1. re: freia
                                                                      hueyishere Jan 10, 2012 07:09 AM

                                                                      I enjoy watchin ATK and Cook's Country, I have never followed any of their recipes to the letter, I don't believe that you get the same results everytime you cook. I think it also depends, what the cows, chickens, lambs, etc eat. and ingredients are not always the same, so why bother with such specifics. What they buy in vermont is not the same as what I buy in Tucson, AZ.

                                                                      If there is a possibility that the results would always be the same, please let me know what it is as I would like to get perfect results everytime.

                                                                      1. re: hueyishere
                                                                        freia Jan 10, 2012 07:47 AM

                                                                        I don't think I get textbook, perfect results every time, but I do know that with each recipe I try, I get predictably excellent results. Perhaps because you haven't followed the recipe to the letter each time, you don't get predictable results? Just thinking aloud, that's all.
                                                                        And as far as I can tell, chicken is chicken is chicken regardless of whether I buy it in Tuscon or Toronto. Commercial, grocery store chicken that is. After all, the sourcing of alot of meats is from a common lot, so there really isn't a significant enough variation to make a huge difference in the results IMHO. Now, of course, substituting a free range chicken may give slightly different results depending on where one sourced the chicken. But for commercial foods? No real difference.
                                                                        Where results may be "iffier" is when you bring altitude and/or humidity factors into baking and bread-making -- that's where the results are most variable, but I still get reliable excellent results every time. And for me, baking really needs to be precise with respect to measurements and so on.
                                                                        As for, say, roast beef that I've air dried in my fridge according to their 1995 recipe? Predictable, excellent results every time. But then again, I follow the recipe to the letter. I don't think you can get reliable results if you are varying the recipe every time you cook. Doesn't make sense to expect consistent results if you are putting a dish together inconsistently every time you make it.

                                                                        1. re: hueyishere
                                                                          EWSflash Jan 19, 2012 08:26 PM

                                                                          +1, Huey!

                                                                        2. re: freia
                                                                          iL Divo Jan 19, 2012 11:56 AM

                                                                          "I hate the pretentiousness of the host and the "culture" around him -- stories of his family sitting around the pot bellied stove in Vermont, cooking fresh caught squirrel and eating it with home made popovers. Seriously?"

                                                                          that is mighty true freia. I've often times thought "Gad Chris! What "don't" you raise/grow/cultivate/manufacture?" ;:+)

                                                                          1. re: iL Divo
                                                                            EWSflash Jan 19, 2012 08:28 PM

                                                                            Not to mention boil down ten thousand gallons of maple sap to make your own totally excellent maple syrup...

                                                                        3. greygarious Jan 19, 2012 05:14 PM

                                                                          At Costco today (Nashua NH) I noticed the enormous CI hardcover cookbook for $24 (cover price $40) and also the ATK family recipes cookbook in the hardcover looseleaf binder (forgot to check price). I was looking for Essential Pepin, which I had considered getting last month but sadly it was no longer in stock.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: greygarious
                                                                            Lesjes89 Jan 20, 2012 09:52 AM

                                                                            If you have another Costco anywhere close to you, check it for the Pepin book. There were many copies at our local Costco yesterday. The CI hardcover book was my purchase too!

                                                                            1. re: Lesjes89
                                                                              Rella Jan 20, 2012 09:59 AM

                                                                              Two Virginia Costcos abt 10 days ago/2 weeks ago had no Pepin books left, whereas they had a stack of them previously.

                                                                          2. c
                                                                            cuvee31 Jan 20, 2012 06:31 AM

                                                                            So great to find that I'm not alone. I've literally screamed at ATK for not only all the vile marketing practices they use, but twice I've responded to their offers to get stuff from their website, sent a check and STILL was unable to access what I paid for. No amount of WTF mail from me ever got a response - but I still really like Bridget and Julia,

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: cuvee31
                                                                              jarona Jan 20, 2012 06:41 AM

                                                                              I like Bridget and Julia as well...Bridget has a way of explaining things that really holds your interest. You know--she reminds me a bit of Sara Moulton. That being said, I also like the guy who does the comparisons of cookware and product and the taste testing part. Speaking of the taste testing part, I have noticed that Kimball has become agitated a few times when the results obviously did not go to his liking.

                                                                              1. re: jarona
                                                                                njmarshall55 Jan 20, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                                                Agreed. Bridget and Julia definitely make the show. Adam is always entertaining and informative. Being a "data-oriented" person, I'm always fascinated how he describes some of the tests they do. And, to be honest, I'm glad the announcer stopped saying, "Jack asks Chris..." because it always sounded like "Jackass Chris..."

                                                                                1. re: njmarshall55
                                                                                  Jambonneau Feb 4, 2013 09:41 AM

                                                                                  Yea, the gals are great. What drives me nuts is how Kimball butts in to what they are saying to make some comedy. I don't dislike Kimball's persona on the program, but it makes me crazy that he talks over information that I am trying to catch and does it just be a funny man. I have ten or eleven years of the DVDs and once had the intent to use them like a cooking school, paying close attention. It seems to happen at least once in every show that he seriously talks over something of real interest. Grrrr

                                                                                  (Even though I don't dislike CK's personality on the show, I totally agree with all the criticism here about the overly aggressive -- bordering on unethical -- marketing techniques that they use. A great example is their 14-day trial memberships. They make you sign up before they reveal the price. I'm not actually sure when the let you in on the price...might not be until the end of the trial period. Typical.)

                                                                                  1. re: Jambonneau
                                                                                    jarona Feb 4, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                                    That's so funny you mentioned the Kimball Butt In. I was watching an episode of ATK yesterday and noticed that. ARGHHHH.....the man drives me nuts!!! He is almost as annoying as Anne Hathaway! Really. I mean it!

                                                                              2. re: cuvee31
                                                                                Lesjes89 Jan 20, 2012 09:53 AM

                                                                                By the way, I entered my middle initial wrong by accident on their site and am getting lots of spam with the same name listed. Im thinking they are also selling my address to other companies. Dispicable!

                                                                                1. re: cuvee31
                                                                                  rasputina Jan 20, 2012 02:05 PM

                                                                                  I like Julia, Bridget annoys the crap out of with her "that's right" 50 million times.

                                                                                2. l
                                                                                  Lesjes89 Jan 20, 2012 09:51 AM

                                                                                  I agree, jarona! My inbox is FULL of their propaganda. I paid, what I consider to be, big bucks for their online subscription once, and found that I didnt have access to all of the website's recipes. For THAT, I had to upgrade my annual subscription. I am thinking I paid $35? For that, I should have had the works!

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Lesjes89
                                                                                    rasputina Jan 20, 2012 02:07 PM

                                                                                    They just sent me a free copy of Cooks Country and I laughed when I saw it. They aren't getting me back on their wagon train.

                                                                                    1. re: rasputina
                                                                                      Antilope Jan 20, 2012 06:22 PM

                                                                                      Look at the free copy of "Cook;s Country". There is no date on the cover. It's not a real magazine sample, just a marketing sample.

                                                                                      1. re: Antilope
                                                                                        freia Jan 20, 2012 07:29 PM

                                                                                        WOW, really? I don't have this free copy, but its a marketing sample???? LOLOLOL totally shady IMHO!

                                                                                        1. re: Antilope
                                                                                          rasputina Jan 21, 2012 06:32 AM

                                                                                          Yes I know that, they have also sent me the CI version of this marketing scheme a few times in the past. First time I've gotten the CC version of it though.

                                                                                    2. j
                                                                                      justicenow Feb 16, 2012 11:17 PM

                                                                                      We are missing the MOST aggravating aspect of all. They are PAID WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS to be on "public" TV.
                                                                                      These shows are money making juggernauts. Their websites are constantly bugging folks to buy, buy, buy.
                                                                                      They should be paying the PTV stations to air what are essentially 22 minutes commercials!

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: justicenow
                                                                                        TrishUntrapped Feb 17, 2012 04:58 AM

                                                                                        Excellent point.

                                                                                        1. re: justicenow
                                                                                          paulj Feb 17, 2012 12:31 PM

                                                                                          Many of us regard the ATK/CC shows to be the most informative cooking shows on TV, with Good Eats being the only close competition.

                                                                                          If you think of their shows as commercials, the same goes for nearly every other cooking show on PBS. Nearly everyone of those hosts has a cookbook and website that benefits from the TV exposure.

                                                                                          As for public funding, how many cents of your tax dollars go to support this show? How does that compare with your contributions to your local PBS station?

                                                                                          1. re: paulj
                                                                                            TrishUntrapped Feb 17, 2012 12:38 PM

                                                                                            That's not the point. The point is the over aggressive and sleazy selling tactics by ATK plus public funding. Others are not in their league.

                                                                                            1. re: TrishUntrapped
                                                                                              paulj Feb 17, 2012 12:50 PM

                                                                                              I learned long ago to be wary of subscriptions, especially book and record clubs, but even magazines. Even when I was paying for things by mail and check these 'no obligation' offers were a pain to get out of. I thought learning that was a normal part of a college education.

                                                                                              Because I learned that at an early age I have not had to deal with the ATK mail and email sales tactics, and don't see anything unusual or underhanded about their TV pitches.

                                                                                              I have bought a few ATK magazines from the bookstore, and have one of their books. Speaking magazines, which is worse, their selling methods, or a magazine that is 2/3 slick ads?

                                                                                          2. re: justicenow
                                                                                            jarona Feb 17, 2012 12:34 PM

                                                                                            Ohhh...very good point. I do have a question, though, and please don't think I'm a dummy by asking this--isn't Public TV paid for with those telepthons? Well--isn't a good deal paid by the private sector who donate? That said do OUR tax dollars still go to public TV? If that is the case, we should have a say in what shows are programmed:)
                                                                                            I happened to catch an ATK show during the week--Kimball is really annoying. He is beginning to look creepy and seedy to me.

                                                                                            1. re: jarona
                                                                                              greygarious Feb 18, 2012 02:34 PM

                                                                                              Every time there is a right-wing brouhaha about having to support the so-called Commie liberals over at PBS/NPR, it is pointed out that taxpayer dollars are a VERY small percentage of the annual funding of those institutions. Last year there was a failed legislative attempt to withdraw federal funding.

                                                                                              Unless you want lots of commercial breaks in your TV shows, or to wade through pages of magazine advertising to find the article you are trying to read, solicitations are inevitable. I agree that CI's publishers' methods are particularly egregious but you do not have to buy what they offer or accept the unordered publications they send.

                                                                                              1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                coney with everything Feb 20, 2012 05:46 AM

                                                                                                +1 to greygarious' post in its entirety.

                                                                                            2. re: justicenow
                                                                                              John E. Feb 22, 2012 10:37 PM

                                                                                              You do not know how PBS works. These shows are bought by PBS to air on public television, but the shows bring in much more money than the purchase cost by PBS. ATK/CC are only two of such programs. Remember that Jackques Pepin, Julia Child, Lidia 'The Slave Holder' Bastianich, and Rick Bayless also come to mind. That is commercialism at its best. Tax dollars are not really involved. Public television does receive tax dollars but most of their money comes from donations and other sources. You are barking up the wrong tree.

                                                                                            3. sandiasingh Feb 17, 2012 07:45 AM

                                                                                              Their shark-like marketing and borderline unethical practices are legendary and have been reported many times on these boards. Kimball's down-East, rural New England persona is total B.S. They are based in Brookline, MA, about a mile or so from Fenway Park in downtown Boston.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: sandiasingh
                                                                                                Antilope Feb 17, 2012 08:18 AM

                                                                                                Good point, but this is standard operating procedure for a lot of American business now. Have you dealt with the local newspaper, a cell phone company, a cable company, a credit card company lately? Most U.S. business seem to have borderline fraud and/or larceny in their playbooks as a standard tool in dealing with the public to increase their sales numbers.

                                                                                                1. re: Antilope
                                                                                                  sandiasingh Feb 18, 2012 06:51 AM

                                                                                                  I agree, Antilope--to say nothing about health insurance companies--but I also subscribe to other magazines and ATK is the only one that behaves in such an extreme way. Frankly, in my experience as a former Bostonian, this is how business is done in New England. Just part of the culture. Very aggressive, profit driven, short-term thinking. No thanks.

                                                                                              2. pdxgastro Feb 18, 2012 12:34 PM

                                                                                                This is from 2007 and somehow Chris Kimball found out about it and tweeted about it:


                                                                                                It's Gordon Ramsay's take on Chris Kimball. Biting, profanity-laced and hilarious.

                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                  nofunlatte Feb 18, 2012 01:32 PM

                                                                                                  Not a fan of either Ramsey or Kimball, but that was hilarious!

                                                                                                  1. re: nofunlatte
                                                                                                    paulj Feb 18, 2012 02:18 PM

                                                                                                    Has Tony Bordain ever taken a swipe at Kimball?

                                                                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                                                                      nofunlatte Feb 19, 2012 10:28 AM

                                                                                                      Don't know about that, paulj. I don't follow him either!

                                                                                                    2. re: nofunlatte
                                                                                                      jarona Feb 22, 2012 05:43 AM

                                                                                                      Even funnier than his take of Kimball was what was said about Pasmina or whatever-her-name is. I cannot stand that woman--I 've always thought "Who is she anyway that she is judging this?" She is the reason I don't watch Top Chef!

                                                                                                    3. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                      breadchick Feb 18, 2012 06:27 PM

                                                                                                      But you do know that this wasn't really Gordon Ramsay, right? It's a spoof.

                                                                                                      1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                        Mr Taster Feb 21, 2012 12:26 AM

                                                                                                        Did Kimball know it came from a parody blog site when he tweeted about it?

                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                        1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                          rasputina Feb 4, 2013 09:48 AM

                                                                                                          OMgosh I'm laughing so hard reading that. And I've never even watched a Gordon Ramsey show.

                                                                                                          1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                            LindaWhit Feb 4, 2013 12:27 PM

                                                                                                            "Ramsay" says "Now I don’t have much beef with Tom Colicchio. ::::::snip::::: But his show is just awful."


                                                                                                            IRONEH. Then again, since the website's logo has "These blogs are not real", I think that was the intent. ;-)

                                                                                                          2. m
                                                                                                            MartiniLover Feb 19, 2012 09:37 AM

                                                                                                            I feel your pain. I love ATK, but you are right about the e-mails and access to recipes. I actually signed up for a trial membership just to get ATK's blueberry scone recipe. I had never baked a scone in my life, but theirs looked fabulous when I saw the chefs bake them on television. Truth be told, I bake only several times a year, but these scones were, by far, the best scones I have ever had. And by the way, I've been trying to get off ATK's e-mail list ever since ... unsuccessfully. That probably doesn't surprise anyone.

                                                                                                            Regarding Christopher Kimball, I don't think he's fooling anyone with the "aw shucks, gee whiz" act. An acquaintance who is a colleague of Kimball says what you see is what you get ... he is a curmudgeonly perfectionist. I'm also told that staff taste-test all the food before recipes are perfected and that even the stuff that doesn't pass muster with the chefs is still pretty damn good. .

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: MartiniLover
                                                                                                              jeanmarieok Feb 19, 2012 01:40 PM

                                                                                                              I was testing recipes for ATK for awhile. I would get maybe 2 a month, with a detailed survey to fill out. But they stopped abruptly about two years ago. I don't know if they just switched testers, or something, and didn't notify me.

                                                                                                              1. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                                                                rockycat Feb 19, 2012 03:13 PM

                                                                                                                I do still get the recipes but I haven't made one in over a year. Either the recipe is for something I would never make in the first place or it's so out of season that I would have to use out-of-season fruits or veggies or a frozen product where I never would normally. Just not worth my time and effort.

                                                                                                                1. re: rockycat
                                                                                                                  jeanmarieok Feb 20, 2012 07:29 AM

                                                                                                                  Ya, the out of season testing was expensive - I agree.

                                                                                                                  I wonder if they dropped me because I had a couple of bad recipes, and reported accordingly. It was interesting to me to match up the recipes I tested to the recipes that made it into the magazine - to see where there were differences.

                                                                                                              2. re: MartiniLover
                                                                                                                basildip Feb 20, 2012 06:45 AM

                                                                                                                Tell them how much you despise them and their tactics. For some reason, it worked for me. I was delighted to get rid of Chris K.

                                                                                                                1. re: basildip
                                                                                                                  MartiniLover Feb 21, 2012 04:34 PM

                                                                                                                  Great suggestion! Thanks.

                                                                                                              3. s
                                                                                                                sandylc May 31, 2013 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                Just received my Test Kitchen Notes email. I drink black tea every day, so I was interested to see that they had done a taste test for tea. So I clicked.

                                                                                                                Well.....first off, the article was six years old and presented as new. They talked about the "new" pyramid tea bags, which a quick google shows have been around since at least the 90s. Also, it appears as though at least one of the rated products has changed quite a bit (Stash) since this test was done.

                                                                                                                Why are they filling my email with outdated information?

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc
                                                                                                                  LindaWhit May 31, 2013 10:02 AM

                                                                                                                  Did you reply to the Email and ask them? I'd be interested to hear what they say. Probably something like "we re-test things on occasion". However, then perhaps they need a proofreader to realize that the "new" pyramid bags aren't so new anymore.

                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                                    sandylc May 31, 2013 10:30 AM

                                                                                                                    Good idea. Just sent. We'll see if they answer.

                                                                                                                    Even in 2007, something begun in at least the 90s is not so new.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc
                                                                                                                      sandylc May 31, 2013 07:24 PM

                                                                                                                      Got an automated response saying that they don't answer every email. There was an address provided for additional commments. I give up. Which they are counting on.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc
                                                                                                                        LindaWhit May 31, 2013 07:26 PM

                                                                                                                        I'm not surprised at the automated response. And yes, they're counting on you to stop asking questions. And continue to spend money on their website, magazines, etc.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                                          sandylc May 31, 2013 07:36 PM

                                                                                                                          I don't spend money on them.

                                                                                                                          I don't, however, begrudge them the right to earn money in any legal way they can.

                                                                                                                          And CK still irritates me silly. Ha.

                                                                                                                  2. re: sandylc
                                                                                                                    EM23 May 31, 2013 07:19 PM

                                                                                                                    This is typical content for their “news”letter. Old recipes are ok, but old product reviews suffer with age. If you want to keep a recipe from the newsletter, do it right away because they are free for a limited time only (usually 1-2 weeks max), even though they are old content.
                                                                                                                    I have been keeping all my recipe links on Pinterest for a while now. ATK & CI regularly pin recipes and tips on Pinterest that link directly to the paid subscription pages - no actual recipes, so I never pin their content.

                                                                                                                  3. b
                                                                                                                    brucerx Feb 12, 2014 11:02 AM

                                                                                                                    Your comment couldn't be more true. Promotionalism to the max. I've complained to the local PBS station. They make a "free recipe" impossible to find on the website.

                                                                                                                    1. o
                                                                                                                      oldlion Mar 3, 2014 10:22 AM

                                                                                                                      You hit the nail right on the head. And not only that they cut me off before refunding the money they collected two weeks ago

                                                                                                                      1. CapreseStacy Mar 4, 2014 07:54 PM

                                                                                                                        What I don't get (and maybe someone down-post has said this already and I didn't get that far) is how the ATK marketing department hasn't seen/realized that their tactics cause so much ire and responded accordingly to scale it back. All I can figure is that this business model must result in adequate profitability that they can afford to lose the revenue of the disgruntled. I have heard stories from friends who griped about something over social media and the offending company responded tout de suite. You would think Chow and similarly-popular sites would be on the radar of the suits (and bow ties) at ATK.

                                                                                                                        1. m
                                                                                                                          MarianneB88 Mar 5, 2014 05:08 PM

                                                                                                                          I get those emails all the time. What burns my biscuits is when they are dishing up a recipe on the show and they say if you want the salsa, compote, whatever that is being served with the dish you can find it for free on our website. Bull hockey!!!! When you click on the name of the item it says it is only available to those who are subscribers. Doesn't Christopher KImball have enough money yet or are bow ties hugely expensive?

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: MarianneB88
                                                                                                                            sandylc Mar 5, 2014 05:29 PM

                                                                                                                            "are bow ties hugely expensive?"

                                                                                                                            Yes, as are Maseratis.

                                                                                                                          2. kattyeyes Mar 5, 2014 06:28 PM

                                                                                                                            Update 2014: My mom mentions around Christmastime, she has signed me up for a magazine subscription...can't recall if it's Cook's Country or Cook's Illustrated. Nothing ever came. Until...the phone rings one day. Would I like some special compendium of whatever recipes? No, thank you. Hey, while I have you on the phone (wondering how they got my number), I think my mom may have signed me up for something?

                                                                                                                            Anyway, long story short, no magazines ever arrive in my mailbox, but guess what does. A BILL! Yes, a PAST DUE BILL for my "free gift" whatever--and then a second and third notice for this wonderful "gift." Thank you, Cook's. I enjoy your shows. You have some great recipes. But why you have to resort to such shady marketing practices I CANNOT COMPREHEND. And now, much as I love your content, you have really left a bitter taste in my mouth. Merry Christmas indeed.

                                                                                                                            ETA: P.S. Your "sign up to see the free recipes" routine has really gotten old. Be like Bon Appetit or any other magazine and JUST POST THE CONTENT, FFS!

                                                                                                                            1. EWSflash Mar 5, 2014 06:31 PM

                                                                                                                              That's the way they roll, they make no claims to be anything less than capitalists, although I think they're a little heavy-handed with it.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: EWSflash
                                                                                                                                kattyeyes Mar 5, 2014 06:33 PM

                                                                                                                                They remind me more of when we were kids and you could sign up for X albums for just a penny...or whatever that nonsense was.

                                                                                                                              2. Antilope Mar 6, 2014 12:37 PM

                                                                                                                                I think the bottom line is, it's just an overall unpleasant experience to deal with this company. That sort of overshadows whatever products they offer. I have decided the frustration is not worth any benefits their products offer. I will find my cooking materials and recipes somewhere else, where it will be a more enjoyable experience.

                                                                                                                                1. w
                                                                                                                                  WaterRat Apr 11, 2014 12:03 PM

                                                                                                                                  Be VERY careful when providing these sleaze bags with personal information. I received a very misleading sales call today promising me a "free gift" for all my past purchases -- which slowing morphed into a misleading way to sell me a new book which would come with the free gift (no book purchase - no free gift). When I complained to the caller about how misleading the call was, he hung up abruptly. When I complained to the company's customer service department, I didn't even receive an apology -- only a terse replay that they had removed me from their data base, as I'd requested. These people are REALLY sleazy -- all they want is our money!

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: WaterRat
                                                                                                                                    sandylc Apr 11, 2014 12:19 PM

                                                                                                                                    It's just fine if they only want our money - it's how they go about it that matters.

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