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

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.

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  1. 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!) ;-)

    5 Replies
    1. re: Bart Hound

      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

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

        1. re: jarona

          It would seem to me that if you subscribe to Cook's Illustrated, you should get the website for free. If not, then pay for the website. I think it is a ripoff. I do get the magazine, but I don't pay for the website. There are so many other recipe sources out there.

          1. re: travel61888

            It doesn't really offend me, but I've subscribed to Consumer Reports website for years and they do the same thing.

            I do feel it would be better if you got a discount if you are a current magazine subscriber.

            Still I pay every year for full website access to CI and CR,

        2. re: Bart Hound

          I finally did just that. I peruse the magazines at the library and if something interests me I borrow it. I do watch the shows on my DVR when I'm folding laundry - and if a recipe really catches my eye, I've had 100% success googling it and finding a blogger who has made it and published it to the letter, despite claiming that it is adapted.

        3. 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

            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

              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. 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

              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

                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

                  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. 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. 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

                    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

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

                      1. re: coney with everything

                        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. 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

                      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

                        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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                                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. 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.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: eager

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

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

                              1. re: emily

                                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

                                  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

                                  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

                                    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!

                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                      If you find CI doing this to you I suggest the following:

                                      * if they.billed your credit card, call the bank and ask the charges be removed. Tell them you were billed for merchandise you did not order.
                                      * send a copy of any letter you mail them to your state attorney general's consumer complaint office.

                                3. 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. 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

                                      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

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

                                    2. 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. 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 Reply
                                        1. re: Shann

                                          I had heard about buying books from them and then getting unsolicited ones. So I got mine through Amazon.

                                        2. 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. 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. 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

                                                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. 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

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

                                                  1. re: jarona

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

                                                    1. re: jarona

                                                      I was kinda wondering the same! ;)

                                                  2. 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.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: Leepa

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                          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

                                                            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: linus

                                                              I don't think that not liking spicy food necessarily makes you "very closed" in your culinary thinking, but I think it would be better to admit a non-preference for it, as opposed to expressing a distaste for anything that's spicy at every opportunity. Or sweet, or tart, or chocolatey, fill in your own blank here. He is unabashedly in favor of food from the eastern U.S., with occasional forays into the midwest. There'd be nothing wrong with that IF he wasn't promoting himself as the ultmate culinary authority on just about everything. They made something that was supposed to be Mexican once, I think it was enchiladas, and the recipe wasn't much like anything you'd be served in Mexico, or most of the southwestern US. I disliked the fact that it was being touted as the real thing when it wasn't.

                                                            2. re: EWSflash

                                                              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.

                                                            3. re: Leepa

                                                              This. He sounds so condescending in the email spam I get. Like The Vermont Way is the One True Way of Everything.
                                                              (and when I saw them making fajitas on the show, I had to turn it off, I was laughing so hard.)

                                                              1. re: joycebre

                                                                You should have seen the enchilada episode- shoulda been called "clueless yankees try earthy Mexican foods"

                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                  Are you referring to the chicken enchiladas episode? If so, I recently went to an 'authentic' Mexican restaurant in which they put some chicken and cheese into a corn tortilla, rolled it up, sauced it, and put it in the microwave. ATK's version was better.

                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                    Another example that anyone can call themselves an "authentic" anything. CI lost me with their version of "Southern Cornbread". Not authentic at all.

                                                              2. 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

                                                                  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. 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. 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. 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

                                                                        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. 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.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Rella

                                                                          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

                                                                            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

                                                                              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. re: Rella

                                                                            Unfortunately to have a show on public TV requires having underwriters. These days each of your underwriters usually wants the equivalent of an ad at the opening of the show.

                                                                            There really isn't an easy way to be on broadcast or cable TV without having a a potential conflict of interest.

                                                                            That said the underwriters almost never try to influence content unlike broadcast or cable where the advertisers are always complaining about something or other to the network or station.

                                                                          3. 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

                                                                              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. 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.

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                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

                                                                                  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

                                                                                    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: freia

                                                                                      "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

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

                                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                          Martha is way more annoying on that count. I'm sure I could do what she does if I had the same army of assistants.

                                                                                      2. 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.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                          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

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

                                                                                          2. re: greygarious

                                                                                            In case you haven't found Essential Pepin (I know this reply is 2-1/2 years later, Amazon has it for $25.09 (July 14, 2014).

                                                                                            1. re: travel61888

                                                                                              I paid less, including shipping, on eBay just a few months ago. It was new, too.

                                                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                I walked into Barnes & Noble last year and it was $12 on a big table up front. Score!

                                                                                          3. 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,

                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: cuvee31

                                                                                              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

                                                                                                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

                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                    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!

                                                                                                    1. re: jarona

                                                                                                      Wow- fascinating comparison, Jarona!

                                                                                              2. re: cuvee31

                                                                                                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

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

                                                                                                2. 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

                                                                                                    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

                                                                                                      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

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

                                                                                                        1. re: Antilope

                                                                                                          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. 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!

                                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                          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

                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                              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

                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                              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

                                                                                                                  I would rather watch a few commercials than those incessant fund raisers. Thank goodness, when they are on, I can fast forward through them.

                                                                                                              1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                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.

                                                                                                              2. 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

                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                    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. 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.

                                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: pdxgastro

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

                                                                                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                                      Has Tony Bordain ever taken a swipe at Kimball?

                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

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

                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          Tony is a bit tamer now that he is one of "them". He saves most of his withering fire these days for people like Sandra Lee who have truly earned it.

                                                                                                                        2. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                                          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

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

                                                                                                                          1. re: pdxgastro

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

                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                            1. re: pdxgastro

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

                                                                                                                              1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                                                                "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. 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

                                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                                    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

                                                                                                                                      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

                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                  3. 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

                                                                                                                                      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

                                                                                                                                        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

                                                                                                                                          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

                                                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                                                              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

                                                                                                                                        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. 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. 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. 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. 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

                                                                                                                                                "are bow ties hugely expensive?"

                                                                                                                                                Yes, as are Maseratis.

                                                                                                                                              2. 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. 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.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                                                      Maybe CI should over 12 free recipes for a penny if you agree to buy 6 at full price in the coming year?

                                                                                                                                                  2. 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. 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!

                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: WaterRat

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

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: WaterRat

                                                                                                                                                          My general rule: If there is anything bogus in a communication, I want nothing to do with them.

                                                                                                                                                        2. I just wanted to thank everyone here for posting their experiences with ATK/CI. I subscribe to their bi-monthly magazine. I was considering subscribing to their website, but was a bit put off by the way they seemed to want to nickel-and-dime people and Kimball's pseudo-friendly persona. I see my inklings were not unfounded. I do appreciate their scientific approach to cooking and may invest in a couple of books on basic technique and food science. As far as recipes go, I am not too bothered since I want to be able to make stuff from scratch and instincts anyway but need to know the basics first. You guys helped me dodge a bullet. I will likely cancel my subscription once I find the books I am looking for. Thank you so much.

                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Lilypetals

                                                                                                                                                            ...and that's not all. Despite asking the caller, replying to a customer service inquiry and sending an additional email requesting to be removed from all their lists, I still get deluged with their emails selling books, touting their cooking school, and promoting a new blog of some kind. These people are RELENTLESS!!!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Lilypetals

                                                                                                                                                              I was a subscriber to their print editions many years ago for about two years. I never gave them my main e-mail address, I used an e-mail address I created just for things such as this and the various websites (such as this one) that require an e-mail address. Consequently, I get almost zero spam e-mails on the e-mail acccount I use to communicate with family and friends.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                E mail spam 101, and excellent advice on so many levels.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Lilypetals

                                                                                                                                                                Lilypetals--the ATK cookbook that I have is quite good. I bought it at CostCo, so I didn't have to go through the website/ATK company to purchase it. Just a thought.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks PineTime! I just ordered 2 from indigo; "The Science of Cooking" and the cooking school book. I am excited for the latter as it has a lot of very practical information that is really easy to digest while the former gives more of the technical info that I can extrapolate into my culinary adventures. Can't wait!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Lilypetals

                                                                                                                                                                    Another great resource for learning techniques rather than blindly following recipes is Michael Ruhlman's "Twenty." In it, he goes through mastering 20 techniques on becoming a better home cook. Using those basics, you'll be able to cook anything!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                                                                                                                                                                      I concur, Heidi--Twenty is a valuable resource.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you Heidi!I just looked it up and it seems pretty cool. I already ordered CI's the Science of Good Cooking and The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook so I may check that one out at the library.

                                                                                                                                                                2. Questionable marketing tactics aside, I am extraordinary grateful to Kimball and crew for one big reason.

                                                                                                                                                                  Cooks taught me how to cook. Full stop.

                                                                                                                                                                  I have been a CI magazine subscriber since 2006. I find the website not a replacement for, but a valuable addition to, the print magazine.

                                                                                                                                                                  It's not that Cooks gave me a few good recipes to follow. It's that their precisely written and tested recipes (and the professional and innovative techniques found in those recipes) provided such a solid foundation for me, as a home cook, that after many years of cooking their recipes, I now have the ability to apply their techniques to my own cooking without a recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                  Their techniques are solid. Their explanations are clear and provide deeper understanding of how ingredients interact with each other, and why things happen in a recipe. I learn from their mistakes as much as I learn from my own, and that is absolutely invaluable.

                                                                                                                                                                  I can't possibly make 100 variations of oatmeal cookies, for example. But they can-- and as a result of their diligence, I learned that overleavened cookies inflate to a point where they cannot sustain their height, and subsequently fall flat. That's *great* insight, and one worth applying to other applications.

                                                                                                                                                                  On those occasions when I have had to cancel my membership, or cancel trial subscriptions (I subscribed to the website using multiple addresses, in order to get multiple subscription discounts) I have had no problem doing so. I've unsubscribed from their emails with no problem, using the provided "unsubscribe" link included at the bottom of their emails. I'm not sure why so many people here have so many complaints.

                                                                                                                                                                  In any case, I've suffered little to no inconvenience with CI. On the contrary, they have improved my quality and enjoyment life so significantly, that many of the scenarios people describe here would strike me as utterly minor inconveniences.

                                                                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                    Your experience and thoughts reflect mine.
                                                                                                                                                                    Thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                      I have subscribed to the CI website for many years. I have never been bothered with spam or unsolicited offers. Like you, I have greatly benefitted from the recipes, reviews and techniques on the site...and my husband bought me my beloved sous vide machine because of a review on ATK.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                        " I'm not sure why so many people here have so many complaints."

                                                                                                                                                                        Underhanded business practices are why people complain. Bait and switch for the website stuff? Spam with the stick-to-itiveness of Cialis and other ED peddlers? Unauthorized charges to credit cards?

                                                                                                                                                                        Read the BBB website to see why there are complaints.

                                                                                                                                                                        Not many are saying that the information isn't valuable. It's the business practices people hate.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                                                                                          Bingo! The information from ATK is very good, and I've gotten some great tips but it IS the business practices. Total turn off!

                                                                                                                                                                      2. I now buy CI, etc, books used. It's a lot cheaper and avoids their spamming.

                                                                                                                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Antilope

                                                                                                                                                                          YES! I recently got their "New Best Recipe", a GIANT book, at a used store for $3.00.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                            I paid $30 for that book years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                              Did I waste my $3.00? I haven't looked through it yet....

                                                                                                                                                                              Sorry about the $30 part....:-(

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                Several years ago I faithfully copied and pasted all of the recipes from the ATK tv show. I actually have learned several techniques from watching their program and using their recipes. Some of their recipes/techniques have made their way into my cooking/meals repertoire.

                                                                                                                                                                                I have few bad things to say about CI/ATK/CC.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I have learned a lot from them as well. I like the sheer vastness of their recipe archives and their testing and explaining of methods and ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                  What I don't like is their silly insistence that they are the only ones who know exactly how all foods should be, and also CK just irritates me - my arrogance radar quivers when I watch him.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                    >> What I don't like is their silly insistence that they are the only ones who know exactly how all foods should be

                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't think that's part of their mission statement.

                                                                                                                                                                                    But seriously, if anyone has earned the right to their opinions, its these folks. They've done the hard work with an extraordinary amount of thoroughness and diligence, in order to reach the conclusions that they have. Say what you will about their method of delivery, but these are not uninformed opinions, and they demand respect.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have much less sympathy for the opinionated person with nothing but ego behind their assertions (which, in my experience, is most of the internet.) The well-meaning blogger who posts a poorly researched and imprecisely written recipe, with no real knowledge of why his recipe succeeded or failed, does a disservice to other inexperienced cooks who are trying to learn, and then blame themselves for the failed results. That person might not want to cook after too many of these failures, and that's a real shame. In my case, I had such outrageous successes with Cooks recipes right from the start, that these victories encouraged me on to try more and more.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I can confidently say that after 8 years of cooking with Cooks' recipes, I've gained the ability to identify badly written internet recipes and make them better. You may think this sounds arrogant, but the people that are busy eating my cooking don't have time to think about these things :)

                                                                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ditto on the crap recipes on the internet. It drove me crazy!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lilypetals

                                                                                                                                                                                        Spending a few years reading CI, I have greatly benefited from their persistence, inquisitiveness and knowledge of science and cooking.
                                                                                                                                                                                        This has greatly helped me understand the "how" and "why", which has taken me light years beyond just following a recipe.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Anyway, I appreciate CI as a tremendous resource and have grown as a home cook in a way that one grows with good tuteladge.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                        Mr. Taster, I don't think I deserve this slapdown - I expressed my appreciation for their extensive and excellent testing of recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I didn't say that you are arrogant and I don't think it either; you seem like a great guy with some pretty good cooking chops.

                                                                                                                                                                                        What I object to is when they insist things like: all sugar cookies should be soft. They have said this; I have heard them do so. Arrogantly. They like to state personal taste as given fact of how things should be. This aspect is silly.

                                                                                                                                                                                        CK rubs me the wrong way. I don't like arrogance and I see a lot of it in him. So sue me.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess they don't bother me as much as they bother you.

                                                                                                                                                                                        It does bug me a little that they keep using the word 'best' or 'ultimate' in describing their recipes. Then they go back and rework the 'best' recipe. Well, was it really 'best' or not?

                                                                                                                                                                                        I also am slightly annoyed about the taste tests when they're all New Englanders, or at least have been there long enough to be a New Englander by osmosis. (I hope I have not offended the New Englander Chowhounds, that's not my intent.) They also seem to taste test a lot of brands unavailable to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                          "They also seem to taste test a lot of brands unavailable to me."

                                                                                                                                                                                          And they don't include brands that are common elsewhere. If they are producing a national show, they should be more inclusive, or at least aware, brand-wise.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I bought "The Best Recipe" when it first came out. Then in about a year they came out with "New Best Recipe"... I was like "WTF - so last year's recipes aren't the best anymore?" It was downhill from there.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Leepa

                                                                                                                                                                                      You answered - or maybe also asked - one of the things I've been puzzling over. How often do they produce such a large book of "the best"? And, are they essentially the same? Updated? Completely new recipes, or just revised?

                                                                                                                                                                                      I know that ATK and CI like to recycle recipes. Sometimes they are the same, sometimes they change them.

                                                                                                                                                                                      To be fair, I don't think I'll ever reach the "final" version of my favorite recipes that I've made frequently.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Leepa

                                                                                                                                                                                        I am steering clear of those best-of books for the most part; I feel like there would be a lot of re-hashing. Although they have a healthy recipe best-of book I was considering since it can be challenging to make healthy versions of certain foods. Then again, maybe they are not healthifying things so much as just sticking in a bunch of stir-frys and baked meat type recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Lilypetals

                                                                                                                                                                                          I suspect that their quaint (simplistic) idea of healthy is low-salt, low-fat. You know, like your no-nutritional-education-GP tells you.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Good topic. I used to subscribe too, but let it drop. Got so sick of them pimping me for more $. Now I still like the cookbooks and recipes and I do purchase a magazine from the book store once in a while. But I delete those emails. No more. And I hope someone from ATK/CI is reading this post.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Well, guys, think about the cost of running a setup like ATK - they do buy all the gadgets they test, As far as I know, plus all the ingredients multiple times for every recipe, and they are trying to make a living out of this. And what do we get?

                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, ATK airs on PBS FOR FREE and you don't have to sit through mind-numbingly stupid ads for stuff you are totally uninterested in buying or even hearing about. Considering the value you get for the mags, and considering that they are also ad-free, they are extremely reasonably priced. And if you don't like the promotional e-mails, just click on the "unsubscribe" link.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I've never yet tried subscribing to the website, and I fully understand that it would be frustrating to find that even when you'd paid for a subscription, not everything on the site would be available to you. Still, compare Cook's Illustrated to, say, the BBC Good Food mag here in Britain. For any of you who know it, 'nuff said.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ellybelle

                                                                                                                                                                                      Good point, but I do hate those teases that take you to the recipe only to ask you to subscribe. Pimps!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ellybelle

                                                                                                                                                                                        Not exactly true. They sell the rights to use their show for a finite number of times to PBS.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I couldn't agree more. Can't get a recipe without paying them some money. These so called free recipes are anything but free. If you want a recipe a pop-up comes on and asks if you are a member or have an account. I've stopped watching their program.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Watch out, folks! I had a trial online membership once upon a time, but not for many years, Have not subscribed to the magazine for 4-5 yrs but just got an e-mail that they had processed my online membership order and charged my credit card $34.95.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I called up and blasted the customer service rep, ordering her to cancel that charge immediately, and asking how they have the gall to try to charge former customers for products they never ordered. She immediately switched me to her supervisor, Theresa, who would not give her last name, and who insisted that I have been a customer since 2005. I cancelled the trial membership back then, and have never before received an e-mail like today's. I will be checking that my card is credited AND reporting them to the Massachusetts Attorney General. I live in MA, so they might pay more attention than they would to an out-of-state complaint.

                                                                                                                                                                                          No idea why they picked NOW to try this scam on me. My card just got renewed, so I had to update it on accounts like Amazon and Paypal. I don't even understand how ATK managed to process a charge without the new expiration info. Be on guard, in case this marks an escalation in their unethical tactics.

                                                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                            If you are on Facebook, you should post something similar on their page there. I assume they have one.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                              Bingo! This is why people hate ATK et al, and assume Kimball is behind it all.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                                                                                                                Not unlike the Target CEO, CK might not be directly involved with the specifics of the ATK marketing tactics, but he is responsible for them.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                They sent me a cookbook when I had a subscription, which I thought was a bonus for subscribing (a la Martha Stewart Living). Nope, the charge showed up on my bank statement. i gave them a lot of hell for that, and told them that Postal codes don't require unsolicited merchandise to be returned. I don't remember what happened there, but I ultimately had the bank stop any transactions from them. I buy their books/magazines at Costco every so often, but that's a purchase that doesn't get me scammed or spammed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                  My card expired earlier this year. And yet I received an e-mail this week that they've charged my card -- even after an earlier e-mail when the card on file's expiration date approached that I MUST update my card info or my subscription would lapse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Adding in the phone calls to subscribe to their other products, I'm done. I have the recent edition of the massive cookbook, I've picked up random inexpensive editions of cookbooks in Costco's magazine rack, and I can get the current season online for no charge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. In case you never received the recipe...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

                                                                                                                                                                                                  4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
                                                                                                                                                                                                  9 tablespoons olive oil
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1/2 cup coarsely cracked black peppercorns
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 (6-pound) whole beef tenderloin, trimmed


                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine salt, sugar, and baking soda in bowl; set aside. Heat 6 tablespoons oil and peppercorns in small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at bare simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until pepper is fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Using fine-mesh strainer, drain cooking oil from peppercorns. Discard cooking oil and mix peppercorns with remaining 3 tablespoons oil, orange zest, and nutmeg.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Set tenderloin on sheet of plastic wrap. Sprinkle salt mixture evenly over surface of tenderloin and rub into tenderloin until surface is tacky. Tuck tail end of tenderloin under about 6 inches to create more even shape. Rub top and side of tenderloin with peppercorn mixture, pressing to make sure peppercorns adhere. Spray three 12-inch lengths kitchen twine with vegetable oil spray; tie head of tenderloin to maintain even shape, spacing twine at 2-inch intervals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Transfer prepared tenderloin to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, keeping tail end tucked under. Roast until thickest part of meat registers about 120 degrees for rare and about 125 degrees for medium-rare (thinner parts of tenderloin will be slightly more done), 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer to carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  4. Remove twine and slice meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I really dislike the FREE TWO WEEK SUBSCRIPTION, and if you don't give them a way to continue to take money for recipes that ARE NOT FREE!.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    I want to get the recipes when I feel like it, and DO NOT want a FREE TWO WEEK box popping up and blurred recipes until you give them your credit card.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    So disgusted at their constant wanting money for every little thing!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: stacyq

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, it's really shocking that they want to get paid for the hard work they do, from which you benefit.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Horrid people.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      ps... nothing is for free. Welcome to the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I used to get the magazine but I ran out of time to read... I am a Director of Catering at a Convention Center so my time is precious and I end up just purchasing at the end of the year the cookbook and just have done with the rest! It is bogus that they want you to pay for the website *smdh

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: psboston7

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Great idea! And love the image you posted. HA HA!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I decided to vent about ATK's guerilla marketing practices.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          They should be treating their customers with much more respect. I've gotten some ATK books (really cheap, I might add) through abebooks.com, no hassles, no spam, no harassment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I totally get the frustration......kind of a road rage feeling. I too have been a forever fan of the show and magazine. But, I canceled out of frustration quite some time ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Just a word of warning - Cuisine at Home, another wonderful food magazine to which I have subscribed since their first issue (Jan/Feb 1997) has now added layers and layers of fees for access to web site information. They have have taken what ATK has done and added their own original twist....instead of creating a second magazine, they have added an "exclusive" section at the back of each issue - the subscription fee for that is additional.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I firmly believe there are many of us out there who find this "greed" pretty slimmy, but it must be working for the bottom line. Reminds me of when the airlines began charging for checked bags.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I saw the oddest thing yesterday while watching an ATK episode. It appears Bridget was using an AC MC2 saucepan to cook the pastry cream for Summer Berry Trifle (season 14, the most recent). The pan was very dull outside, and much shinier inside. Obviously aluminum on the exterior. No way this was the AC classic that won their 2010 large saucepan test. Maybe they have a new favorite saucepan?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Put me down for two thumbs down for their business practices with a thumbs up on the show itself. Of course folks who haven't suffered loss of time and money can't see that side of the company. For those of us who have however its really too bad. I'm feeling pretty ripped off which sucks. Be weary/warned if you plan to plug in your credit card to their site - unfortunately you may regret it later.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. they like to say that access to recipes for the current season's shows is free, but when you try to obtain that access, it is blocked unless you sign up for a "free" 14 day subscription. false advertising. the website is impossible... very, very greedy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: giginight

                                                                                                                                                                                                                You have to give them your e-mail address and a password to get to the current recipes. You can decline the 14 day trial membership and still get the recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. i have given them my email address. even when logged in, i get the 14 day trial and can't get past it...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: giginight

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you are using an ad blocker, try disabling it. While ATK etc is good at spam, the offshore cheapo temps who write their web code are not very bright.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: giginight

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I get the option to decline the two trial, but then again, I first registered many years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have registered, and successfully canceled, the Cooks Country trial many times with different email addresses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm really not sure what all the fuss is about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess the point is that ATK says acces to the current season's recipies are available free without signing up for the two week trial. I've been getting recipes for years using the same e-mail account that I use here.