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Jan 30, 2012 08:37 AM

Inconsistencies between cooking show and cookbook

I hate when there is a huge inconsistency between a show I've watched and the recipe in the corresponding cookbook. Take "Lidia's Italy in America" for instance. On the show she made a cauliflower soup that she added simmering water to stating that the water should be hot as you do not want the cooking process to slow down waiting for the water to come up to the boil after adding it. She has said this repeatedly on the show. In the corresponding recipe in the cook book though, the recipe call for "4 quarts of cold water." I hate this kind of thing. Maybe I'm just picky because I worked in the publishing industry for many years or because I am a copywriter by trade; I tend to focus in on inaccuracies, mistakes, conflicting facts, etc. Does this sort of thing bother you?

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  1. There was an unscientific study on a local TV show (*) testing recipes in cookbooks.

    They went to a cooking school and asked the student to try a few recipes in the book by following the recipe to the word (no second guess what the author meant).

    The result is that in most recipes, there are always things missing (bad quantity, not cooking temperature or missing timing, ... )

    The conclusion is that cooking books are more a guide and an obsolute collection of instructions, and in some instances, if don't cook often you will miss out of some obvious things (pre-heating the oven).

    As to why it happens ? simple, recipes are tested/proofes by people who know how to cook and have a basic understanding of those things and will not make basic mistakes and will "fill-in" the blanks without thinking about it.

    (in french)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Maximilien

      Great observation Maximilien. I actually came across a recipe on the NBC Today show web site by a well-known and respected NYC chef that did not include the oven temperature for baking a custard; something VERY important to the custard setting.

    2. Or some well known celebrity chefs who on TV add all these different spices, but when you see the cookbook, it's listed as <insert chef's name>'s seasoning. Which many times is nothing more than five or six spices you already have on hand.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jhopp217

        Shall we insert Emeril in there?!

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. editors may not catch errors or omissions in technical directions, including cooking recipes. this is more likely if they do not cook much themselves, or are otherwise unfamiliar w the material. it's a problem with all sorts of niche publishing-- actually, with the boom in cooking/cookbook popularity, there are very good editors specializing in cookbooks these days, and as a result cookbooks as a whole probably have better editing than other instructional/craft method works. of course, there are better and more thorough editing procedures in various publishing houses, with many "celebrity" cookbooks cranked out by pulp publishers, and more scholarly or specialist cookbooks through publishers with more prestige.

          1. re: soupkitten

            Last year there was a brew-ha about the Paltrow cover on Bon Appetit. But when I looked up her cookbook I found a lot of positive reviews (often more so than for Batali books). I got the impression that a lot of that was due her collaboration with Julia Turshen, who carefully tested the recipes.


            How much of Julia Child's success can be attributed to her editor, Judith Jones? And isn't the mother of the FN celebrities a noted cookbook editor ( Maria Guarnaschelli)?

        2. Here are two of fond memory, because I spotted the disconnect before using.

          The Joy of Cooking on how to cook rice. Something like 1 quart of water per quart of rice?

          Stars and Stripes newspaper, Europe. My friend followed the recipe for Hungarian goulasch perfectly as she had never had it before. To include the 2 cups of smoked paprika powder. There was a correction to up to 2 teaspoons the next day.

          3 Replies
          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

            "To include the 2 cups of smoked paprika powder."

            How many little cans of the stuff did she have to buy to get 2 cups? lol :)

            1. re: ttoommyy

              In Europe, you can buy it by the Kilo.

              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                LOLOLOLOL cant stop laughing LOLOLOL

          2. Many tv chefs -- especially those who are also busy restaurateurs -- do not write their own cookbooks. Hence, perhaps Lidia DOES always add simmering water to her soup, but the cookbook writer doesn't.

            Not saying it's okay, because it's NOT. someone should be checking to make sure the instructions in the book are in sync with what's on the show.

            Maximilien: not all cookbook authors/recipe writers test their recipes with people who are accomplished cooks. I find my best "testers" are my cooking classes. The students often ask questions I hadn't thought of. And that leads to recipe rewriting/clarification. ;)

            3 Replies
            1. re: ChefJune

              A lot of cookbooks are never tested at all! I worked on some Williams-Sonoma ones where several recipes were really off, but the art director and in-house recipe developer didn't care.

              1. re: Claudette

                I believe that Claudette. I've looked through some of the W-S cookbooks and while they are photographed beautifully, I've often questioned how valid some of the recipes are.

                1. re: Claudette

                  WORD, Claudette, I've learned this the hard way with good ole Martha Stewart back in the day. 3 strikes, and her stuff was OUT.