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Apr 12, 2012 12:19 AM

America's Test Kitchen: Recipes on the show vs the cookbook?

So I got the complete america's test kitchen tv show cookbook from 2001-2010. I was watching a show and they were showing this really awesome recipe for chicken and dumplings. Thinking that I would be find it in the "complete" compilation of recipes, I went to look for the recipe right after the show. Turns out the recipe was different, calling for whole milk instead of the buttermilk on the show, an addition of chicken wings, and egg whites to the buttermilk mixture. I was confused, so I looked up the recipe online and sure enough I found the "correct" one, which was called "lighter chicken and dumplings". The recipe post date was from 2009 as well so I know it couldn't have been that my book was out of date.

I've encountered this several times while trying to find recipes on the show in the book. My question is, why sell a cookbook that claims to have all the recipes from the show when you can't even find half them in it? I find myself having to look up all of them online, and most of the time, you need a subscription to even view the recipe. I feel like I got ripped off

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  1. Ah, yep, that's the ATK MO: they have so many variations on recipes that it's hard to match what you are looking for. They just want to force you to buy all of what they have to offer. It's why I let my subscription lapse after a decade, and never bothered to get a digital subscription. Their recipe repertoire is remarkably narrow: they are more likely to have 10 variations on roasting a whole chicken than having 10 great cooked cabbage recipes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S

      Ditto - I simply wrote off ATK years ago and moved on without them. It's been years since my subscription lapsed. So long that it's difficult to remember when (and why) I ever subscribed in the first place.

    2. It's not just ATK but plenty of other cookbooks that go along with TV cooking shows. A lot of it has to do with the editing that goes on from test kitchen to editor's desk. I've posted about this before here on CH but not many people thought it was a big deal. I do though.

      1. In defense of ATK, they are constantly changing, updating or improving recipes. It would irk me that the recipe in the book was not the same as on the show but it sounds like it is close enough to modify to what you saw. I highly recommend using recipes as guidelines. You keep that attitude and any recipe you see is actually 3 or 4 because you can always invent variations.

        Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be annoyed with ATK. For instance, once they get your email, you will hear from them daily trying to sell you something.

        They are, however, an excellent source of tested recipes, instructional material, taste and equipment tests and cooking expertise. I recommend a full paid membership during the first year people are learning how to cook. Record all the recipes and articles you can and after the first year when you have accumulated a great deal of skills and recipes, drop them.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Hank Hanover

          "they are constantly changing, updating or improving recipes."

          Actually, not as frequently as they want you to imagine. Mostly, it's a Potemkin village, masking that they are more just churning topics over and over.

          1. re: Karl S

            I agree with Karl here, and add that their recipes are so poked and prodded to death that the finished dish becomes simply a variation of a melancholy theme.

            1. re: Gio

              "recipes are so poked and prodded to death that the finished dish becomes simply a variation of a melancholy theme".

              Love it!!!!!!!!!

              :)) Gotta remember this...Gonna use it sometimes!! ;))

        2. Thanks for the replies everyone. IMHO, I think the tweaking of recipes and nitpicking is the point of ATK. They are taking everyday recipes and doing semi-scientific testing and trying out unorthodox techniques to improve on or fix well-known problems in recipes. Sure it's soul-crushing to some extent, but I personally enjoy the nerdiness and the podunkiness (by extension, you can probably conclude that I love PBS).

          What I don't appreciate though is the ridiculous amount of money you have to spend and things you have to acquire just to get up to date on their best or new methods. Call it obsessive, but I paid good money (the price of the book has decreased dramatically since I last bought it though) to get a *complete* set of recipes from every show and they failed to deliver. I guess that's what happens when you run your show off of public gotta get your money somehow