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Cooks Illustrated hits a new low!

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They now have an iPad digital dubscription to read their magazine, but unlike BA, MS, F&W and Everyday Food, they are charging an extra 19.99 even if you are a print subscriber or if you are an online subscriber to their site. I feel the no-ad excuse has gone a bit far here.

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  1. I agree. And they clearly promote brands and products on their show and their website, so are they gaining ad revenue anyway?

    1. I think this model for charging extra for the digital version will be changing soon. I think that it's just got to sort itself out, and most will follow with the free digital version.

      Arizona Highways is now available digitally. I would read that before I read the hard copy. But my husband loves the hard copy, so we get that, and consequently I never read it..

      1. Don't magazines have ads in their digital subscriptions? Seems that they do.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tommy

          I know BA and F&W do, as I subscribe to post.

        2. No surprise there - Christopher Kimball and his company make no secret of being out for every nickel they can squeeze. It's their business model. It's up to us to decide if it's worth it. For me it isn't.

          31 Replies
          1. re: John Francis

            Here's the deal: We are ALL out there getting all the dollars we can. He does it because that's his business and it's how he makes his money. The crux is whether or not we LIKE the guy and his product.

            1. re: sandylc

              It's interesting as I used to like this guy and then began reading about the questionable handling of subrscription cancellations and other extra charges and now his folksy, bowtie fake persona makes my skin crawl.

              He gets no money from me.

              jb

              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                I'm inclined to agree, plus the fact that he doesn't pass up any opportunity to say how much he HATES hot or spicy food makes me think much less of his pontifications.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  He doesn't say he "HATES" spicy food; he says he has an intolerance for it. Two very different things.

                  1. re: mangiare24

                    Because he doesn't like it and can't be bothered to expand his horizons. Hae you ever watched his fae when they're ralking about spicy food?

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      We all have foods that we dislike. What divides us is how we present it. People who are always pointing out their own dislikes and looking down upon people who DO like these "terrible" foods are just annoying.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        He doesn't do any of that. Plenty of people do, to your point. Many of whom can be found on sites like this.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          I like to go to grocery stores that cater to various ethnic tastes. I see things I wouldn't eat or don't like but I keep it to myself. If pressed, I'd say I didn't care for X, but I wouldn't make a disgusted face or noise, or otherwise show any sign of personal distaste because I think it's rude and don't wish to insult anybody's personal preferences. Not that I havent' done it, but I do try my best not to.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            You're also not a TV personality and host of a show. LOL!

                            1. re: tommy

                              Nor will I ever be! Too old and boring!

                  2. re: JuniorBalloon

                    I keep hearing about poor subscription handling problems but I've subscribed and unsubscribed from their products a handfull of times over the years with absolutely no problems.

                    I don't care if he charges for everything he can. It's his business, as has been pointed out. And as has been said, if you don't like it, don't buy it. It's pretty simple.

                    To me, CK is just a CH whipping boy. Much like Guy Fieri. I get that people don't like some people's on screen persona. But what I don't get is why people keep tuning in and then complaining. There's plenty of shows on TV that have people I don't like. So guess what??

                    DT

                    1. re: Davwud

                      "To me, CK is just a CH whipping boy. Much like Guy Fieri. I get that people don't like some people's on screen persona. But what I don't get is why people keep tuning in and then complaining. There's plenty of shows on TV that have people I don't like. So guess what??"

                      Nicely said.

                2. re: John Francis

                  My problem is that what he offers is confusing. At one time I had the CI print subscription as well as online subscriptions to both CI and ATK. But with my online subscriptions I kept running into pages that were inaccessible without some ADDITIONAL subscription or other. In the end, I gave up (I still get the printed magazine but none of the online).

                  1. re: drongo

                    I liked the online membership so I could save my favorites. And yes now they have a premium membership. If they had their way, you would be spending a fortune there.

                    1. re: angelsmom

                      I used to have an online membership. Then I hit my limit with them and their nickel and diming and quit all of it. I don't even watch their tv show anymore. I'm done with them.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        I am less enamored of ATK TV show as time goes by. While I have gotten a few excellent recipes from them that are a part of my permanent collection, more and more lately I haven't been interested in what they're doing. They also have had many preconceived notions about how dishes should absolutely be; usually I disagree to some extent with these ideas. They have gone on and on and on over the years about how cookies, of course, should always be soft. Then they arrogantly march along with this superior presumption regarding something that is very subjective. It doesn't help, of course, that I like my cookies crisp!!!!!

                        1. re: sandylc

                          This is my beef with them--I think they invent some problems just to have an excuse to jump through various hoops. I remember a brownie recipe where the walnuts were sprinkled on top because they were too soft if baked in the batter. Um, well, I always liked the softer walnut texture inside a brownie and I want my nuts inside. They'll also dismiss some old-fashioned fixes as too much work, but then come up with their own labor-intensive extra steps.

                          That said, I do find most of their recipes reliable, but Maida Heatter's been my go-to expert for cookies for ages.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            We share your disenchantment - I have taken to calling it "White Rural America's Test Kitchen", because their outlook and tastes are so narrow.

                            1. re: zabriskiepoint

                              That's so funny--I think of them as New England, old people test kitchen. As someone who is not even young anymore (early 40s) and has lived all my life in a West Coast city, their recipe choices (recently--Swiss steak! Or those old school Italian-American dishes people in the NE, and nowhere else, made in the 60s) are so often baffling to me.

                              1. re: christy319

                                What do you think they should test?

                                1. re: christy319

                                  christy319,

                                  What is wrong with Swiss Steak?

                                  1. re: christy319

                                    Darlin', in ten years, you're going to think of your early 40s as your youth, LOL!

                                  2. re: zabriskiepoint

                                    Ahem.

                                    I live and cook in white rural America and I disagree. I can only begin to list the short cuts that ATC takes that lead to abomination versions of good food. What they did to Bread Pudding is just a starter.

                                    1. re: shallots

                                      I don't recall their bread pudding episode, but I know from discussions here that there many ideas of what constitutes an ideal bread pudding. I wouldn't be surprised if ATK visited that dish multiple times.

                                      1. re: shallots

                                        What's your issue with their bread pudding, and more importantly, how do you make yours?

                                        (I realize this may sound like I'm challenging your opinion - I'm not. Just hoping to hear your thoughts on bread pudding)

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/mem...
                                          is one that proports to be from CI. I recall them recommending chalah bread, and oven drying it, rather than letting it stale naturally. I don't see anything wrong with it, even though my preferred pudding is drier, with a Mexican twist.

                                      2. re: zabriskiepoint

                                        boy, you really nailed that! It annoys me the way they do everything to death.

                                      3. re: sandylc

                                        Is ATK even on anymore? All I get is cook's country.

                                        1. re: madeliner

                                          http://www.createtv.com/CreateProgram...

                                        2. re: sandylc

                                          I just got from the library their 10 year collection of recipes. As many of the cookie recipes were titled 'thin and crispy ...' as 'thick and chewy ....'.

                                          I sense that many of the complaints about their recipes and methods result from focusing on a few recipes where people have firm ideas to the contrary. But I don't think selective disagreements should obscure the overall usefulness of their methods.

                                          I rarely follow any of their recipes in detail, but I have gotten a number of useful ideas from them. One thing that I especially like is that they explain why they choose a particular method or ingredient. The explanations are fullest in the magazine articles.

                                        3. re: rasputina

                                          I got an online subscription, only to realize that it had expired, and i"d never used it. We live, we learn.

                                  3. Saveur also does not give you a free digital edition if you are print subscriber. I'm not at all surprised the money grubbing CI/ATK doesn't.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: rasputina

                                      Sounds like the New York Times and their crazy subscription options.

                                      1. re: LindyCindy

                                        Not sure what you mean by that since all print subscribers to the NYT (even if it's not for the entire week) get free, unlimited access to digital editions on all platforms.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Yep, I think it is quite a deal. I get Sunday print edition only, mainly to get FT online access.

                                    2. I don't mind their a la carte style of membership fees. It's just a different business model than most places use. This charge just seems to be part of that model.

                                      I also don't mind their insistence that the way they do things is the best, the ONLY good way. You can just ignore that. Are softer cookies the best kind? Not necessarily, despite what CI claims. But if you skip over the grandstanding, there's useful info about how to make cookies soft when you want to go that route.

                                      But...

                                      I do mind the difficulties members have had in cancelling their membership.

                                      I do mind that CI has threatened litigation over bloggers and others posting recipes explicitly using a CI recipe as influence (which is totally legal, BTW).

                                      I do mind that their product reviews fail to take major aspects of a product's use into consideration and fail to mention that at all (though they're okay-ish, i guess, if you consider their reviews as aimed squarely at un-accomplished cooks).

                                      Also, I've gotten the impression that some of CI's best ideas and innovations were the work of Kenjii Alt Lopez. He is now publishing over at SeriousEats.com, and you can read that for free. He lacks the smarminess and seething superiority of Kimball and just puts his techniques out there for anyone who might enjoy em. The navigation on that site isn't too great, but otherwise I recommend it highly.

                                      21 Replies
                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Really good points, especially about Kenjii.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          do you have any evidence "some of ci's best ideas and innovations were the work of kenjii lopez-alt"?
                                          could you provide examples of kimball acting "smarmy" and with "seething superiority"?

                                          1. re: linus

                                            "do you have any evidence "some of ci's best ideas and innovations were the work of kenjii lopez-alt"?"

                                            It's history. ATK has even invited him back to show off some of his innovations.

                                            "could you provide examples of kimball acting "smarmy" and with "seething superiority"?"

                                            Have you watched the show? ;-)

                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              yes. i think i've seen every episode. could you answer my questions, please?

                                              1. re: linus

                                                You didn't ask it of me - I was just jumping in unasked!

                                            2. re: linus

                                              "do you have any evidence "some of ci's best ideas and innovations were the work of kenjii lopez-alt"?"
                                              ________
                                              It's a fact that he worked for CI's recipe development. Who came up with what exactly is a matter of speculation, with a few exceptions. Lopez himself claims that he developed the vodka pie crust recipe, which may well be the single best idea they've had. And seeing as he's still on good terms with CI (or at least appears to be), I'm inclined to believe him.

                                              Also if you read his articles on the site, you'll find that he has continued to advance some of the better ideas that CI came out with - their pizza method, for example - and does so in such a way and with such insight that it strikes me that he was the driver of those methods in the first place. I'm admittedly speculating about who came up with what - I'm not an insider and don't personally know. But his work over at seriouseats marks him, in my eyes, as an innovative, talented, and technically-minded cook - the kind of guy who would have made a lot of the better contributions at CI.

                                              "could you provide examples of kimball acting "smarmy" and with "seething superiority"?"
                                              _______
                                              It's a subjective thing. Watch him on America's Test Kitchen. If you don't see it, then you don't see it. Again, Kimball's personality on its own is not a deal breaker for me, but I must admit I don't like the guy much.

                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                i guess i just don't understand this random speculation. surely, lopez-alt came up with a bunch of good ideas at CI and ATK( and elsewhere. he's a talented cat). just as surely, other folks who work or worked at CI and ATK did, too.
                                                unless we know who did what, like your pie crust example, speculating or implying all the best ideas on ATK or in CI came from one person strikes me as silly.
                                                also, reading criticisms about kimball here on chowhound, i'm always struck by words people use and their inability to serve up any examples to prove their descriptions or demonstrate they know what the words they are using mean.

                                                me, and i'm just speculating here, i think the vast majority of criticisms here of kimball spur from two things: 1) his column on page 3 of CI, and 2) his bow tie.

                                                1. re: linus

                                                  " 2) his bow tie."
                                                  Yup. I've always gotten the impression people don't like him, subconsciously most likely, because he's different. Sort of like how smart nerds in high school are bullied. Not due to the content of their character, but because they just seem "different."

                                                  1. re: linus

                                                    "speculating or implying all the best ideas on ATK or in CI came from one person strikes me as silly."
                                                    ______
                                                    If you really want to pick apart words, I didn't say 'all' the best ideas came from Lopez. I said 'some' of the best ideas came from Lopez. And if you take his word for it that he developed the vodka crust recipe, then I wasn't really speculating. That's beside the point anyway. Mainly I was just trying to steer people over to his articles on seriouseats because i think they're worthwhile reading, especially for people who might like the CI-style technique-forward experimental cooking articles.

                                                    As for Kimball:
                                                    I admit that it's possible that I've judged him too harshly based on too little information. I don't think his bow tie figures in to it, at least.

                                                    Here's what does figure into it -
                                                    It's true that his column in CI probably doesn't do him a lot of favors in terms of public perception. He comes off as extremely opinionated and very staunch in his opinions. OTOH, I actually kind of admire that in a person sometimes.

                                                    More damaging, his exaggerated on-air rejection of and disgust at non-ATK-approved cooking methods can border on obnoxious - these are methods used and sometimes preferred by some of the people watching his show. Explaining why you like one method best is fine, but there's no need for all the 'yechhh's. Now, even that could simply be a TV conceit, not really a reflection of his personality. I'd be very willing to forgive it as just a kind of eccentricity if I liked the guy otherwise.

                                                    But then there's the big problem. He runs a company whose billing practices fall somewhere between shady and deeply unethical. This kind of colors the things I mentioned above - once you start seeing the guy as a corporate scumbag, it's easy to retroactively see his other personality foibles as evidence of scumbag-dom.

                                                    Is this entirely fair? I don't know. Maybe he's actually a likable and harmless kind of fella who spends his time on a beach somewhere, having nothing to do with the company until ATK needs him to show up on air and spit out someone else's idea of German potato salad. Buck has to stop somewhere though, right?

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I don't know any editors-in-chief (assuming that's CK's role, although it doesn't really matter) of a magazine, and I've known several personally, who aren't opinionated. That's actually the idea. That's why they exist. That's their value.

                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                        As I said, I don't always mind opinionated people. Bourdain's opinionated, and I dig what he does.

                                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                                        i don't find him "extremely opinionated" or "very staunch." he seems to state his opinions pretty calmly, to me.
                                                        i can't recall him having an "exaggerated on-air rejection...and disgust at non - ATK approved cooking methods."
                                                        at the beginning of the show, he trots out some questionable looking examples of the dish they are going to cook. he doesn't, to my recollection, talk about the method achieved to get this "bad example," but about the poor final result.
                                                        i will admit this kind of open is not my favourite part of the show.
                                                        i will also admit he may be a jerk, and some people don't like the way he acts on t.v. i was just asking for some examples.

                                                        as far as his billing practices go, i've never had a problem.

                                                        1. re: linus

                                                          "i don't find him "extremely opinionated" or "very staunch." he seems to state his opinions pretty calmly, to me."
                                                          ______
                                                          You were the first one who said people disliked him because of his editor's column. Well, what do you think people dislike about his column if it's not his staunch point of view?

                                                          'i can't recall him having an "exaggerated on-air rejection...and disgust at non - ATK approved cooking methods."'
                                                          _______
                                                          He might have done it more in the earlier seasons of ATK. I haven't watched much of the later seasons to compare. I can't quote you an episode number off the top of my head or something like that, at any rate.

                                                          "as far as his billing practices go, i've never had a problem."
                                                          ________
                                                          Bet you've never tried to cancel your membership though, eh?

                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                      The vodka pie crust recipe was originally published in CI in the December 2007 issue--the author of the first-person article is J. Kenji Alt. I assume "Lopez" got added later. In the same issue, he's also the author of an apple-cranberry pie recipe and the "Kitchen Notes" column--which features a neat cheap balsamic vinegar reduction that emulates the pricier stuff.

                                                      1. re: urbavore

                                                        Yes, if you want to track innovations, the magazine with first-person articles is the place to go. On the TV show, they usually use 'we tried ... we found that ...'

                                                        I have a few old copies. In 1997 familiar names include Adam Ried, Mark Bittman, John Willoughby, Jack Bishop. In 2003 I see Bridget Lancaster, Erin McMurrer and Julia Collin.

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          Adam Ried is now the Boston Globe Magazine food guy. Might do stuff on Boston.com and for the Globe as well; don't know as I only get the Sunday Globie.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            I have also seen at least one article in the Hannaford supermarket magazine by Adam Reid. And Jack Bishop has some great cookbooks of his own. My favorite is Vegetables Every Day.

                                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                                        I go back and forth about CK, but has anybody seen the outtake episode where he and Bridget were talking about the eating on the turkey's tail and it devolved into a hilariously raunchy (in a vague Yankee way) conversation? They were my heroes that day

                                                    3. re: cowboyardee

                                                      Thanks for the clue about Serious eats. Nice site.

                                                      jb

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Wow, I've been a Kenjii fan for some time, and never realized the CI connection. Thanks! Kenjii does some of the coolest stuff, one of my favorites being trying the entire In N Out menu- including the "secret" items.

                                                        CI lost me when they wouldn't include on-line content with a magazine subscription. I hope they make a fortune, but none of it will be coming from me.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          Totally agree cowboy

                                                        2. I had decided to let my print and digital subscriptions lapse, and this thread prompted me to go over to their website and check my account, and, sure enough, CI has charged my CC with a continuing membership. Now to untangle this!

                                                          1. @angelsmom
                                                            CI accepts no advertisement and is published by CK's publishing company, Boston Common Press. They have to make money somehow. Charging for an app is one of the ways. The other magazines you cite have plenty of ads and HUGE publishing conglomerates with a lot of money behind them.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: mangiare24

                                                              I have no problem with charging new subscribers, but I already pay 34.95 and 28.95.......I think that should cover my digital subscription. IMO

                                                              1. re: angelsmom

                                                                If other publications who rely on ads have ads in their digital subscription to cover the costs associated with providing that content in that manner, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that a non-ad model like CI would pass those costs onto the subscriber? That was rhetorical.

                                                            2. I subscribe to National Geographic. I get their iPad edition for free as a result. More typical CI behavior....

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: jmckee

                                                                Another good ad-free comparator is Consumer Reports, which offers print subscribers free access to the iPad version. See http://paidcontent.org/2011/12/01/419...

                                                                If Consumer Reports were to follow CI's approach they'd be forced to write a nasty article about their own shoddy business practices... which would be kinda embarrassing.

                                                                1. re: drongo

                                                                  Consumer Reports has been around since 1936 and has a much larger circulation due to its much broader readership base (and therefore income) than that of CI (published 1980-1989 and then relaunched in 1993-present). You really can't compare.

                                                                  I am not a CI fan and have only bought 1 copy in my life from which I did not make one recipe. I do like the show just because I like watching people cook. I have no real interest in Mr. Kimball and his enterprise other than what I have stated. I just think that we should be fair when comparing CI to other, much more established magazines.

                                                                2. re: jmckee

                                                                  Interesting choice for comparison. I dropped my Natl Geo subscriptions a few years back when the number of marketing VPs began to rival the number of editors and photographers. NG is, IMO, a sadly diminished version of itself.

                                                                3. Well that's no fun! :( I would consider cancelling my print subscription and only pay for the app, provided the app content was top notch and covered everything in the actual magazine.

                                                                  1. Christopher Kimball's background is in direct marketing, hence the direct marketing tricks involved in CI, ATK, and CC subscriptions. Moral of the story, never give your credit card number for a "free trial" unless you are planning on subscribing.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                      Correct. Never give your credit card to ANYONE when something is supposed to be "free."

                                                                    2. They can charge whatever they want if people are willing to pay it.

                                                                      I like CI and CK is ok too imo.

                                                                      1. I love Cook's Illustrated, but stopped all purchases from them due to their consumer-unfriendly marketing and promotion. Several years ago I requested they stop all "automatic" cookbook sales and shipments to me regardless of whether or not I returned their postcard announcement in a timely fashion. I spent dozens of hours calling, returning books at my own expense, and sending certified letters demanding that the auto-shipments stop. I was eventually successful until I make the mistake of ordering a book online, and the process began again. After that I learned two interesting things: some of their sales and book promotions were, at that time, outsourced so I was no longer dealing with anyone associated with Kimball's organization; and most importantly, ccing the Consumer Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission or other consumer organization on all correspondence will bring an instant halt to these types of problems. Surprisingly, even after my complaints to the Consumer Protection Agency, books kept coming; Cook's Illustrated refused to send me postage paid return labels; I refused to pay for either the book or the postage and threatened further action through the CPA. I ended up with several free books that year! They are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: l.a. lloyd

                                                                          Good for you!

                                                                          1. re: l.a. lloyd

                                                                            That's a really slimy way to do business.

                                                                            1. re: l.a. lloyd

                                                                              If they send you something you never requested, it's a gift from them. Federal regulations state so. A previous thread notes the info re: the federal regs:

                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/531244

                                                                              Hmmm...old link from dockhl - had to go searching for it - here's a PDF - bottom of the first page, top of the second page:

                                                                              http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2...

                                                                              3009. Mailing of unordered merchandise
                                                                              (a) Except for (1) free samples clearly and conspicuously marked as such, and (2) merchandise mailed by a charitable organization soliciting contributions, the mailing of unordered merchandise or of communications prohibited by subsection (c) of this section constitutes an unfair method of competition and an unfair trade practice in violation of section 45(a)(1) of title 15.

                                                                              (b) Any merchandise mailed in violation of subsection (a) of this section, or within the exceptions contained therein, may be treated as a gift by the recipient, who shall have the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender. All such merchandise shall have attached to it a clear and conspicuous statement informing the recipient that he may treat the merchandise as a gift to him and has the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender.

                                                                              (c) No mailer of any merchandise mailed in violation of subsection (a) of this section, or
                                                                              within the exceptions contained therein, shall mail to any recipient of such merchandise a bill
                                                                              for such merchandise or any dunning communications.

                                                                              (d) For the purposes of this section, ‘‘unordered merchandise’’ means merchandise
                                                                              mailed without the prior expressed request or consent of the recipient.

                                                                              1. re: l.a. lloyd

                                                                                You may find, if you read CI's small print, that by ordering or subscribing you consent to automatic renewals and mailing of future books, and the billing of your credit card for same.

                                                                                However, as a career letter carrier, I can assure you that as long as you do not open the package, you do not need to pay return postage. Merely draw a line through your address and write "REFUSED" on the front of the package and return it to your mail carrier or the post office. Best to use a magic marker so it's obvious. It also helps to obscure the bar code on the address label completely with a magic marker, though that's not essential. That's because if it is just dumped into the mailstream, if the machines can read a bar code they will route the piece accordingly - right back to you. If there's just a narrow pen line saying refused, the clerks and carrier might miss it and redeliver to you.

                                                                                1. re: l.a. lloyd

                                                                                  They did that to me, too once. Very tacky

                                                                                2. If the content is the same for both the print and online version, I agree it is a bit much. If it is different, then it’s up to you if there is or isn’t additional $20 value there. I subscribe to Plein Air magazine and there are differences between online edition and the print. This includes print content and videos. For me, it worth the additional fee. As to CI, I’m not a big fan of them. I question a lot of their recipes and testing.

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: mike0989

                                                                                    "As to CI, I’m not a big fan of them. I question a lot of their recipes and testing."

                                                                                    Would you enlighten us as to which recipes and testing you call into question, Mike0989?

                                                                                    1. re: Fowler

                                                                                      An example would be their cutting board test. My Dad is a subscriber and I glance at his issues when I visit. In their latest test they indicated they were revising their recommendation of bamboo cutting boards because reader reporting issues with them warping. Hey no kidding. Anybody who has shopped for hardwood flooring could have told them that. They then went on to make a generalization about end grain boards not holding up well. Sorry, but got ask what you are testing. I have an end grain board I’ve been using for over 30 years. On the online tv guide I noted they we’re going to have a taste comparison on BBQ sauce. Excuse me. We have several threads going on in other boards about which BBQ sauce is best and you are going to presume to pick one. That was reason enough to skip that episode.

                                                                                      1. re: mike0989

                                                                                        I'd prefer to have them and their silly tasting panel pick one, with additional commentary from the test kitchen folks, then read pages and pages of opinions on the Internet. At the very least I see no problem with the two coexisting in the universe.

                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                          My point wasn't that they were picking one. What makes a good BBQ sauce is very subjective, not objective. To presume their tastes will will match everone elses is big stretch.

                                                                                        2. re: mike0989

                                                                                          Well, had you watched that episode you would have gotten a good laugh. When they had Kimball taste the BBQ sauces, there was one he absolutely hated. Said it was too spicy (see comments above regarding that). Well, the one he hated was their homemade sauce! I was actually impressed that they were willing to show that.

                                                                                          1. re: AmyH

                                                                                            At least he's consistent. It seems like he seldom picks the winner. Hey, everone's taste buds are a bit different.

                                                                                    2. Ha! This doesn't surprise me. I used to subscribe for several years and I always thought it was total BS that I had to pay extra for online access to the exact same stuff they had in print, only digitized.

                                                                                      I know it's a pretty polarizing publication, and many, many, many folks have overwhelmingly positive experiences with their recipes, but I finally stopped subscribing because it seemed like every recipe I tried was average at best and bad at worst. Kimball hates spicy? Well, that explains why a lot of their stabs at Asian and Indian food are so boring.

                                                                                      I also hate their schtick that accompanies almost every recipe and tends to read like this: Here's recipe A. It's a common recipe, but NO ONE ever cooks it right. EVER! Thus, we have to rescue it through intense testing and then show all of you subscribers that there is only one way to do it right and only we can show you that way. Oh, and in about two years, we'll probably revisit the same recipe (or one very similar) and show you that there is now another way, a better way, in fact, THE ONLY WAY to correctly prepare said recipe. Please...spare me.

                                                                                      It's been years since I had a subscription and the dozen or so fails are a distant memory, so I can't name specific recipes. I did find a few keepers, including a roast turkey dish that was our family's go-to at Thanksgiving for years. However, as a whole, I found their recipes underwhelming, and the often numerous additional steps they include to supposedly perfect a recipe usually were far more trouble than they were worth, and often made the dish worse than other recipes I had for the same dish.

                                                                                      20 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                        Well put. It just seems odd that such an enormous recipe empire would tailor every one of their recipes to one finicky New Englander.

                                                                                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                          Very good point about their "schtick", Big Crunch!

                                                                                          Often I find they'll re-invent some popular dish and come up with something that I generally find to be good -- but TOTALLY different from the original (particularly when the original is from the cuisine of some other country).

                                                                                          1. re: drongo

                                                                                            I know what you mean. Sometimes it's like watching the Bobby Flay muffelatta throw down. It was a good sandwich he made, but not a muffelataa.

                                                                                          2. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                            "Kimball hates spicy? Well, that explains why a lot of their stabs at Asian and Indian food are so boring."
                                                                                            Do they complain about the over all flavor level is low, or that it just isn't hot enough? Any self proclaimed 'chilehead' who can't up the heat level of ATK recipe on their own is just poser.

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              I think I may be a former chilihead...in my twenties, I had a mouth of asbestos, but as I inch towards forty I no longer have that tolerance :(

                                                                                              But it's not just about the heat level. I do a lot of Indian cooking, and whenever they would take a stab at something Indian, I would usually try it and I always felt the the depth of flavors was a bit low. That's not because it wasn't hot enough (it's a terrible over-generalization when I hear people say all Indian food is spicy hot) but because they didn't use enough spice or the right blend. I felt the same way about a lot of their Asian dishes, which I often felt needed more ginger and garlic. If it's true that Kimball has problem with "hot spicy", my guess is that he may also have some aversion to some "strongly spiced" dishes, even if they have a low heat level. The only reason I say that is because I've noticed a similar aversion in many other people I've met and talked to about food.

                                                                                            2. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                              Don't forget you can pay a third time if you buy any of their special collections of recipes, e.g., soups/stews, grilling, and so on.

                                                                                              1. re: sr44

                                                                                                I don't know if hold that against them so much. A LOT of food publications do that, including Saveur, Cooking Light, and Bon Appetit.

                                                                                                1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                  But do you also pay to use their website(s)?

                                                                                                  1. re: sr44

                                                                                                    Nope, which is sort've the point I made earlier. Maybe the site is different these days, but back then, it was just a digitized collection of the stuff in the magazine. As a magazine subscriber, I feel I should have been given access to that for free.

                                                                                                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                      I agree. Perhaps if you're not a subscriber, a fee should be charged, but not layer upon layer of fees.

                                                                                                      1. re: sr44

                                                                                                        I am trying my best to understand your position. It costs CI money to produce their magazine and as a subscriber you pay for that product. It costs CI additional money to produce and maintain a website. Why would you feel you have a right to receive that additional product for free?

                                                                                                        1. re: Fowler

                                                                                                          Because I pay for the magazine and a website membership, I do not want to pay for the same magazine on my pad.

                                                                                                          1. re: angelsmom

                                                                                                            angelsmom,

                                                                                                            You have a good point but if you take a closer look at my response (check the upper right hand corner) you can see my question was for sr44 because they were stating there should not be "layer upon layer of fees".

                                                                                                            As stated, I was just trying to understand their position. Thanks for your response though!
                                                                                                            '

                                                                                                            1. re: Fowler

                                                                                                              I think it depends on what you think the product is. If you think it's the TV show, the magazine and offshoots, and the website(s), then you don't have a problem paying for each separately. However, I think the product is the recipes, and I don't want to pay for one multiple times.

                                                                                                              1. re: sr44

                                                                                                                Thanks for the clarification, sr44. I agree that it would depend upon what one perceives to be the actual "product".

                                                                                              2. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                Yep. The attitude just irritates, I kind of have to read through it to get to the actual recipe. I find their recipes reliable, but not the end-all/be-all that they're made to be.

                                                                                                Kimball's aversion to spicy explains a lot--I don't even think of preparing CI's version of Asian/Indian dishes--you can look at the recipes and tell they're missing basic parts of the flavor profiles. For that matter, CI's version of a "Greek Salad" had little to do with the salad you actually see in Greece.

                                                                                                1. re: urbavore

                                                                                                  I have their Indian Curry, from the 2001-2011 compilation, in front of me. I don't see what 'basic part of the flavor profile' is missing. Adjusting for the amount of meat it is remarkably close to 'lamb with spinach' in Madhu Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking.

                                                                                                  Same goes for the other 4 Indian style dishes in that volume.

                                                                                                  1. re: urbavore

                                                                                                    Do any versions of the Greek salad have a lot to do with the salad you see in Greece?

                                                                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                                                                      Mine do! Cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, olives, olive oil, lemon or vinegar and oregano. There are variations of this throughout the Meditteranean. What they don't have is lettuce because lettuce bolts in hot places in the summer. Lettuce also can't take sitting around in dressing, while cucumbers, tomatoes and onions all meld together.

                                                                                                      Paulj, don't have the CIs in front of me. But Indian spice mixes are complex--there's not one blend--making your own curry powder tends to be only the beginning of the process. It's idiosyncratic, too, people are expected to have their own quirks. It's not codified the way, say, French cooking can be.

                                                                                                  2. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                    Oh you're so spot-on!
                                                                                                    Let's pencil-whip this sorry excuse for a recipe that nobody has really done properly even though it's one of the most universally-loved dishess in the world until it's so convoluted only the truly unindoctrinated will go through the seventy extra steps it takes to do our version!

                                                                                                  3. I have defended this company over and over, and I am embarrassed about it. I love the recipes, I actually enjoy Christopher Kimball. I think the content is worth the money, but the way they go about it is just bad in every way. The nickel and dimeing has gone way too far. The final straw for me was Cooks Country now putting old CI recipes in their current magazines as "NEW CONTENT". Not being able to read the magazine on my ipad did not surprise me either. I don't see how they think all of this penny pinching is less annoying than ads. Please stop. I want to love you, but I am just fed up.

                                                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: ThoughtForFood

                                                                                                      If CI started taking ads, then they could not do taste tests or test appliances and the like and recommend certain products. It would be a conflict of interest.

                                                                                                      1. re: mangiare24

                                                                                                        There exists a basic separation of edit and publishing in many many magazines. It can certainly work.

                                                                                                        However, this organization is ad free, so I'm utterly baffled by why people expect that they should get mobile access and content for free.

                                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                                          Give me an example of a magazine that tests and endorses as many products as CI does AND takes advertising dollars from companies they do not endorse.

                                                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                                                            I am not suggesting I receive it for free, bit I already pay close to 75.00 for the magazine and online subscription and feel it could be a courtesy to its "MEMBERS"

                                                                                                            1. re: tommy

                                                                                                              Consumer Reports has basicaly the same model as CI. They do not charge subscrbers an additional fee for the online content. If the online content for CI is the same as the print version, I see no added benfit that justifies an additional fee.

                                                                                                              1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                CORRECT!!!! Sorry to scream

                                                                                                                1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                  You may not see any benefit, which is great because you don't have to pay for it. But someone has to pay for it. The cost gets passed on to the user. Who do you expect to pay for the development and support of a mobile app? The government? Your friends?

                                                                                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                    I woud expect CI to cover the development. If other nonprofits (CR) can do it without added expense, then the model is there that works. The development of a mobil app in itself is not a huge expense. Heck, just look at the App Store or the Android Marketplace. There is nothing out there that cost a lot, and most are free. The onlyreal expense is the uploading of data to their DB, which I suspect they were already doing.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                      The cost of apps on the app store have very little to do with the cost of developing and maintaining a mobile app for something like CI. LOL!

                                                                                                                      1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                        "If other nonprofits"

                                                                                                                        Cooks Illustrated is nonprofit?

                                                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                          I've always assumed they were as they are on PBS and their magazine is devoid of Ad's. If I'm wrong about that, then I for misspeaking. When it comes down to it, I'm not certain that CR isn't not for profit as opposed to non profit.

                                                                                                                          1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                            Given CI is not not-for-profit or non-profit, drawing the parallel between their "business models" is probably flawed.

                                                                                                                            1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                              Oh bother, if you want to split hairs, fine you win

                                                                                                                    2. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                      I see the benefit of the online content...It means I do not have to store or haul around 15+ years of the hard copy print versions.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Fowler

                                                                                                                        If you see the benifit great, it works for you. For me, that in itself isn't enough. Too many other publication give me that for free as a print subscriber.

                                                                                                                      2. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                        I mentioned this earlier; CR is a more established publication with a much wider circulation tha CI. CR is more financially sound than CI. You just cannot compare the two.

                                                                                                                        1. re: mangiare24

                                                                                                                          Evern well established publication are getting squeezed today. Gourmet is gone and I suspect it's subsciber base was bigger than either of these. The fact is, people are moving away from print media. If a publisher wants to attract and keep subcribers in a digital format, as a seperate value added product. He is going to have to do more than just copy his print version up.

                                                                                                                          1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                            People are moving away from print media, true. That is exactly why we will all be paying for apps, web site usage, etc. in the near fiture.

                                                                                                                            As for the CI app, I have not seen it but I would venture to think it does more than just copy the print version. For example, it may have a searchabel recipe data base.

                                                                                                                            1. re: mangiare24

                                                                                                                              Also, it is very expensive to develop and maintain an app.

                                                                                                                2. I have seen no mention of the most important fact of all. The Christopher Kimball empire is paid big big $$$$$ by every public TV station that airs his money grubbing shows. Our tax dollars and donations flow directly to him in large amounts because it is a very expensive series of shows for local PTV stations to purchase. Mr Kimball should be PAYING PTV stations to air his endless infomercials promoting his products. I will quit complaining about it when all support of public TV is stopped.

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                    Can you put some real numbers on those '$$$$$'? What's a realistic estimate of the tax dollars that goes to ATK?

                                                                                                                    1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                      I will acquiesce to the ending of support to public broadcasting when the federal expenditures to which I am opposed stop.;

                                                                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                        +1, jmckee

                                                                                                                    2. They will keep charging what they wish as long as they are making a profit.

                                                                                                                      I seriously don't see any issue with that-if the negatives outweigh the positives for you just don't purchase CI products.

                                                                                                                      1. This is a new one for me; I have never subscribed (i.e. paid any money) to CI or ATK, though I guess at some point I visited their website for something, and gave them my email address. I (think) I've received "newsletters" via email that I never read. Now I am getting "collection notices" that my account is overdue. Anyone else see something like this? I worry they may have slimed me by putting some small print that they'll send me newsletters that I will eventually have to pay for.

                                                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                          I think this is their standard modus operandi.

                                                                                                                          Just reply "never ordered anything from you; don't owe CI anything. Stop harassing me with fake collection notices."

                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                            I think via the small print you may have signed up for an online subscription to their site.

                                                                                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                              I believe you are correct greygarious. Whenever giving ones e-mail on any site, one must always be careful to uncheck any and all boxes before hitting "accept" or "submit." This may be what happened to @DGresh.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                Thing is, I haven't been to that site in at least 6 months. Anyway, I wrote back and said I hadn't ordered anything. They said I could ignore any further solicitations.

                                                                                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                  I suggest keeping that e-mail in a file where it won't get deleted; also print it out for safe keeping. :)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                    I'm really not too concerned. What, after all, do they have of mine? Not my credit card to charge. Not my real name. No signature on file. Just their word that I "accepted some terms and conditions". Prove it.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                    That also is their modus operandi.

                                                                                                                                    Slimy.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                      This method seems to be successful for them, unfortunately.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                      Couldn't they just stop sending them? That sounds sneaky

                                                                                                                                      1. re: madeliner

                                                                                                                                        well to give them credit (?) around the same time they sent the "invoice" they also sent a note saying that unless I responded "yes" to something or other they were going to stop sending the newsletter

                                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                          So it really wasn't a collection notice; just a hard sell disguised as one. :)

                                                                                                                                      2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                        Wow. Talk about lowbrow.

                                                                                                                                2. I am a longtime subscriber to the print edition of CI. Due to the various screwups they created with the on-line subscription, it was tried for one year, never worked and I will never bother with any of their other products, on-line or off.

                                                                                                                                  CI is not alone. Many, many, magazines and other print media use third parties to handly subscriptions and billing. In my experience they are uniformly just short of crooked and equally likely to be screwed up. Lately, we have used Amazon for subscriptions. They do their usual, hyper-efficient, job of accepting, tracking, reminding, and managing print subscriptions.

                                                                                                                                  If I had to name one major objection to the CI methodology, it is that the focus on time tends to force a lot of what they do to the detriment, IMO, of many recipes. I tend to take all CI recipes as interesting input, possible methodologies, and never assume that something is "the best" because they say so. As it happens, I have the same opinion of much of Kenji's work. Maybe my attitude is only a reflection of being retired and able to spend whatever time it takes to make something or maybe that most of my hobbies involve painstaking and/or patient efforts.

                                                                                                                                  1. It has indeed. I never thought very much of the magazine anyway. It is like the Hilton Corporation to charge for an internet connection. The Hilton I stayed at over a week ago was charging $10.95 per day. We checked out and stayed at another place. They are trying to gouge you for every penny they can get. It is not just CI or Hiltons. You have to read the fine print all of the time.

                                                                                                                                    1. Not only that, but I actually enjoy many of the ads in my cooking magazines. I get a lot of information and sometimes free recipes that are really good.

                                                                                                                                      1. Just to add more info to the ci thread, I am a subscriber to their website. They have recently upgraded the site, so they say, but I cannot log on. My account info says I have no paid membership even though I renewed in March. I am really mad, and am on hold with their cust service. The website was poorly designed before and now it is unusable.

                                                                                                                                        21 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                          Are you logging on to the correct site? IE: CI vs. ATK vs. CC

                                                                                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                            yes, I have the site bookmarked on my computer. Along the top it says I am logged in but it won't let me see the recipes. It is the new update to their site that is causing it. You would think with all the young comp sci grads looking for a job they would be able to hire someone who could design a decent site.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                              The same thing has happened to me: I had paid subscription to both CI and Editor's choice (now 'Premium' as they helpfully told me in their e-mail), but there is no record of this whatsoever on the new website. Still waiting to hear back from their customer service.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                                I'm having the same issue. And cannot get through to customer service - I get a message saying they are too overwhelmed to take my call and to try again later.

                                                                                                                                                I pay for both the CI and Editor's Choice but it is frustrating when you can't view a recipe under the ATK heading. For the first time in years, I'm considering cancelling the subscriptions. But all this is moot because I can't contact them to cancel!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: katcraig

                                                                                                                                                  No point in "trying again later" as you can't actually get past the message to even wait to talk to someone. Who decided to disconnect customer service now that people are actually calling? I'd like to cancel too now but can't.

                                                                                                                                                  Just infuriating.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pedr0

                                                                                                                                                    You can cancel your membership online...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                      Unfortunately, you can't do this. If you've been locked out of access to the recipes your account will already read "INACTIVE" whether you've paid or not. The "upgraded" account page on CI is pretty useless.

                                                                                                                                                      Since I renewed less than 30 days ago, I'd also like a refund.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Pedr0

                                                                                                                                                        Check your bank statements and go through them to cancel.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Pedr0

                                                                                                                                                      Pedro - some ideas in this other Cooks Illustrated thread:

                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/531244

                                                                                                                                                      In particular, my post telling people how to get through to them:

                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5312...

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                                    Well, I still can't access the website and haven't heard a word from the customer service, but I got the notice that my "premium subscription" will be renewed for another year: clearly they haven't lost the billing part of their database....

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nastia

                                                                                                                                                      Just dispute it with your credit card company, explaining why you decline the payment. Problem solved.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: nastia

                                                                                                                                                        What mcf said. Just tell your CC company to decline the charge. They have NO right to continue to charge your credit card if you've attempted to stop the subscription. It really is as easy as that.

                                                                                                                                                        And write the company (as has been noted with addresses above) and tell them if they continue to attempt to charge your card for a subscription you no longer want, you will report them to the Attorney General of MA (not that she'll do anything, as she's a complete waste of space, IMO), but telling them that you're going to report them should shake them into stopping your subscription, as you've requested.

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                                    Same here. I paid the $35 subscription renewal less than 30 days ago in October and no longer have access. I was also denied access to the Editor's Choice part of the site before being fully locked out of my subscription a week ago. Have called end emailed customer service to no response. Very, very irritating right before Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                    What's worse is the aforementioned cooksillustrated.com site has been "redesigned" with the expressed purpose of getting CI subscribers to also pay for ATK or Cook's Country by polluting search results with recipes from the other sites.

                                                                                                                                                    To say that Kimball & Co. have sunk to a new low with all this is an understatement.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pedr0

                                                                                                                                                      Hubby just said that it sounds like someone is trying to pay for their Maserati.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                        Indeed. Kimball is such a complete phony. He should trade the bow tie for an ascot.

                                                                                                                                                        If your subscription is still working, make sure you print and save all your recipes as PDFs. Never know when you'll get kicked off the site once they've got your money.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Pedr0

                                                                                                                                                        I have a Cook's Illustrated online subscription, and I'm glad that it's still working for me.

                                                                                                                                                        I agree that it's irritating that search results on the Cook's Illustrated site also return results from America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Country and Cookbook Collection... but I discovered you can deselect those other sites if you want.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                                                          > but I discovered you can deselect those other sites if you want.

                                                                                                                                                          Yes, you can. And you have to keep doing it because the site doesn't remember your preferences.

                                                                                                                                                          I had a partial years' subscription and they offered me a prorated deal for the rest of the sites through the end of the year, so I took it. Already I'm finding that the Cooks Country recipes are not quite up to the high standard of CI. I've already discovered lots of shortcuts (like using pre-made pie dough) and imprecisely written recipes. I've cooked several CC recipes already and the results have been as you would have expected.

                                                                                                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                      3. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                                        I finally got through to customer service -- they said it could take TWO WEEKS to get the problem solved. But in the meantime, they gave me temporary access.

                                                                                                                                                        User name:
                                                                                                                                                        cds@atk.com

                                                                                                                                                        password:
                                                                                                                                                        cooks

                                                                                                                                                        Feel free to share this with anyone having trouble!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: katcraig

                                                                                                                                                          That's awesome! Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: katcraig

                                                                                                                                                            Ugh, they've disabled that account now. If you're logged in with it be sure to keep that browser window open.

                                                                                                                                                            Real nice of them to do that.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: shermybeagle

                                                                                                                                                            dispute it with your credit card company, retailers hate that

                                                                                                                                                          3. And here I thought my opinion of the business ethics of Cooks Illustrated couldn't sink any lower. I learn something new everyday!