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80. 80. 80. The whole time.
March 1, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe


 
And before y'all get sniffy-snobby like "Cook's Illustrated is hardly that complicated or pretentious; I use Modernist Cuisine all the time like a champ" just wanna say I tend to agree. But this still made me laugh. And FWIW, I got this directly from CI's own Facebook feed; someone sent it to them and they laughed too.
posted by ifjuly at 7:57 AM on March 1, 2012


Wow, Xtranormal is kind of upping their game with the sort-of-3D look. When did that happen?
posted by koeselitz at 7:59 AM on March 1, 2012


Yeah, I just gave up my Cook's Illustrated subscription and went back to Martha Stewart. It suffers from the same over-specific ingredients and lacks the background, but dammit, I like the pretty pictures.
posted by maryr at 7:59 AM on March 1, 2012


I'm not sure this is a great Mefi Post, but that was actually funny.
posted by Blake at 8:00 AM on March 1, 2012


The huge Cook's Illustrated cookbook is my favorite cookbook by far, and I cook from it all the time, but that was pretty funny.
posted by Huck500 at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it wrong that this is why I love them? Then again, I am a scientist, and CI is basically a scientific journal that happens to be about recipes.
posted by redbeard at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2012 [29 favorites]


I love Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country, and I laughed. We kid because we love.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:14 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Redbeard: Right? I mean, abstract, intro, results, discussion and conclusion. Followed by a methods section. Plus review. So good!
posted by Mercaptan at 8:15 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


But..but...cooking is organic chemistry!
posted by echo target at 8:16 AM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


"This isn't cooking. This is organic chemistry." Love.
posted by maudlin at 8:16 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I, personally, am making the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Farce Double.
posted by The Bellman at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong that this is why I love them? Then again, I am a scientist, and CI is basically a scientific journal that happens to be about recipes.

It also lacks advertisements, which is always a good thing in my book.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will admit to hating Chris Kimball's stupid little bowtied smirk on the first page of every issue.
posted by echo target at 8:30 AM on March 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


How I can tell the origin of the recipe my wife is planning on cooking based on where she shops:

Whole Foods, Savenors, Local Farmers Market: Cooks Illustrated.
Whole Foods, Organic Grocery Store: Cooking Light
Market Basket: Food Network Magazine
Costco, 7-11: Rachel Ray
Morgue: Paula Deen
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:32 AM on March 1, 2012 [48 favorites]


Why is everyone misspelling Food Porn Monthly?
posted by erniepan at 8:36 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't this the way recipes should be, though? Why would I want a recipe that hasn't been rigorously tested? I don't often cook from recipes--I mean, once you get the idea of how to make a sauce or which ingredients in which proportions will give a particular flavor, you can wing most everyday cooking--but when I do, it better damn well be a recipe that's going to come out exactly as intended because it's been tested and tested again.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:36 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The main problem is that their testing reveals little flaws that they add big new steps to fix, but the more steps there are, the more likely errors will be made that lead to bigger flaws then they started with.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Testing recipes is one thing. Reporting on that recipe in a tone that implies that "if you do not do this in exactly this way with precisely these ingredients, Julia Child's ghost will take up residence as a poltergeist in your house and write obscene things in chicken blood on your walls" is something else again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:41 AM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I will admit to hating Chris Kimball's stupid little bowtied smirk on the first page of every issue.

Me too, and his weird, slightly preachy, and often bizarre anecdotes. I guess I'm either not a Vermonter or it's a joke I'm not in on.
posted by Carillon at 8:41 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't this the way recipes should be, though? Why would I want a recipe that hasn't been rigorously tested?

There are two aspects to CI's method: testing and optimization. The merits of testing are pretty indisputable, especially testing for reliability; it makes all the difference when trying to communicate a complex recipe through a one-way, primarily textual medium.

The merits of optimization are a bit debatable. On the one hand it can be satisfying to know that you've made the best beef stew possible, but on the other hand, excessive optimization can lead to Heston Blumenthal's chili con carne recipe, which is almost obscenely complicated.
posted by jedicus at 8:43 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great example, jedicus.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 AM on March 1, 2012


Here is my recipe, I invented this when I kinda broke, but also very busy.

You need a slow cooker.

Brown some of those cubes of beef the supermarket sells labeled "for stew".
wash one bag new potatos and one bag baby carrots in a colander.
open can or two of Spicy V8.

Dump all that in your crock pot and set it to 10 hours.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ad hominem -- set it to high or low?
posted by vitabellosi at 8:48 AM on March 1, 2012


The merits of optimization are a bit debatable

Especially if you happen not to share the preferences of the author, whether as regards flavor, texture, or time taken.

I was extraordinarily offended to read in one CI article that there is no need for the modern cook to spend hours making chicken broth from carcasses when you can just simmer umami-rich ingredients with ground chicken (for the chickeny flavor) for much less time.

Of course this means you don't get the gelatinous richness of real stock (admittedly broth is supposed to be lighter), and it also means that you're tossing out bones and just going out to buy more ground chicken: a worse result and a more wasteful method. Wonderful!
posted by kenko at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


That Blumenthal recipe isn't cooking, that's narcissistic foodie masturbation run amuk.
posted by elendil71 at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2012


Mine only has 4 buttons and 10 hours is marked as low.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2012


Aside from the not-very-appetizing looking corn muffins, Blumenthal's chili recipe looks fantastic.
posted by kenko at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2012


That Blumenthal recipe isn't cooking, that's narcissistic foodie masturbation run amuk.

Certainly titillating.
posted by Carillon at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2012


excessive optimization can lead to Heston Blumenthal's chili con carne recipe, which is almost obscenely complicated

That's got to be a joke, right? I mean, nobody who actually eats food would do that, right?
posted by uncleozzy at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2012


it better damn well be a recipe that's going to come out exactly as intended because it's been tested and tested again.

The problem is that a good recipe just isn't good enough for CI. It has to be the absolute BEST recipe in the entire WORLD, even if, for most people, the cost, time, and effort required for such a recipe makes them just not want to cook. As far as I'm concerned, it's part of a trend whereas cooking just becomes a specialist hobby and not something everyone does. I do love reading CI and I love fancy food, but I'm very glad to have learned basic everyday cooking.
posted by melissam at 8:56 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny. I always assumed those recipes were never meant to be followed exactly, but to show the reader how Jesus Christ himself would make you dinner if he suddenly appeared in your home. Having every trick in the book will let competent cooks pick and choose which ones they want to use that day. It's a magazine for people who know their shit.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


> The merits of optimization are a bit debatable

Especially if you happen not to share the preferences of the author, whether as regards flavor, texture, or time taken.

I was extraordinarily offended to read in one CI article that there is no need for the modern cook to spend hours making chicken broth from carcasses when you can just simmer umami-rich ingredients with ground chicken (for the chickeny flavor) for much less time.

Of course this means you don't get the gelatinous richness of real stock (admittedly broth is supposed to be lighter), and it also means that you're tossing out bones and just going out to buy more ground chicken: a worse result and a more wasteful method. Wonderful!


see, that's where i think the fact cook's illustrated writes lengthy essays is a plus, not a minus. there are tons of times i don't agree with them about the flavor they're going for, or what they think matters or doesn't, or whatever--and them being upfront about it in the recipe preface essays is great, because then i know to not listen to them about component x, or skipping y, or not skipping some step they claim is important, etc. that's where i gotta hand it to them, and i wish more recipe authors were open to this (instead of, by not talking about their approach, implying theirs is The One True Way sans explanation of why).
posted by ifjuly at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a magazine for people who know their shit.

This is pretty much how I look at it. If you can look at their best-of-all-possible-worlds recipe and figure out which parts are important to you, it's a really useful resource.

Which is why everybody should read Cookwise.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:00 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Funny. I always assumed those recipes were never meant to be followed exactly, but to show the reader how Jesus Christ himself would make you dinner if he suddenly appeared in your home. Having every trick in the book will let competent cooks pick and choose which ones they want to use that day. It's a magazine for people who know their shit.

This is how I've always used it. I love the subscription to Cooks Illustrated (well, the website) that my mother-in-law got me, but I certainly do not follow their recipes exactly. I look at it as a resource for recipes I can assume are going to be solid, even if I don't put white wine in the chicken pot pie, 'cause seriously people.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:01 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's got to be a joke, right? I mean, nobody who actually eats food would do that, right?

It's not a joke so much as the premise for a TV show, "In Search of Perfection", where he spends 30 minutes creating massively over-the-top versions of classic recipes. It's more food porn than a cooking show.
posted by smackfu at 9:01 AM on March 1, 2012


You know, it isn't that bad.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:03 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem is that a good recipe just isn't good enough for CI. It has to be the absolute BEST recipe in the entire WORLD, even if, for most people, the cost, time, and effort required for such a recipe makes them just not want to cook. As far as I'm concerned, it's part of a trend whereas cooking just becomes a specialist hobby and not something everyone does. I do love reading CI and I love fancy food, but I'm very glad to have learned basic everyday cooking.

See, I've found the Cook's Illustrated has given me lots more tools for everyday cooking. I tend to make only the least complicated (and most veganizable!) recipes, but I integrate the techniques they provide into other cooking.

I most often use Cook's Illustrated recipes when I'm cooking for others, and I really like being able to make the Best Possible Raspberry Bars (seriously, the raspberry bar recipe in January's issue? Out of this world and not very difficult.)

I think that as a society we operate on guilt a lot. There's so much messaging about guilt ("You should be thinner, richer, have a better job, pay more into savings, exercise more!"...this constant moralization that takes no account of people's daily lives) that it's very hard not to read any set of instructions as a demand. So naturally, many folks read Cook's Illustrated as a set of demands that you personally should live the total Cook's Illustrated lifestyle and if you don't, then you're doing it wrong. I don't think this is how the magazine is intended; I think it's just nerdy. But I sure do get that sense of demand in our culture and recognize how it spills over.

(I'm a bit protected from reading CI as demand because I'm vegan, so there's simply no way that I am making any kind of chicken stock ever, no matter the method.)
posted by Frowner at 9:06 AM on March 1, 2012


> I, personally, am making the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Farce Double

Love Mathews, thanks for the link! This whole topic reminds me of that Black Turkey recipe, or Laurie Colwin's infamous Black Cake which she admitted herself she'd never actually made.
posted by ifjuly at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can I just say thank you to the OP for making a thread where people can talk about Cook's Illustrated?
posted by digitalprimate at 9:10 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


> Testing recipes is one thing. Reporting on that recipe in a tone that implies that "if you do not do this in exactly this way with precisely these ingredients, Julia Child's ghost will take up residence as a poltergeist in your house and write obscene things in chicken blood on your walls" is something else again

As Frowner alludes to, I've never gotten this vibe from CI myself, and I've been reading the magazine since...well, since before Kimball returned.
posted by ifjuly at 9:11 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, CI taught me how to heavily salt an eye of round for several hours, then roast it at a very low heat to get a surprisingly tender and tasty roast. They can do simple.
posted by maudlin at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is that people who follow the recipe to the exact letter in fear of the slightest little thing fucking it up do so because they don't actually understand how food works (unless it's baking, that's different). Maybe one time they tried substituting butter for olive oil in a salad dressing or overcooked the turkey and ruined christmas, so they just let other people tell them how to do it. Cooks illustrated is not for them, but they think it is because they have a sub-zero fridge and shop at whole foods.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a Chowhound discussion/description of the CI eye of round alchemy. This post has pictures.
posted by maudlin at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I *love* CI. We subscribe to the magazine and own several of their cookbooks. I don’t mind the “best in the world” approach to recipes. I can appreciate the “here’s everything we tried, what didn’t make the cut and why” approach to describing their testing. What drives me bonkers is the prose template they seem to use for every single article.

“Ah, deep fried lamb testicles with noodles. Who doesn’t remember the silky sauce, the firm noodles, the savory lamb testicles with their savory batter coating. But the reality today is that even if you can find deep fried lamb testicles with noodles at your local Lamb Testicle Hut, the noodles are limp, the sauce is curdled, and the deep fried lamb testicles are small, tough, and the batter is bland and insipid. WE SET OUT TO IMPROVE YOUR DEEP FRIED LAMB TESTICLES WITH NOODLES EXPERIENCE.”

I get that there are only so many ways to describe food and your process, but holy cats are their articles ever interchangeable, and they all sound like somebody’s grouchy grandpa wrote them. “Back in the day, we KNEW how to cook deep fried lamb testicles with noodles – you kids TODAY, feh….”
posted by ersatzkat at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2012 [32 favorites]


yeah, that technique, while not solely theirs, is a gem. their method to indoor london broil is awesome too, and similarly dead simple (you scorch it well salted on a hellfire hot cast iron, then immediately put it in a blazing hot oven for 3-5 minutes a side and let rest. super fast, mostly hands off, and then you have a buncha economy-cut-made-tender beef for making salads and sandwiches for the week. whee!).
posted by ifjuly at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


esatzkat, you just made me laugh out loud. that recipe opener style you're parodying--yes! totally.
posted by ifjuly at 9:20 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


and actually, now that i think of it, that recipe opener style they use resembles made for tv advertisements. you know, like "don't you dream of having delicious poached eggs" and there's color video of a smiling person enjoying their succulent eggs--but then "but too often, you just get a runny, rubbery mess, yuck!" and black and white frowning person with crappy eggs.
posted by ifjuly at 9:21 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


From Blumenthal's total synthesis of chili con carne:

10g/½oz Madera ground chilli powder
20g/¾oz Pecos Red ground chilli powder


I have trouble taking this seriously. Is the correct ratio of Pecos Red to Madera 2 to 1 (as you'd expect from the measurements in grams) or 1.5 to 1 (as you'd expect from the measurements in ounces)? I mean, if you're claiming to have optimized Every Damn Thing about the recipe, you should be able to tell me which one of these to prefer.

Actually, for mystical reasons, the correct ratio is φ to 1, but cooks and chemists don't know about irrational numbers.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"because they air quotes tested for that air quotes"
posted by zippy at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I been burned bad by eye round. I suppose leaving salt on overnight works a bit like brining, the salt enters through osmosis and starts to break down protiens.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:27 AM on March 1, 2012


Also: there is no possible mechanism by which stirring counterclockwise could give different results than stirring clockwise, unless Cook's Illustrated recipes depend on the weak nuclear force. I call data mining shenanigans.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:27 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


“Ah, deep fried lamb testicles with noodles. Who doesn’t remember the silky sauce, the firm noodles, the savory lamb testicles with their savory batter coating. But the reality today is that even if you can find deep fried lamb testicles with noodles at your local Lamb Testicle Hut, the noodles are limp, the sauce is curdled, and the deep fried lamb testicles are small, tough, and the batter is bland and insipid. WE SET OUT TO IMPROVE YOUR DEEP FRIED LAMB TESTICLES WITH NOODLES EXPERIENCE.”

See, this is part of why I like Cook's Illustrated. This gesture towards a vanished golden age, a golden age that in reality never existed. There's this tension between sadness (the lost days of widespread availability of delicious lamb testicles with noodles) and the utopian project (but we will recreate those vanished lamb testicles of yore!). If it weren't about cooking, it would be a deeply retrograde philosophy, of course, since it relies on an imaginary cultural consensus (about deliciousness in this instance) and harks back to a unified/pre-modern/pastoral...but because it's cooking, it's just amusing.

So folks say that every English musician of note tends to have a go at the pastorale once they've worked through their youthful concerns. I submit that the small-town-east-coast-lobster-and-self-reliance is the US version of the pastorale, and that Cook's Illustrated is basically a retrograde romantic enterprise which seeks to establish a new kind of US. I mean, I think it's a bad kind of US.
posted by Frowner at 9:34 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


All I know is that CI introduced us to a high-heat roasted chicken, which is butterflied and set on a broiler pan. It cooks really fast.

Come closer and I'll tell you something else.

No, closer.

whispers In the broiler pan? Sliced potatoes, which serve to soak up the fat that drips through the pan and reduce the amount of smoking...but....

....THEY ALSO COOK! YOU'VE MADE HOMEMADE POTATO CHIPS COOKED IN CHICKEN FAT! FROM THE TABLE OF ZEUS HIMSELF! TREMBLE AND DESPAIR!

(thunder, lightning...in the distance, a horse whinnies)
posted by jquinby at 9:34 AM on March 1, 2012 [39 favorites]


Ad hominem, cooking the meat at a low temperature for a long period is crucial.
Low temperature was the way to go. Keeping the meat’s internal temperature below 122 degrees as long as possible allowed the meat’s enzymes to act as natural tenderizers, breaking down its tough connective tissue (this action stops at 122 degrees). Since most ovens don’t heat below 200 degrees, we needed to devise a special method to lengthen this tenderizing period. We roasted the meat at 225 degrees (after searing it to give the meat a crusty exterior) and shut off the oven when the roast reached 115 degrees. The meat stayed below 122 degrees an extra 30 minutes, allowing the enzymes to continue their work before the temperature reached 130 degrees for medium-rare. As for seasoning, we found that salting the meat a full 24 hours before roasting made it even more tender and seasoned the roast throughout.
posted by maudlin at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like CI a lot, but the style does get on my nerves sometimes. Sometimes it reminds me of Mythbusters -- writing as if they're doing controlled experiments ("because they air quotes tested for that air quotes") when it's really more of an informed trial & error approach. But then I take off my scientist goggles and just focus on the yummy looking results. It does tend to be 'food porn' for me -- I think I've only ever followed a few of their recipes.

The compilations they do (they're in the magazine rack -- 'Best Skillet Suppers', etc.) tend to cut out a lot of the preliminary essays in order to fit a single recipe per page. So if the writing style annoys you, you might appreciate them.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:41 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


jquinby, that reminds me of how only like last month did i finally discover the wonder that is roasting chicken with a starch as a bed underneath it--it keeps the bottomside of the chicken from getting sad and squishy, and all the roasted rendered chicken fat plumps the starch (i boringly prefer sliced bageutte rounds/big "croutons" a la ina garten's lemon chicken or dorie greenspan and melissa clark's roast chickens, but potatoes, chickpeas, etc. work too) and makes it food of the gods. homemade schmaltz potatoes/croutons/chickpeas, and you didn't have to do anything extra! it just cooks at the same time! magic.

(this is true for unpeeled cloves of garlic too. throw them in scattered along the chicken, then when you take it out, pinch the roast garlic out of the skins and smear on the schmaltzy bread and die. just die.)
posted by ifjuly at 9:43 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


For a recent party (okay, it was a Super Bowl party) (okay, it was a Super Bowl party and fried chicken eating contest) (in which I do not compete), I made both brownies and blondies from the Best Recipe series. I won't claim that they were simple recipes -- I mean, if you want simple brownies, you open the box and those are really damn fine brownies. But these were some pretty outrageously good brownies, and someone immediately said to me, "Do these have real cocoa in them?" I certainly don't always want to do that, but I like having a source that I think is good that I can use when I do want to do it.

I agree that you don't want to get too into the idea that you have to make the absolute best version of everything every time, but I think reading their stuff can be informative and, as a few other people have said, can give you ideas.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


ok, i promise to try to walk away after this comment. i feel bad for all my zeal. but! i just wanted to say, yes, totally about the Blonde Brownies. i'm not as CI obsessive as many, but that for real is one of the ones that, every time i make it, i'm guaranteeing accolades. it never fails, which is great because really, it isn't that complicated as scratch-baking goes. i took it to a dinner party and the hosting husband's first response as "you are a dessert ninja!" and this is kind of a picky guy even. it won me enough brownie points (heh) that now i can cart over cayenne fudgy sea salt brownies and he'll try them without blinking, saying "i'll eat anything you make" (verbatim from him last gaming night).
posted by ifjuly at 9:48 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the correct ratio of Pecos Red to Madera 2 to 1 (as you'd expect from the measurements in grams) or 1.5 to 1 (as you'd expect from the measurements in ounces)?

Blumenthal does just about everything in metric (see, e.g., the book version of the recipe). I suspect the imprecise imperial conversions were done by the forum poster.
posted by jedicus at 9:48 AM on March 1, 2012


Also I'd just like to say that "Blumenthal's total synthesis of chili con carne" is the best possible description of that recipe.
posted by jedicus at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I started roasting chicken with various veggies underneath (in my cast iron pan) a year or so back. The veggies are usually too schmaltzy for me to eat straight, but they're wonderful as an ingredient in something else. For example, if I just use onions, they're great mixed into the colcannon that can go along with the bird that night. Other veggie combos can make a schmaltz and umami-rich base for a stew.

And what a friend, not CI, taught me: shield the breasts! She always placed bacon strips on top of the chicken, but I lightly sauté (and cool) various aromatics (any combo of onions, celery, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, herbs, whatever) and stick them in between skin and meat. In a pinch, it's butter and herbs. Turkeys get about an inch of stuffing slipped in between breast skin and meat.

All that basting does is help brown the skin nicely. If you want moist breast meat, shield it appropriately.

(Oh, and the Naked Chef taught me to slash the thighs and legs and rub oil and herbs into them. It's not pretty, but it's damn tasty, and it helps the different parts of the chicken cook all together without fussing about during cooking, turning it this way and that. Yes, I am that lazy.)
posted by maudlin at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2012


I'm a huge fan of CI -- the comment about it being a scientific journal was spot on. I had a CI subscription throughout the 1990s and dropped it, only to pick it up again a couple of years ago. You know how we always talk about how google and the internet is screwing up peoples ability to think critically because you have no good way to weight the results that come back? I think the same thing is happening with cooking and the internet. There are now zillions of recipes scattered across a million blogs and recipe sites and pinterest. And no good way to check for whether the recipe is decent without just trying it. Every recipe post with comments turned on has at least one person saying, "best ever" and another saying "this recipe sucked". They might as well be youtube comments for all the help I get from them. Initially this explosion of recipes on the internet seemed like a great thing, but now I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number. My resubscription to CI was really about being able to apply that quality control on a new recipe by comparing it against a "canonical" CI recipe for the same thing and to understand what the two or three most important techniques or ingredients are to make the recipe come out well. For me, it isn't the actual recipe that adds the value, but the narrative about what worked, what didn't work, and what just didn't matter.
posted by kovacs at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's the broiler pan that did the trick, though - one of those casserole pans with a slotted lid on top? The fat drops through the slots and right onto the potato bed. CI noted that these originally weren't intended to be eaten (AS IF) but were just there to soak the grease and cut down on the smoke. Someone, moved by genius, apparently tasted them and they're a must-eat part of the whole operation now.
posted by jquinby at 10:04 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


see, that's where i think the fact cook's illustrated writes lengthy essays is a plus, not a minus. there are tons of times i don't agree with them about the flavor they're going for, or what they think matters or doesn't, or whatever--and them being upfront about it in the recipe preface essays is great, because then i know to not listen to them about component x, or skipping y, or not skipping some step they claim is important, etc. that's where i gotta hand it to them, and i wish more recipe authors were open to this (instead of, by not talking about their approach, implying theirs is The One True Way sans explanation of why).


I appreciate them being up front about their preferences, but the smug tone in which they pronounce these kinds of decisions is just infuriating sometimes. I would find it less irritating if they weren't making subjective decisions about what they (or 'testers') preferred and then making objective claims about it being the best in the world. And while I agree that you can definitely pick-and-choose some of your CI techniques and ingredients as you tweak one of their recipes, many of their recipes are set up so that you have to follow it awfully closely to make the dish at all. That's particularly true with baked goods, but I've seen it other stuff, too. If I don't buy your assertion that Brussels sprouts need a 'makeover' to be tasty (just roast them with olive oil and salt and pepper, they're flippin' delicious!), or that home fries need to have perfectly fluffy interiors and craggy, crispy exteriors, and that you need to have enough to feed six people, then why should I even bother trying to adapt your recipe? I'm not going to go through the trouble. (That said, their Coq a vin recipe from a couple of years ago is fantastic, and I make a couple minor changes to simplify that when I make it, so this method can totally be helpful.)

The other thing that's driving me crazy about CI is that they're all about these shortcuts to flavor and texture now, as kenko mentioned. I'm all for adding some flavor when you can, but good lord, it seems like nearly every month now they have a recipe in which they add soy sauce and/or dried porcini mushrooms to something to add glutamates, and then add powdered gelatin to get that 'glossy texture' that one normally must use homemade stock to get. I do love me some umami, but DANG it people, sometimes it's worth it adding a bit of time and energy to your recipes instead of looking for a gimmicky shortcut. And quit going back to that well every friggin' time! That's all I'm saying. I made homemade turkey stock for this past Thanksgiving (by roasting and simmering turkey wings and other bone scraps for, oh, a couple hours) and used that to make the turkey gravy, and it was *amazing*. The best damn gravy I've ever had at Thanksgiving. I probably could have gotten a decent facsimile of that turkey stock by simmering some ground meat with porcini and soy sauce and adding powdered gelatin at the end (that's actually what they called for in a recent recipe for veal stock), but that just seems like a travesty. And not that much less work! Or much of a savings on materials and cost!
posted by jsr1138 at 10:11 AM on March 1, 2012


CI does a very good job of figuring out what will lead them to a certain result. My problem with CI is that I often do not agree with them as to what the optimal result for a certain dish should be.
posted by slkinsey at 10:14 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


the comment about it being a scientific journal was spot on

No, if CI was a scientific journal, they'd make their writers pay to publish recipes they developed on someone else's dime, then charge those writers (and the people who payed to develop them) exorbitant sums to ever see that content again.
posted by juliapangolin at 10:14 AM on March 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


jquinby - that recipe is the most incredible thing ever. I've made it several times now, and I can't get enough of those potatoes.
posted by fremen at 10:15 AM on March 1, 2012


> CI does a very good job of figuring out what will lead them to a certain result. My problem with CI is that I often do not agree with them as to what the optimal result for a certain dish should be

right, totally (case in point: their idea of ideal mac n cheese). but i like that i know that before i bother to make the recipe, so i know to look instead to, say, the nyt or dorie or orangette or whoever my new favorite blogger/cookbook genius is.

as for the person above mentioning the problem of QA with the ridiculously unfathomable plethora of online recipes, that's why i tend to be a person-based recipe-sorter. i figure out which people seem to align with me food-values-wise (that sounds more persnickety and pretentious than i mean; i don't mean just trendy locavore this or fresh-cured-yourself that, but more just...i dunno how to put it), and go from there. if they love and respect someone else, i look at that person's background and recipes and decide if i want to branch further. etc. it's worked remarkably well and maintains a sense of...coziness in the face of the online/TV/magazine crap onslaught.
posted by ifjuly at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2012


I love CI and cook a few recipes from every issue, and they are always very tasty. Last week I made the adobo chicken and the french potato casserole from the most recent issue, totally amazing. I purchased everything that I needed for these recipes from my local QFC. In total, they took about three hours, including prep time but not cleanup, but much of that time was cook time that I had available to do other things. This is pretty typical of my experience in terms of time commitment and ease of ingredient acquisition.

Lots of times, they say things like, Fancy Dish X is really great but it's also really hard to make and takes forever. Here's a version that's a lot easier and takes half the time and is almost as good. I guess I don't generally feel like CI is incredibly advanced cooking...I would describe my cooking as 'competent' and the recipes don't tend to stress me out.
posted by Kwine at 10:30 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I started with CI when I first set out to tackle the art of cooking. Its great for beginners, as it assures you their recipe is the best recipe possible and tips on dealing with common trouble spots in executing the dish. And I really enjoy reading the narrative as my onions soften, its like mom is telling you where your grandmother first found this dish.

However, I find their recipes bland, as I think they cater to a very pedestrian palette.

The last recipe I ever made from the CI compendium was the Chili Verde Chicken Enchilada, which my roommate stated after trying it, "Taste like Chili's". There is a very huge swatch of Americans who would be very pleased to make Mexican food as good as Chevy's, but I'm not one of them. Though their spicy lentil soup recipe is still a favorite.

If you want to step up your game, and take on recipes that are a bit more challenging and give big payoffs in the result, Fine Cooking is for you. Its a bit pretentious, and assumes you're a Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma regular. But the wow factor of the dishes is worth it, but more important is they teach to stop slavishly follow recipes and explore ingredients and dishes you never even considered before.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 10:54 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've subscribed to CI since 1998. I'm glad they exist - in particular the lack of advertising and their championing of home cooking is a good thing - but we're starting to consider dropping our subscription. As the CI empire has grown, the whole place seems to become a puppy mill for food writers. Each issue brings the same formulaic recipes, often from a new batch of writers. "We roasted ten thousand dollars of prime rib so you don't have to!!!" The scientific/academic style referred to in above comments has been reduced down a formula that is effective but lacks depth as writing. And I agree that their taste preferences are a bit pedestrian. I think it stems from requiring brand name national ingredients (unless it's New England dairy products, for some reason that's fine) for their recipes. A Pho recipe becomes "Shortcutting Asian Noodle Soups!" because god forbid someone be intimidated by procuring fish sauce. And what exactly was the motivation behind "Cook's Country" beyond brand diversification?

P.S. Christopher Kimball really ought to ditch those cowboy boots they've put him in for the intros on the porch.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:48 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been a subscriber since the mid-90s, and having read so many of their recipes now, there's one thing that they almost always do that I've appropriated into my own cooking, and that is do something two different ways. They often say, "We tried approach A and approach B, and neither was perfect. Then we thought, 'Could we combine methods A and B?' We tested that and it turns out that produces the best results." It's gotten to the point that when I start reading any one of their articles, I'm betting on which two things they'll do.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:49 AM on March 1, 2012


I'm obsessed with Fine Cooking magazine and make elaborate dinners from various issues when I go and visit my parents and their large and fully stocked kitchen.

I do meticulously follow the recipes, maybe partially because 'I don't understand food' (although I'm trying! And studying!) But also because if you follow what they say, everything turns out perfectly every single time.

(And also the ingredients are usually expensive so I don't I don't want to screw things up, waste money and embarass myself in front of whoever I've invited over!)

CI is usually what I read in the store and put back on the rack but I think I might start subscribing to it as well soon. As part of my 'studies'. (Living alone in Manhattan often makes large and interesting dinners more of a theoretical or fanatasy-based option for me!)
posted by bquarters at 11:51 AM on March 1, 2012


Oh, and for the love of god Montressor, the bowls. THE BOWLS. My wife and I fight about the dishwashing if we're going to bake something from CI, because the recipe will inevitably call for a minimum of five bowls of various sizes to carefully portion out the steps. "okay, three-quarters cup sugar in this one, two tablesponns sugar in that one. That one is a mixture of cocoa and brown sugar, but be careful because a teaspoon of that brown sugar is needed for the bowl with the crust prep..." I love their chocolate pudding cake, but I love it even more now that I distilled it down to a 3x5 card and three sentences of instructions. Something that actually makes a lot of CI recipes more fathomable.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:57 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love Cook's Illustrated too, but there's *one thing* I have always wanted from them.

They say that they test out dozens of permutations and substitutions to find the optimal recipe. They also sometimes include a few findings about what these substitutions produce--usually subbing baking powder for baking soda or overbeating batters. What I really want to see is the entire permutations list for each recipe, along with the effect(s) on the end product for each. So if I need to make a deviation from their Platonic ideal, I'll know generally what effect that will have.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:57 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I really want to see is the entire permutations list for each recipe, along with the effect(s) on the end product for each.

If Cook's Illustrated were a scientific journal, this would be the "supplementary data" available online.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:01 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blumenthal does just about everything in metric (see, e.g., the book version of the recipe). I suspect the imprecise imperial conversions were done by the forum poster.

And yet, he's STILL so imprecise. How can I be expected to work with such shoddily imprecise directions?

Which is it, Blumenthal - 2 or 3 dried devil's penis chillies? What, exactly, is a "large" cherry tomato? What SIZE "bottle" of Syrah? What vintage? Where is this wine made? How much should each of the 8 beef short ribs weigh? Will Hereford suffice, or should I splurge for the Charolais? Which of the several species of limes should be juiced and zested?

Don't even get me started on crap like "as needed."
posted by snottydick at 12:07 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Oh, and for the love of god Montressor, the bowls. THE BOWLS. My wife and I fight about the dishwashing if we're going to bake something from CI, because the recipe will inevitably call for a minimum of five bowls of various sizes to carefully portion out the steps. "okay, three-quarters cup sugar in this one, two tablesponns sugar in that one. That one is a mixture of cocoa and brown sugar, but be careful because a teaspoon of that brown sugar is needed for the bowl with the crust prep..." I love their chocolate pudding cake, but I love it even more now that I distilled it down to a 3x5 card and three sentences of instructions. Something that actually makes a lot of CI recipes more fathomable

to be fair, this is true for any standard miser-r-based approach. witness natalie dee's take on alton brown.

since photos were posted of results to the CI method to salted-and-low-roasted roast beef, though i'd throw my own in for good measure. this is what i said about it in my cooking diary:
I did it!! My first proper old skool Roast Beast solo. I followed Cook's Illustrated/AskMe's MO and did a coarse salt rub overnight, peppered it generously and seared it for flavor, put it in a super low (225 degrees F IIRC) oven until it reached an internal temp. of 115 degrees F, turned the oven off and kept the door shut until it went up to about 130 degrees F. Then just the usual tent rest for 15 minutes. It came out gorgeous, just the way I was crossing my fingers it would--luscious med-rare, slices super thin like butter, melts in your mouth, super yummy. Yay for CI demystifying the meat process for me once again.
posted by ifjuly at 12:16 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


standard miser-r-based approach

Can you explain what this refers to?
posted by werkzeuger at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2012


The reason why I love Cooks Illustrated recipes is that they're on rails. It's a more a test of reading comprehension than cooking by "feel," and I like that.

This video made me laugh, but mostly because it reminded me of my gripes about Thomas Keller recipes instead. When you're making a béchamel for chicken pot pie with 5 different pots cooking 5 different ingredients that will just be combined later (as is the way from the Ad Hoc At Home cookbook), it puts the CI recipes into perspective.
posted by apranica at 12:30 PM on March 1, 2012


Can you explain what this refers to?

Mise en place
posted by piedmont at 12:31 PM on March 1, 2012


CI can fancy it up all they want, it'll never be my mum's deep fried lamb testicles with noodles (even if she did use Campbell's mushroom soup in the sauce).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2012


I know about mise-en-place. Is "miser-r" some reference to it I've never heard before?
posted by werkzeuger at 12:45 PM on March 1, 2012


yes, mise en place, when you're not tipsy on a cocktail at 3 in the afternoon (i meant to type mise-r, as in "oh i'm a hardcore mise-r" which is something i affectionately say all the time when more pro cooks try to urge me to save time by chopping etc. while other things cook...i just can't do it, because i am weirdly single-minded and easily stressed out once heating elements come into play). :b (it's my day off, hence afternoon cocktails, hence typos whoops...)
posted by ifjuly at 12:48 PM on March 1, 2012


The thing about the CI roast beef method is that they don't have you bring the roast to room temp before searing/oven-ing. People! Bring your roasts to room temp! It will cook up better! Trip and a half and I couldn't both be wrong.
posted by kenko at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2012


Regarding the video, who would be tempted to mince when the recipe says chop? Mincing is more involved.
posted by kenko at 1:58 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The joke around our house is that any recipe from Cook's Illustrated includes a step where you brine a chicken for 4-12 hours, even if there's no chicken in the recipe.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:45 PM on March 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Being from Texas, my gripe is that these folks are definitely Yankees, even when they are making Southern or Mexican recipes. When they call a recipe "spicy" it is "mild" at best.

I always add in a few more jalapenos, chipotles or a spoonful more chile powder to please my Southern tastebuds.
posted by kmccorm at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


But bacon and panchetta are very different! And you are adding dried parsley instead of fresh you might as well just not add any parsley. Sheesh.
posted by aspo at 2:58 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anybody else hear all these metafilter comments in xtranormal voices?

First Metafilter thread comments in Xtranormal

posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, what are these best ever raspberry bars and blondies? I check out CI occasionally, but it's generally making things I don't want, or have a recipe I already like very much. When I do follow their recipes (I like complicated recipes because I find cooking very relaxing and it allows me to stop thinking for a while), I do like them. Though I'm even more a fan of Fine Cooking, which tends to do more interesting recipes and always works out well too.
posted by jeather at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2012


Huh, I consider CI a source for techniques, not recipes. I find their dishes a little bland and overly safe, like you'd make for small-town midwesterners or my father-in-law, but I adapt their techniques to other dishes. (Like how they pan-fry pork chops without drying them out - works like a charm!) But I'm already an experienced home cook with a good sense of how to modify a recipe to taste, so technique "hacks" are more useful for me.

And I second kovacs on the crapflood of recipes available everywhere. I've always preferred to use recipes from a trusted single-author source, whether it's a cookbook, blog, or friend. I find that a single author tends to be very consistent in their levels of salt, spiciness, garlic, etc. Once I get to know an author, I can reliably predict how to adapt their recipes to suit my taste - omit the salt, double the garlic, or whatever. I wouldn't cook a brand-new recipe for guests, but I'm happy with most of what I make for myself.

In contrast, recipes by committee are all over the place. Even before the internet, I didn't have very good results with newspaper or magazine recipes, since they originated from many people.
Crowd-sourced compendia online are even more inconsistent, and I've basically given up on sites like Epicurious - recipes from my favorite authors already exceed my remaining life expectancy, so I don't bother taking chances.
posted by Quietgal at 3:55 PM on March 1, 2012


So, I read cookbooks. I mean, I actually sit down and read cookbooks cover to cover. Although I sometimes read food and drink nonfiction books as well (right now I'm reading a book about the history of the tomato in Italy, more out of surprised that there's 200 pages worth of publishable information on the topic than anything else, but it's actually pretty interesting).

My favorite cookbooks are the Cookwise types (here's the science behind whats happening) or The Improvisational Cook types (here's a basic technique, here's a handful of variations, now you go think of your own). There's generally a fair bit of overlap between the two, but Cooks illustrated scratches that first itch and ONLY that first itch (I mean, yeah they include a variation or two, but you always get the feeling that if you drifted from the given recipes you'd get a "I'm not mad, just... disappointed" speech). I read the description of how they got the recipe, and then the little blurb from the science editor, and maybe make one recipe an issue (the banana bread one is fantastic, 5 bananas per loaf!) that strikes my fancy. At this point, I don't really look for new recipes so much as new techniques and ideas, I can fill in the blanks myself. Sure the style's a little off putting, but it only comes once every two months, so that's what, 360 pages of the house style a year, and once you take out the filler (weird stories about how Vermont is the best place ever and they only allow good people in; tips from readers; scrambled egg recipes; etc.), you're just left with a medium sized cookbook's worth of "this is the way this dish should be" (which just about every cookbook is guilty of to some extent). That's a trade I'm willing to make.

On the other hand whenever beer comes up it makes me want to use that bow tie to strangle every member of the staff. If you're going to be that particular about every other ingredient, you can be bothered to learn a little bit about beer styles.

Now if you'll excuse me I've got to butterfly a chicken, because that's how chickens should be roasted. Oh and instead of potatoes I'm going to try some leftover pilaf on the bottom, because why not?
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:58 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favourite part of Heston Blumenthal's total synthesis of chili con carne recipe is that whiskey appears in the list of ingredients three separate times.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


....THEY ALSO COOK! YOU'VE MADE HOMEMADE POTATO CHIPS COOKED IN CHICKEN FAT! FROM THE TABLE OF ZEUS HIMSELF! TREMBLE AND DESPAIR!

Now try it with cut-up carrots... they're like candy!
posted by nicwolff at 4:18 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Incidentally that CI eye of round technique is totally general. This means that you can also use it on, e.g., a shoulder clod, which will only be a little more expensive than an eye of round, but will be way tastier (while being a lot less expensive than a straight up prime rib, which is also amenable to that technique).
posted by kenko at 4:28 PM on March 1, 2012


I make coke-butt chicken from the pages of the Kitchen Detectives and it's the best ever. I sort of like that book because it's a set of "one thing you like to eat, done really well" without a lot of the twee stuff that accompanies the magazine recipies.

I guess I'm either not a Vermonter or it's a joke I'm not in on.

I sometimes wonder how much actual time he spends in the state.
posted by jessamyn at 4:29 PM on March 1, 2012


robocop is bleeding: How I can tell the origin of the recipe my wife is planning on cooking based on where she shops:

...
Morgue: Paula Deen


I think there are easier ways to get your lard in bulk.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:06 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh, I consider CI a source for techniques, not recipes.

That's absolutely right. I started cooking regularly a couple of years ago, and rarely follow recipes any more, but the tricks and techniques in CI are incredibly useful... velveting boneless, skinless chicken breasts to stop them from getting tough on the outside being the most recent revelation for me.
posted by Huck500 at 5:07 PM on March 1, 2012


cayenne fudgy sea salt brownies

Tell me more.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:38 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


LobsterMitten, the recipe is from Melissa Clark. Now, I didn't think they were THAT outrageously good--the name of them, "Impossibly Fudgy Brownies with Chili and Sea Salt," set the bar pretty high for me--but the dudes who scarfed 'em up all begged to differ, including said picky guy as well as another guy who normally hates stuff like that for being "weird." The spice is a lot milder than I'm used to when combining dessert with cayenne normally (one of my favorite cookies, Mexican Icebox Cookies, can border on painful where the chocolate only just in time saves you from the heat), and the sea salt come off more as texture than anything (I think NYT 36-hour Chocolate Chip Cookies are a better example of using sea salt as topping for baked goods). But they were pretty good, and my husband claims to like them even more than what I consider our house brownie (don't judge because I swear it really is the best, but it's from a Pillsbury cookbook of all things). Pictures pre-oven.
posted by ifjuly at 6:25 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The joke around our house is that any recipe from Cook's Illustrated includes a step where you brine a chicken for 4-12 hours, even if there's no chicken in the recipe.

I call shenanigans on this being a CI jab. No mention of brining?!
posted by hot_monster at 6:38 PM on March 1, 2012


And as for the Blondies, my copy of the recipe is a splattered and disintegrating plaintext print out with no other identifying info back from when I was a teenager in my parents' home, so I'm not sure this is the recipe exactly without getting it out of the big accordian folder on the top shelf in the hallway...which is to say, I'll try to double check later, but hopefully that's the same one. It's very simple and nothing in it indicates they'd be such a crowdpleaser (personally, I don't even like Blondies), but you know how it is with some baked goods, you can't tell what makes something so basic and plain so good. I do recall the texture is part of it. They look like this (under glass).
posted by ifjuly at 6:42 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing about the Blondies. I hate white chocolate, so I've always made them with half butterscotch chips and half chocolate chips.
posted by ifjuly at 6:47 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mmmmm, thank you!
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:29 PM on March 1, 2012


I'd never heard of Cook's Illustrated until we were given their The Best 30-Minute Recipe book for Christmas. On reading it, I proclaimed, "This isn't a cookbook. This is SCIENCE!"

It has turned out to be the best cookbook we own. I've made lots of recipes from the book and every single one of them has been good.
posted by straight at 7:57 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love the scientific approach to cooking and have learned several nifty tips from the CI crew. That said, CK comes across as _totally_smarmy_- plus, the equipment reviews and taste tests are kinda useless (spoiler: just buy oxo or kitchenaid). As much as I've been enriched by the show itself, the theme music from ATK and CC make me wonder how damaging the oxidized brown acid must've been, or whether it was just a leaky exhaust in the VW....
posted by onesidys at 8:45 PM on March 1, 2012


One of my current must make recipes is peposo notturno. It seems the basic recipe is:
Cover shanks in black pepper.
Set oven to 200 degrees or a little lower. Bake dish for one night covered in chianti. Apply chianti as needed. Eat when hungry.
posted by JackarypQQ at 11:03 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And what exactly was the motivation behind "Cook's Country" beyond brand diversification?

Cook's Country recipes tend to be a little less...fussy. Fewer ingredients, less prep.

And at least in my house, they tend to be recipes we'd actually make, as opposed to the great sounding but far too complicated for a weekday meal recipes found in regular CI.

Also, COLOR PICTURES!
I have no idea what idiot thinks 3 monochromatic photos of browned butter or roasted{brined, dried, massaged} chicken are useful, but seriously, color pictures!
posted by madajb at 12:43 AM on March 2, 2012


Interesting thread; I have been a big fan of Cooks Illustrated for some years now, but they do have their quirks. They are good at simplifying complex recipes, but they compensate for that by taking simple things and making them complicated; I recall some burger recipes that seem like something Nathan Mhyrvold would make. And they can be kind of greedy; I subscribe to both the magazine and the website, and now they have come up with an additional "Editor's Choice" website that gives me access to even more recipes for only a few dollars more a month! That is where I finally drew the line at giving them more money.

For the past few years I have also tested recipes for them (they sent me an email asking if I wanted to and I said yes, presumably one of thousands who do this). They send me a recipe and ask me to make it within 2 weeks and then fill out a survey. The survey is pretty brief and asks really basic questions: "Did you make the recipe?"; "Were any of the techniques difficult or awkward?"; "Did it yield the stated quantity?"; and so on. There is space for narrative comments, but they seem to be looking for little detailed information by the time they get to that stage. They also seem to discover some technique and then use it over and over; right now it seems as though evey recipe involving ground meat includes some moistened gelatin to make it moist (see also: brining, as mentioned upthread). Someone upthread wished they could see the alternative versions of the recipes. When I first started I came a cross a forum for CI recipe testers where they compaared the various versions of the recipes, but I can't find it now. I would not be surprised if CI forced them to take it down; they have kind of a reputation for being agressive at keeping their content offline except on their own sites.

I am not sure what to make of Christopher Kimball. His folksy letters can be kind of annoying, and a couple of years ago I caught him lifting an anecdote pretty much verbatim off the internet: Kimball's letter here; Snopes's version here. On the other hand, he appears to be a bit of a Deadhead, based on the music he played at his pig roast. I wonder if the guys from Phish were there hanging out with him?
posted by TedW at 7:15 AM on March 2, 2012


I love CI so much I've paid for access to their online recipe collection. Yes, there are a million places to get recipes for free on the internet, and it's still worth paying for these.

In fairness, I should note that I have a degree in chemistry so I'm not intimidated by procedures that are more organic chemistry than cooking.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:26 AM on March 2, 2012


Also: there is no possible mechanism by which stirring counterclockwise could give different results than stirring clockwise, unless Cook's Illustrated recipes depend on the weak nuclear force.

The recipe was optimized for the northern hemisphere, and the accompanying article says as much. You should stir clockwise in the southern hemisphere. You want the Coriolis effect to augment your stirring, not counteract it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:53 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not sure what to make of Christopher Kimball. His folksy letters can be kind of annoying, and a couple of years ago I caught him lifting an anecdote pretty much verbatim off the internet: Kimball's letter here; Snopes's version here. On the other hand, he appears to be a bit of a Deadhead, based on the music he played at his pig roast. I wonder if the guys from Phish were there hanging out with him?

There was a piece in the Boston Globe a few years ago about CI and Kimball --- right around the height of the "newspapers are doomed" wave, when everybody was talking about how it has one of the only successful pure subscription models.

Anywho, apparently Mark Bittman of the NY Times, formerly The Minimalist, used to work for CI back in the 80s. There was a lot of between to the lines where he talked about what it was like to do so.

Kimball seems very my way or the highway, you can tell by all the nervous kind of joking kind of not banter on the show. Bittman seems like a guy with strong opinions. I'd be curious as to his off the record take ...
posted by Diablevert at 4:34 PM on March 2, 2012


this also reminds me of the Oatmeal's Why I Don't Cook at Home.
posted by ifjuly at 7:14 PM on March 3, 2012


Tonight I made the CI roast that maudlin recommended above (along with a leek, potato, and horseradish mash), and it was boss. So juicy and salty and good.
posted by painquale at 11:58 PM on March 6, 2012


No one linked the Anal Retentive Chef?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:36 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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