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Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:05 PM

Is Cooks Illustrated Really "All That"?

Cooks Illustrated, with their test kitchen and all the effort they put into perfecting dishes and finding ways to achieve all the positives while eliminating the negatives has always been so compelling to me, not to mention their wonderful TV show, but... it recently occurred to me that in all the countless dishes I've made from their recipes, all have been reliably good, but none have been great, or made me think "WOW, this is incredible!". I've learned lots of good techniques and use several of their recipes as staples, it's just that the expressions of Julia Collins or Christopher Kimball closing their eyes and purring loudly as they bite into one of their creations doesn't match my own expression, which is generally a bland one as I think "Huh".

I asked my Dad (whose foodie genes I inherited) what he thought of Cooks Illustrated, and he echoed my sentiments exactly. So what do you guys think of them? Have you made something from a Cooks Illustrated recipe that you thought was outstanding, and if so, what was it?

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Reply Is Cooks Illustrated Really "All That"? (Original post)
LancetChick Feb 2013 OP
Stinky The Clown Feb 2013 #1
NRaleighLiberal Feb 2013 #2
bif Feb 2013 #3
lizerdbits Feb 2013 #4
Gormy Cuss Feb 2013 #5
dem in texas Feb 2013 #6
pinto Feb 2013 #7

Response to LancetChick (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:53 PM

1. I generally agree with you . . . . but there have been exceptions

The A in 5 bread variation of the NYT no-knead is great.

They were right on the money with their dough recipe for grilled pizza . . . . even though I have modified it even further to suit our family's tastes.

Their onion soup that is basically a loooooong slow cook of a *lot* of sliced onions was amazing. We love onion soup and this one was the best.

There are others, too, but those jump to mind.

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Response to LancetChick (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:54 PM

2. I've read a few of the mags and watched a few of the shows - and decided

my individual tastes and preferences are not quite aligned with theirs - it is interesting, but I never really refer to them for anything except some useful background info.

They are a bit heavy in "unhealthy" (meaning high test, full on fat) ingredients, and we've moved away from that to lighter/much healthier preparations, more transparent flavors, etc.

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Response to LancetChick (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:59 PM

3. I agree for the most part.

However, I'm going to try the lentil chorizo soup recipe tomorrow. I'll get back to you on that one. It's in this month's issue. Their cookbook is pretty darn good.

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Response to LancetChick (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 09:59 PM

4. I do like most of their dessert recipes

I haven't made any in a while, but my husband LOVES their coffee cake (the one with jam between the cake and topping) and says it's the best he's ever had. The texture of the cookies and cakes I've made are often better than other sources and aren't overly sweet. It's dessert, so it IS sweet, but not hurt-your-teeth sweet to mask the lack of anything else in the recipe.

I have noticed that a lot of their recipes they've 'come up' with are VERY similar to things in decades old cookbooks I've picked up over the years. Maybe we've started making everything sweeter and they're just going back to the older versions. I remember discussing that with someone but I can't pinpoint a specific example right now.

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Response to LancetChick (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:11 AM

5. I like Cook's for equipment and food product ratings and of course, technique

but the recipes, eh. I read them and sometimes use seasonings or prep suggestions in my own version of the dish (my mac'n'cheese for example.)

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Response to LancetChick (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 12:36 PM

6. Refried Beans

I watched one of their TV shows where they were making refried beans and they started with a can of cooked pinto beans. I wrote the show off then and there. What makes refried beans taste so good is using cooked pinto beans that have stood in fridge for a day or so, they develop a deep earthy taste that cannot be duplicated with canned beans or canned refried beans.

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Response to dem in texas (Reply #6)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 12:51 PM

7. Yeah. That and lard.



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