Saturday, 18 December 2010

Weekend Cooking: Cooks Illustrated Magazine

Back in May, Rob at Books are Like Candy Corn, wrote about a birthday cake he baked for his partner.  I was intrigued.  The recipe had come from something called 'Cook's Illustrated'.  After learning from him that this is a magazine devoted to cooking, I decided to give it a try.

I signed up for a one year membership.  I have now received four editions and wanted to share some of my thoughts on this publication.
  • It contains amazingly detailed information.  You don't just get a recipe, you get a complete and understandable explanation of why you need to make the recipe in that particular way.  For example, why it's important to beat the butter and sugar together for several minutes when baking a cake, or why you need to saute your onions for ten minutes on medium heat.
  • Multiple tested and re-tested recipes.  The chefs don't just settle for a recipe the first way it turns out, they re-vamp it to make it the best of the best even if it takes dozens of variations.  This way I am ensured that if I follow their directions, my dish is bound to turn out wonderfully.
  • Detailed cooking instructions, often accompanied by a series of photos at various stages of preparation.
  • Product comparisons.  Both in cooking utensils and ingredients.  I have learned that Baker's Chocolate does not top the list of recommended ingredients as I had been led to believe.  Too bad that few of the recommended products are readily available in my area, but the few that are have been added to my shopping list.
 Unfortunately, on the whole, it is a small thing that derailed this magazine for me.  It mixes all the different types of dishes together.  In one issue you get meat, veggies, baking, all thrown together.  Chances are I won't go back to search out a meat recipe buried in one magazine.  I'd rather go to a cookbook that has two dozen to chose from.  I was all set not to re-new this magazine when I learned that they have special edition magazine. 
I went to the store and bought the "2010 Holiday Cookies" edition and the "Holiday Baking" edition.  Each of these is filled with just one type of dish.  Much more to my liking.  Sixty-four cookies recipes and thirty-two assorted baking (cookies, cakes, pie, fudge, rolls) to indulge my sweet tooth and flour bins.

Now that I have found these special edition magazines, I'll be looking for them throughout the year when ever they become available.  Who knows, I might even venture and purchase a main dish type one.

Please note that I haven't cooked anything from these magazines yet.  Next week I do plan to bake the "Red Velvet" cake shown on the cover of the "Holiday Baking" edition for my niece for her birthday.

Thanks to Rob for the tip off to Cook's Illustrated.

Margot at Joyfully Retired has also posted a review of Cook's Illustrated.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Visit to read all sorts of food related posts.  You are invitied to add your current post to Mr. Linky.


Anonymous said...

I just love Cook's Illustrated. It's so much more than a recipe magazine. I have the holiday cookie edition on my Christmas list.

Beth F said...

I absolutely love Cook's Illustrated and have gotten it for years. But I understand why you might let the subscription go. I sometimes let it go too, thinking I haven't cooked out of it enough. But the truth is, I like their product comparisons and their discussions of how and why so much,that I always end up eventually re-subbing.

Jill said...

Some of my favorite recipes come from the Cook's Illustrated website. You have to pay a nominal fee to join, but it is so worth it! Try their Fluffy Pancakes recipe - it is hands down the best one we've tried!

caite said...

I am a huge fan of CI...and I can't say the mix in each edition bothers me at all. I never really considered it, but actually I think it is part of what I like. I bit of this, a bit of that, some recipes...yes, in great detail, each step of which was examined...some equipment review, some ingredient comparisons.
I keep them all so I often go back to reread..and make..a recipe.

Actually, I thing you have to be a bit compulsive to love this

Margot said...

I really love this little magazine and I did a post on it earlier this year too. To me, it's more like a magazine about food into of a recipe magazine. I discovered they have a huge book that I think is called the Cook's Bible. I found it at the library and is sort of "the best of". It's all about recipes and I think you'd really like it.

Rob said...

Thanks for the mention, Heather! We actually subscribe to the on-line edition of Cooks Illustrated. It has all of their recipes (17 years worth) which can be sorted easily by name/category (plus access to the current issue on-line). Happy cooking! Aloha from Rob

Kathy said...

Those do look like very good magazines. I will look for it on the stands at Barnes and Noble this week. I want to get a few batches of cookies made on Wed. and Thurs.

Beth F said...

So glad the cookies were success for you and could help sweeten the season for your friends. I didn't even think about these as being gluten free -- now I'll have to make another batch for a friend who is gluten intolerant.

The Single Nester said...

Thanks for the review. I have always wondering about Cooks Illustrated.