Cook’s Illustrated Can’t Catch a Break

By Ezra Klein

This is from a New York Times blurb recommending their latest cookbook, Skillet Recipes:

Did you know that lasagna, pizza and soufflés can be made in a skillet? They’re not so bad, though they’re more impressive for their resourcefulness than for how they actually taste. The recipes trend toward the low- to-middlebrow (tuna noodle casserole, sloppy Joes, pad Thai), with a variety of ethnic entrees and French-Italian classics, from salmon with lentils and chard to Tuscan-style steak with garlicky spinach.

To be honest, the best part about Cook’s Illustrated is the writing: the editors’ dogged, formulaic process has lapsed into parody, reading like a cross between Goldilocks and Garrison Keillor’s Guy Noir: “We tried replacing some of the cheddar with Gruyère, but its strong flavor did not sit well with tasters,” they write of a mac ’n’ cheese. “Gouda, havarti and fontina were all given a shot, but none tasted just right. We hit the jackpot with Monterey Jack — it helped smooth out the sauce and created that silky texture we were after.” Phew!


2 responses to “Cook’s Illustrated Can’t Catch a Break

  1. Cook’s used to be pretty good but they seem to be focused on basics. Maybe because, increasingly, people are not cooking – Amanda Hesser in the NY Times today said take out has gone from 72/yr. 25 years ago to 125/yr.

  2. I went to a focus group for them where they were trying to figure out if people would pony up additional money for internet access to recipes from the “Best Recipe” books (of which the aforementioned skillet recipes is one). Did you know the magazine and the Best Recipe recipes are actually fairly independent? I didn’t. And they release two of these books a year… and the two magazines … all with different “best” recipes.

    I think it’s fairly clear that their business model has sapped most of the quality out of their product. I still think New Best Recipe is da BOMB for every classic dish you could want to learn to make, but the other books in the series are basically a joke. At some point you have a master recipe for mashed potatoes, and trying to find some new method is just wanking it.

    I’m one of the biggest Cook’s Illustrated fanbois there is (almost every dish I’ve blogged about cooking comes from them) and I am starting to wonder how much longer I’ll keep the subscription.

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