Be careful when you buy things from Cook's Illustrated. They make excellent products, their magazines and cookbooks are great, but they'll sign you up for EVERYTHING in the mega-fine-print. Cookbooks with bills will mysteriously arrive at your house and say that you have only a few days left to send them back before you're obligated to pay.
I will say though that their chocolate chip cookie recipe is to-die-for.
an index...they are very concise, the back stories to the recipe testings are funny, entertaining, and great to read while, you wait for bread to rise, chicken to marinate, meat to brine, etc, etc.....my son loves all of the recipes I have made from this magazine (25 +), my picky eater husband also loves the recipes especially the chicken teriyaki (broiler method, plus I add honey to the sauce....), orange chicken, sichuan green beans with pork, dark chocolate cupcakes, cuban roast pork, mushroom risotto, easy oven roasted chicken, blueberry scones, brown sugar cookies, and the Christmas supper I prepared was also very good (though time consuming) shrimp bisque, beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, flourless chocolate torte, on and on...you get the picture...drooooolllllll
the only problem you will have (if you want to see it as a problem)...is the expanding waistlines that your family will procure after you begin cooking these recipes...!
I have taken this magazine for almost three years. While I can not dispute the indepth study of each recipe in this magazine, I wish there was more content in each magazine. I respect that there is no advertising in this magazine, and they take their craft seriously. The back covers are extremely artistic, and of high quality. I have sometimes wished I could frame the back covers. Articles in the magazine often cover a particular food product and which one with really is the best. Its kind of like Consumer Reports for cooking. I honestly dislike the price, and you can pick up all issues in their annual addition, which I now do. Some of the recipes that I have tried from Cooking Illustrated have been my favorites. If you like in depth coverage on any aspect of your cooking you will adore this magazine.
Any magazine that doesn't except advertisements seems to be a step ahead of those that do. This is the case for Cooks Illustrated. Some of the recipes this family loves are: Best Beef Chili, Ground Beef Tacos, Glazed Carrots (although I prefer the recipe in the Northern Exposure cookbook), Maple-Glazed Pork Roast, and many of the pastas. The drawbacks I've found for this magazine are that sometimes the spices are a bit powerful. This is usually true for the chicken sauces. They have one in which they recommend 40 garlic cloves to be cooked with the chicken breasts. This is just too many cloves and leaves one feeling like they just bit into a head of garlic. I suppose that being these people work in a test kitchen all day it takes a lot of spice to activate their taste buds. Being one has to alter some of the ingredients for any recipe this is not a huge burden, it just takes awhile to get used to. I also don't like the fact that they always use no-boil noodles for their lasagna. I hate these noodles. They never turn out as good as boil noodles and it only takes 10 minutes to boil them. When you're taking two hours out of your day to make Lasagna Bolognese an extra 10 minutes for good noodles shouldn't be too much extra work. I've also found that the baking recipes aren't the greatest. I've tried the chocolate chip cookies and they are too thick. My three year old didn't even like them. The New York cheesecake was ok, but that's it...just ok. However, aside from these minor quibbles a lot of the recipes are fantastic for making dinner. It's one of the few mags where you can grab a recipe out of it and know it's going to be edible... and possibly exceptionally good. The quick tips section is also a joy to read. I also enjoy their equipment reviews (although The Cooks Catalogue is a must have for this). They used to have cookbook reviews where they tested recipes in different cookbooks and printed the results. They seem to have withdrawn this section, which is too bad because I really enjoyed it. It gave one an idea of what cookbooks to stay away from and which ones were really good. I especially liked how they would mention if it was for an average cook or an advanced cook based on whether or not the cook listed exact recipes or just gave a general idea of what to use and let the reader come up with their own measurements. Overall, if I could have only one cooking magazine this would be it. It has many great things going for it. I also subscribe to Intermezzo for the "fancier" recipes.
I always wondered why I disliked the results of cooking with the "best" recipes proffered from this magazine, and then I understood when I saw their companion PBS TV show. The "best" is very subjective. Some of the finished products looked vile, textures were off, and an incredible amount of cooking time and pans are used in this navel-gazing approach to food. A problem that I noticed with many of the cookie and cake recipes were gummy, undercooked results. Apparently this is the style that they prefer, but textural results should be noted for the reader. I think it is an interesting concept, but reducing cooking to a rigid chart seems to take away some of the joy and spontaneity, especially when the promised results are far from perfect. I do enjoy reading their unvarnished tasing panel results, and the equipment testing is valuable, but these pluses are not worth the price of a subscription. I think the magazine could benefit by revamping their college-textbook approach. When reading recipes feels like cataloguing bills, something is amiss. Weirdly enough, I love editor Christopher Kimball's musings on the editor's page and I keep my back issues to re-read them. It takes chutzpah to do what he does. We need more American eccentrics!
The recipes and information is great in Cook's Illustrated. The only really bad thing is that it's not in color. When they're comparing the a burnt bread to a well cooked bread it would be easier to see it if the photo was in color.
I have gotten Cooks for 2 years. The best thing was the no-ads policy, but now they have so much self promotional garbage that you have to tear out/off that it defeats the purpose. Some of their simple american fare recipes are really good, but they have kind of a podunk USA approach to international food. Tacos are made with hamburger. Their asian dishes are boring stir-frys or noodles. Their food reviews are really funny, chock full of nuts is the best french roast, Bullseye the best barbeque sauce and Doritos the best tortilla chip. Yeah OK maybe for people who make tacos with hamburger.
I like to read Cook's Illustrated at the library. Their magazine is much too expensive for the small amount of recipes included within. I like the tips sent in by readers, and some of the product reviews.
I have found that most of their recipes are very involved--nitpicky, to be kind. The lemon meringue pie recipe--which I tried from their "America's Test Kitchen" cookbook--calls for cooking cornstarch in water, cooling it, and then beating the solution into the meringue. Supposedly this keeps the meringue from destabilizing. All that happened in my kitchen was I found little lumps of cornstarch glue at the bottom of my mixing bowl while scraping out the meringue. I have made meringue before without cornstarch, and can't help thinking this is an extra step that isn't neccessary. Their "best" brownies are good, but I can make equally good brownies without all the extra steps involved in melting chocolate and cooling it, etc.
If you're looking for easy, fool proof recipes, that don't take a gazillion steps and aren't fussy about exactly what ingredients you use, this isn't the magazine for you.
sorry, but I don't feel like their experiments are very well done. They just don't seem to have thought things through, or researched at all, before trying stuff out. Issues are short and fail to innovate.
If you have all the time in the world to cook, then this black and white magazine is for you. The recipes are definately NOT something you can do in an hour or less. Plus, many of the ingredients the recipes call for are hard to find. I've been receiving the magazine for 6 months now and haven't made anything from it yet. Don't waste your time unless you are a gourmet chef.