It took several months to work through this cookbook. Working through it I learned how to make sauces and custards and that overcooking, over-mixing and over-baking is not my friend. I learned that reducing a recipe takes more than just dividing the ingredients by serving size. I learned the right equipment matters.
I had already owned the celebrated "Joy of Cooking" and many swear by Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and I'd seen recommendations for Martha Stewart's cookbook for basic cooking as well. I'd still pick "Cooking School" as my first cookbook (and get the more comprehensive "Joy of Cooking" second). For one, "Cooking School" doesn't just have recipes. They tell you what can go wrong, why a recipe works and the cookbook has extensive tutorials with step-by-step pictures--you won't find that in the relatively spare "Joy of Cooking." Also ATK recipes are thoroughly tested. The one compliant I've seen in review after review of Bittman is that his recipes are poorly proofed and inconsistent in their results. Despite making numerous adaptations because of a restricted diet, I found it rare to find a recipe--after practicing some tricky techniques--to fail. In fact, in this cookbook I'd say only the fish cakes were a disappointment despite following their recipe to the letter.
Downsides? Well, I suspect Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen is modeled on a very limited range of tastes. (Christopher Kimball's?). The recipes are richer in fats and sugars than I'd like. Nor do I think they tend to do well by ethnic recipes, which they tend to Americanize too much and make too bland (Kimball is on the record that he doesn't like spicy food). And example number one is their Hot and Sour Soup--without lily buds or wood ear fungus.
There's only one cookbook I looked at in stores I could consider a rival and I'm tempted to buy--J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's, The Food Lab. He's an ATK alumnus and it's obvious his recipes are throughly tested and he has a similar scientific approach to cooking. His recipes reading through them seem both lighter and more authentic and often simpler. And unlike "Cooking School" he gives specific brand-name recommendations for equipment. Like "Cooking School" his cookbook is also richly illustrated. If there's a downside it's that the emphasis is on cooking--there are no baking chapters.
It’s an addiction. I saw both of the American Test Kitchen cookbooks at the library and yes, I did a bit of hyperventilating before snatching them up. They are my favorite cookbooks and I haven’t laid my eyes upon these editions before but my heavens, both of these books are encyclopedias! Both of these books came in at 6 lbs each and I do have to say after looking at both of these books some of the recipes are repeated in both of them. They each have unique recipes so I am torn at which one is my favorite so I will be putting them both on my “What I really want” list as I am addicted to the American Test Kitchen line of products. The other book The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2015 is definitely worth taking a look at also. Inside this 878 page cookbook, you will find around 768 pages of recipes. The other pages inside include an inclusive index, kitchen tips, shopping guide, and conversion tables. I love their shopping guides as they tell what to look for in certain kitchen items when shopping and they tell you what their favorite item is from appliances to peanut butter. Not all the recipes inside this glossy-paged cookbook have an illustration but there are plenty of pictures in this cookbook and helpful hints to keep you on track while cooking. I love their “notes from the test kitchen” which are thrown in every once in a while and I really love how they add “why this recipe works” with every recipe to let you know the ins and outs of why this recipe is a keeper. There is plenty of other extra fun things added in the cookbook too, like step-by-step illustrations for some recipes, and bright tidbits just for your information. From appetizers, vegetarian entrees, puddings, casseroles, grilling, salads and seafood, etc. you are sure to find some “keepers” in here.
The cheese is creating a web from my spoon to the bowl, the toast soaking up the broth ever so rich from the onions that were simmering in the pot for such a short time: this tasted like restaurant quality soup yet I prepared it in less than an hour. To think that this was the streamlined version and it tasted like this, I hated to think what the classic version of their French onion soup tasted like, I don’t know if I could handle the anticipation of waiting twice as long for this gooey goodness. One recipe down and more than 1,100 left to try and I am contemplating whether to buy this mammoth of a book. Yes, this baby is big weighing in at around 6 pounds (yes, I put it on my scale) but I have to tell you, I love with a big LOVE American Test Kitchen cookbooks. Ask me why and I can tell you that I have made plenty of their recipes and not one of them has failed me. Not one of them has been bad. Not one of them has been a waste of my money. I have many of their cookbooks and I am a subscriber of their monthly magazine and they are the truly the best. Why? Because they talk cooking, like I like to talk about books. They are the masters of cooking, they test things over and over again to give you the best recipe and with each recipe they tell you why that recipe works. Sometimes you will find that their recipes take a bit of time, but it is totally worth it! It’s like the holy grail of cooking when you cook with the American Test Kitchen behind you. They even have a television program on public television and a website (see I am addicted to their brand). I am really in love with this cookbook but the price tag has me dragging my feet, retail value is $45.00. Yep, I might have to wait till after the holidays on this one and just see if magically it somehow lands onto my bookshelf somehow.