Cook's Illustrated Magazine, Author . Boston Common $29.95 (325p) ISBN 978-0-936184-54-8

This impressive compendium of basic recipes follows the format of Cook's Illustrated magazine and the television series America's Test Kitchen. Accordingly, it presents painstakingly tested standard recipes for American classics like Grilled Hamburgers and Brownies. Chapters are thematic: a Thanksgiving chapter includes Crisp-Skin High-Roast Turkey and Turkey Gravy; another on Steak Frites provides recipes for Pan-Seared Steaks, various sauces and, certainly, French Fries. Recipes have been tested with all possible variables—e.g., the editors cooked both commercial and specialty bacons in a microwave, a skillet and an oven before settling on oven-roasting. Also included are the results of numerous blind taste tests of everything from canned tomatoes to lemon oils and extracts, and equipment evaluations. After being subject to this kind of scrutiny, these recipes are guaranteed to work perfectly, and all the "Science Desk" reports are a boon to kitchen nerds who may wonder about such things as "Why Potatoes Turn Brown." Sometimes, however, this attention to the minutest detail and the constant quest for "the best" can seem misplaced. For example, it's nice to know that challah makes top-quality French Toast, but this dish is often a last-minute whim made with whatever's in the house, making the four pages of instructions, analysis of griddles, two recipes (one for challah and the other for day-old European-style bread, with a few caveats) feel overblown. Nonetheless, culinary geeks everywhere will love this book. Photos and illus. (Jan.)

Forecast:The magazine's popularity promises steady sales.

Reviewed on: 11/05/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
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