Magazines and Periodicals: Cook's Illustrated

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Magazine Cover: Cook's Illustrated

Cook's Illustrated

This is a great cooking magazine. The authors have grown from a really good magazine that people in the know swore by, to a great website, to a TV show, and have recently added another magazine.

The outstanding feature of their approach is that they test every assumption and often dispel myths. Their specialty is rethinking old recipes, and developing new techniques that work better than the tried and maybe no longer true. They will do things like cook a sauce at five different temperatures to determine what is the optimum. They also often develop techniques for shortening the preparation or cooking time for a dish. Or lower the fat. Or make it more flavorful.

In addition, they test equipment in a rigorous fashion similar to Consumer Reports. What is the best saucepan? They test nine of them by steaming rice, scalding cream, browning onions, and making pastry cream. They also have lots of little tips and tricks from their staff and their readers. There are no ads, and the painting on the front cover is elegant and mouth-watering. The back cover usually is a painted poster showing, for example, 12 different kind of peaches. The main body of the magazine is illustrated in realistic black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings, and small color photos appear on the inside back cover.

Here's how staffer Sean Lawrence approached the problem of developing a recipe for the ultimate Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon: "I recalled the test kitchen's prior frustrations with peppercorn crusts. Peppercorns fall off in the pan, interfere with the meat's browning, and - used in sufficient quantity to create a real crust - delivering punishing pungency." He solved the problems by crushing the peppercorns by rocking a skillet on them; defanged them by simmering them in olive oil; improved adherence by pressing them into the filets and then covering them with plastic wrap and letting them rest for an hour; then sautéed the meat in a well-oiled skillet until the meat browned beneath the peppercorns; and finished them off by roasting them in the oven to complete the cooking and brown the sides. Clever, no?

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