Americas Test Kitchen is my old reliable. They are the ones I turn to when I can’t figure out why the gravy in my chicken pot pie is not as thick and creamy as I want it to be. They are the ones that I turn to when I don’t know why my baked french fries are always soggy or I can’t cook my boneless skinless chicken breast without drying them out. More than likely they have solutions for me.
Americas Test Kitchen is not Food Network flashy, it is public television practical. I think for this reason, a lot of cooks overlook a great resource.
I am a practical girl. I am constantly in search of answers. I am always on the prowl to find the tools that will ultimately help me achieve the results I crave. That is why I love America’s Test Kitchen (ATK).
I was first introduced to ATK while watching an episode of their TV show on public television. The episode was about how to get crispy fried chicken. It was amazing. I don’t eat fried chicken very often and I never make it at home, but that’s not really the point. The point is their technique. It was awesome. They had done all the homework and tried dozens of different methods, so they could show little ole me what works best. The next episode I saw was on how to get the perfect macaroni and cheese, crispy and crunchy on top, and creamy and gooey on the inside. That hit close to home. I am a macaroni and cheese fanatic. I have been trying to figure this one out for years! I tried their techiques and they were brilliant. Again, awesome! I was hooked.
Since then I have been drawn to their magazines and watch the TV show often. They are a great learning resource. So when I got The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook for Christmas…well, it was like Christmas. (It scares me sometimes when I think about what gets me excited.)
This cookbook is loaded with information. It is so much more than just a cookbook. I like to refer to it as the Consumers Reports of cooking. The entire book is loaded with cooking techniques, ingredient reviews, how to’s, cooking tool reviews and lest we forget…recipes!
Keep in mind that this version is called the “Healthy” family cookbook. The recipes are makeovers of common everyday meals. They are healthier recipes with lower calories, fat content and methods to reduce sodium content, among other things.
Physically, this cookbook is your basic three ring binder type. it’s not a coffee table book. It’s a good old fashioned (by today’s standards anyway) cookbook. The contents include sections on Kitchen basics like timing, temperature and measuring. They move on to describe essential cooking tools and give their recommendations for the best of each. Then on to the recipes. The book starts with breakfast and includes sections on salads, stir-fries and curries, grilling, whole grain breads, desserts, kid friendly recipes, pasta, rice, grains and beans, fish and shellfish, pizza and tarts plus eight other sections. There is nothing in this cookbook that I would consider exotic. It is basic everyday stuff.
Each page is loaded with information. I have chosen pages 186-187 at random and I would like to give you a breakdown of what is on them. Lets start with the testing review on whole wheat pasta, which fills the left hand column of page 186. The review explains how they tested 18 different brands of whole wheat pasta in their test kitchens, what the testing involved and what the results where (which only confirms to me that I am justified in my dislike of whole wheat pasta). The next item on the page is a recipe for Penne with Chicken , Caramelized Onions, and Red Peppers complete with nutritional information. The recipe is then followed by a test kitchen tip on how to caramelize onions, followed by the best way to shred fresh basil. The right hand column on page 187 is dedicated to “Getting to Know: Salt.” The article explains the position they took on salt when putting the cookbook together, along with some important information on salt in our diets. The column is finished off with a chart showing the average amount of sodium in many of the common ingredients we use in our kitchens. See, so much more than just a cookbook.
There are over 500 pages like this. I highly recommend this book to even the most experienced home cook. You won’t find any flash or fancy design here, but if you have never experienced the knowledge of America’s Test Kitchen, you won’t be disappointed.