Cooks Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking is a goldmine. Reading the title may make the buyer beware. Is this a cookbook or a science lecture? Cooks, relax! In addition to explaining why a recipe works, the book is chock full of delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes. As a former subscriber to Cook’s Magazine and avid cook, I have made and can attest to the quality of many recipes in this book. The cover of this new cookbook says it all. Four hundred recipes are “Engineered for Perfection.” In addition to the tested and delicious recipes, the book is an education on what kinds of ingredients and cooking techniques will make your dish come out perfectly.
Fifty concepts are explored. Some intriguing examples are:
· Green Vegetables Like It Hot-Then Cold
· Slicing Changes Garlic and Onion Flavor
· Vodka Makes Pie Dough Easy
· Don’t Soak Beans-Brine ‘Em
· Resting Meat Maximizes Juices
Recipes for appetizers, dressings soups, stews, poultry, pasta dishes, rice, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, breads, desserts are clearly laid out. Flexible ingredient substitutes may save you a trip to the store. A “Why this recipe works section” explains the nitty-gritty of the technique. Pictures show test kitchen results to demonstrate the effects of certain changes to the recipes. (For example, how you handle your butter affects what your biscuits look and taste like).
I tested one recipe on my husband, who hates to cook. He made the “Meatballs for 12” recipe. The meatballs were tender, delicious and easy. He said the directions were clearly presented, flexible as to ingredient substitution, and doable. He is a math guy so he really enjoyed the scientific explanations about why 93% beef didn’t work as well as 85% beef. (Juicier meatballs). Once you master the meatball recipe, a Swedish Meatball recipe with similar technique is presented for expanding your serving possibilities.
A chapter on cakes starts with the standard “Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake.” Then you can go wild with recipes for Chiffon cake, Lemon Bundt Cake, Best Shortbread, Cheese Cake and many frostings.