We love Cook's Illustrated. The magazine is simple in its design – relying on drawings and B&W photos – but what an encyclopedia!
We first learned about CI through their PBS show – America's Test Kitchen. The show is a simple how-to cooking show, but rather just just tell you what to do – they actually explain why you need to take a specific approach. They explain the science behind cooking, or at least what can go wrong if you try something a different way. It's more than just a new source of recipes – it's educational.
Well, CI is like the show, only it's in book form and waaaay more thorough. The editors really do a good job of telling you exactly what can go wrong with a given recipe. And the lessons work. So far, everything we've tried from them has been fool proof – Chinese pork, Rainy-Day BBQ pork chops on the stove top, Chicken Tikka Masala. They even have tricks for perfecting steak!
(For a thick steak, heat it in a slow oven until internal temp reaches 90 Fº then throw it on the grill for a few minutes to char it and finish cooking the inside. The 15-20 minutes of slow cooking helps break down proteins making for more tender meat, and you don't overcook the outside while trying to cook the inside).
They run you through every conceivable part of each recipe – from what cut of meat to choose (and why) to which can of tomatoes tastes best. What more could we want?
So we recently subscribed to the magazine. It hasn' arrived yet, but we also ordered the annual hardcover collected editions for both 2007 and 2008 (they were on 2 for 1, yay!) and they arrived last week, chock full of info!
So much to learn. So much great food to try.