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'America's Test Kitchen' sets the cookbook bar high

By Michael Moore

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 5:53 p.m. MST

"THE COMPLETE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN TV SHOW COOKBOOK," editors at America's Test Kitchen, $39.95, 790 pages

Whether a fan of the "America’s Test Kitchen" TV show or you are simply looking for a great cookbook, “The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook” not only provides proven recipes, but delivers on function, form and features, making this book a great buy.

The "America’s Test Kitchen" steps it up to help the at-home cook re-create dishes that are on the show.

First, this book is written and arranged like a traditional cookbook. Each recipe is logically placed in one of 25 chapters, each of which represents a familiar course or category such as “Soup’s On!” or “Let’s Do Takeout.” The well-arranged index also makes it easy to find the right recipe by category or even by ingredient. With more than 800 recipes arranged on nearly as many pages, both of these functions are critically important to finding what you are looking for.

One of the things that makes this cookbook stand out from others is how each recipe is formed. Just like other cookbooks, this one contains easy to follow recipes, which contain measurements and instructions for cooking. What’s different about these recipes, however, is that at the beginning of each is a section titled “Why this recipe works.”

On the TV show, the chefs go to great lengths to make sure each recipe they showcase is a winner by testing them at least two dozen times apiece. The testing process has two goals: make sure the recipe is perfect and make sure it’s easy for you to reproduce. Every “Why this recipe works” section contains little morsels of knowledge obtained from this arduous process and gives you greater insight into how to reproduce it.

Finally, this cookbook touts several unique features. For instance, there are “Notes from the test kitchen,” which provide additional help for those difficult or delicate tasks via detailed pictures and instructions. One example of this is its 10-step process to rolling and forming the perfect croissant.

Also, there is “behind the scenes” highlights throughout the book, which give tips and greater insight into the discoveries made through their testing process. But what many readers will enjoy is the 42-page “The America’s Test Kitchen Shopping Guide” found in the back of the book. This guide showcases the tools, equipment and products that the testing process proved would give the best chance for success to reproduce the recipes.

"America’s Test Kitchen" says, “Our focus is on real home cooking.” This seems to be an understatement considering the immense amount of work that goes into making sure each recipe is ready for to reproduce and enjoy. With its function, form and features, the book will hopefully have you thinking, “I want to try that.”

Michael Moore has worked and owned several businesses in the food industry for nearly two decades. He enjoys experimenting with food and creating his own dishes for his friends, wife and seven children. He is a product manager at DDM.

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