cooks illustrated cookbooks

footballmomMarch 10, 2014

Have you used any of the cooks illustrated cookbooks? I know they don't have calorie counts, but I am looking for a way to improve my cooking and increase my repetoire of recipes. I have been cooking for over 30 years and am just bored with making the same things every week. It is also soon going to be an empty nest and I find I am still making enough for a family instead of just my DH and I. I would like to change things up and eat at home more. DH would like to eat out more, but I enjoy cooking and think I am not only saving money but saving time by doing so.

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Check the public library (as well as inter-library loan) for Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks (as well as cooking videos). Our library is rich in cookbooks, books on cooking science, budget cooking, cooking for a crowd, vegetarian, vegan, lots of ethnic cooking, cooking with tea/coffee, home canning, solar cooking, diets of every sort......

I have "The NEW Best Recipe" book from Cook's Illustrated and have only tried 2 recipes out of the 1,000 in the book. I also have 7 books from America's Test Kitchen, and not very many recipes used in those, either.

For years I've tried to make one new recipe each week, and this year my goal is 3 new recipes each week (so far so good). That's pretty easy to do now that we are wheat-free and I have that as a new focus.

A lot of my new recipes go along with classes I teach, so if you are handy in the teaching area, check with your local Food Bank, Senior Center, 4-H Clubs, and put your skills to work sharing them.

I KNOW I can save money by cooking at home, and we rarely go out to eat. I love cooking ahead and making my freezer my "friend".

I also follow a generalized menu plan, or a guideline, and that helps keep me on track. Generalized because I like the freedom it offers me, and I can skip a day and not mess the whole plan up, or switch days if necessary. Maybe a plan would help your focus when looking for new recipes. I also follow this plan so I can stay within my $125/month food budget for 2 adults (includes $10 per week for meat).

Big meal: Large cut of meat, meatloaf, baked chicken, turkey tenderloin or pork tenderloin, etc. - with all the trimmings. There is enough cooked meat to add to the freezer for future meals, a portion to make some kind of soup, vegetables prepared for this and subsequent meals for the week.

Leftovers: May or may not take on a new look from the previous day. The "leftovers" may also be from any other previous meal or from the freezer.

Stir-fry. Takes on many shapes, good use for a small amount of nearly any kind of meat (raw or cooked), any and all vegetables, including frozen, reconstituted freeze-dried, fresh in season.....

International. Usually something with pasta or a tortilla, but any country will do.


Soup and/or Sandwich

Homemade Pizza (great way to clean out the refrigerator. When the weather is too hot for pizza, we have a dinner salad.

Another list I found on-line:
-Meat on Sunday / Wednesday
-Casseroles/Leftovers - Monday/Thursday
-Pasta - Tuesday
-Fish, Eggs, Cheese - Friday
-Soup/Sandwich - Saturday

Yet one more found on-line:
Monday - Pasta
Tuesday - Soup, salad, and/or sandwiches
Wednesday - Stir-fry
Thursday - Crock Pot
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Something New
Sunday -Something Easy

I don't plan each meal other than knowing the general idea each day entails. I read my cookbooks, as well as some checked out from the library, and on-line searches (especially when I've been on an ingredient or weird food search). January was all about buckwheat. I've done lentils for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks. I keep a collection of recipes that use bread crumbs and am always adding to it. I devoted several days to making "KIND Bars" and several other energy bars. Would you like to see what I can do with powdered peanut butter, tomato powder, powdered milk..... I make my own "convenience" foods, snack food and baked goods. I'm developing a snack bin with healthy 100-calorie snacks in it. I don't buy cereal, I make it for pennies. When I make almond milk - you won't believe what I do with the pulp. I can make $1 meals. Potatoes - another whole test kitchen favorite: canned potatoes, dehydrated potatoes, and any other kind, including new crop from the garden. What to do with chicken legs or leg quarters, thighs, etc. Then the ever popular will he or won't he know it's turkey burger. Working on recipes with Trehalose, gelatin, goji berries. I also continue to develop recipes for a little sorghum mill just outside of town. I find cooking with new foods and ingredients my fun and challenge.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 6:01PM
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Our library does a great job of keeping up with new cookbooks so I like to check them out to see if the recipes intrigue me before buying any. I haven't bought any Cooks Illustrated ones but will recommend one that I purchased after retiring in 2010.

It's Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. Most of the recipes serve four and they've been easy to halve. The nutritional information for each recipe is included in a separate section in the back of the book.

The recipes offer a modern twist using readily available ingredients, especially new ideas for vegetables. Although the title Fresh Flavor Fast is accurate, the recipes don't rely on convenience foods. DH and I have enjoyed all the dishes that we've tried.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 6:14PM
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I don't buy cookbooks any more, I have 4 boxes full of them in the basement.

I save recipes that I find online and have an online membership to Cooks Illustrated which gives me great recipes.

The library is a great resource, you can browse and copy any recipes you like.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 6:44PM
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I also utilize our local library, I love books.

I do have one Cook's Illustrated cookbook and use several recipes from it, including the pancakes I just made Sunday, the lemon bars my granddaughter made a few weeks ago, the pork steak in sauce that my husband likes a lot.

That said, the cookbook that I use most is this forum. My second most used cookbook is my old Betty Crocker published in 1969. It has my recipe for biscuits, peanut butter cookies, a lot of the basic recipes that I use a lot.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:29PM
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I love reading cooks illustrated - the detail they provide in many of their recipes is great, however, I find that I don't very often cook using their recipes. Anything I have made from them has always come out great the first time, with exception to a batch of chocolate chip cookies I made from one of their Best Recipe books. First and only time I made an almost inedible chocolate chip cookie.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 8:09PM
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CA Kate

I have several of their books and now rarely use them; I have an online subscription instead. One magazine you might consider is Cuisine at Home. And, unlike Cooks Illustrated, the recipes don't use every pot and knife in your kitchen to prepare. They also have a section devoted to cooking for two.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Footballmom - I get Cooks Illustrated Magazine and I love it. I also have several of their books. You could start by going to their main website and signing up for the free newsletter. It includes recipes and all sorts of info. that would give you an idea if you want to get the magazine or books.

I see on the site if you sign up for the mag subcription you get a free cookbook of "best" recipes from the Test Kitchen.

Good luck - I really enjoy my magazine and cookbooks!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 9:16AM
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I have the "Cover and Bake" Cook's Illustrated cookbook. Got it as a Christmas gift. I like it but I don't often make such big casseroles. For single-me or me and BF, I can make a casserole and freeze it in individual portions for quick lunches or dinners, but I don't do that too often. But anyway, the recipe I have tried in that book are good, and lots of good info. I often streamline their methods though, just as Westelle mentions, they often instruct you do use way more pots and pans and dishes than you need. Do this, set aside, do that, set aside. If you time it right, you can cook the things together. The difference between the outcome would be minimal compared to the time saved and less dishes to wash.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:36AM
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I have both The Best Recipe and the New Best Recipe. I like them both and find myself using The Best Recipe more. I've bought that book for 4 people and they also use it frequently. I would recommend it if you are looking for something new to try.

You can get it on Amazon cheaper than through CI. Costco sometimes has it as well. Just look around.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 1:46PM
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The interesting thing about "NEW Best Recipe", and maybe it needs a little explanation, even though it has 1,000 recipes, it includes how to fry, scramble and poach eggs, and other similar basic things. It takes you through a really broad spectrum of basic cooking/baking to just beyond basic.

There is some equipment information. Some cooking science and food safety information. Where cuts of animals are found on the animal, and what each cut is best used for. Cooking/baking tips and shortcuts. Definitely more than just another cookbook full of recipes, and a good fit for someone who wants to get beyond the microwave oven with good step-by-step instructions so they will probably be successful using this book. So when you learn to make yeast bread in this book, you'll also learn how to check gluten development using the "windowpane" method.

Its akin to an up-dated and user-friendly version of "Joy of Cooking" or "Betty Crocker's Picture (NEW Picture) Cookbook (I gave both of these books to my now adult daughter and son when they left home). I'll pass Cook's Illustrated "The New Best Recipe" on to my 18-year old granddaughter.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 3:30PM
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See, I have a beef with Cook's Illustrated (aka, America's Test Kitchen & Cooks Country). They are not very "customer" friendly, IMO. I had trouble once with a bill from them for their CI magazine (one I didn't owe, I might add) and they were very nasty and threatening. There are also a lot of complaints about them on line regarding their billing practices so I know it was not just me running into problems with them. That being said, I do like their recipes! I watch their shows but, of course, you can't go to their website and see the recipes unless you subscribe (another pet peeve I have). However, with a little googling, I have found every one of their recipes somewhere else - for free. Years ago I bought a few of their cookbooks, but to be honest, I never use them. The cookbooks I use the most are the Barefoot Contessa's books - I have all of them - about 10 of them. I can't think of one recipe of hers that hasn't been delicious (and easy). Also, my two other favorite resources is and On their sites you can ask it to show you the ingredient list for 2 people and I find that very helpful, since we are empty nesters also and don't like leftovers.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:25PM
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I have a beef with Cook's Illustrated (aka, America's Test Kitchen & Cooks Country). They are not very "customer" friendly, IMO. I had trouble once with a bill from them for their CI magazine (one I didn't owe, I might add) and they were very nasty and threatening.

I heartily agree, which is why I no longer get any of their paper and ink stuff. They are dreadful, greedy, unresponsive and greedy.

I'm sure I'll have a terrible time when I cancel my online subscription, but at least I don't have to deal with their unsolicited mail and cookbooks. Most of their email just goes in the junk folder

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:59AM
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I like the Best Recipe too. Agree with the suggestion to flip through it in person at the library or a bookstore - I can always tell by flipping through if I really want it or not.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 8:21AM
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Thank you all for the help. I think I will dig out my library card and start there. I think one of the worst ways to find a recipe is by looking through a book that does not have pictures or ingredient lists with the recipes. . I like the pictures and an ingredient list. I also am a more basic cook. I don't have a tone of fancy equipment nor do I have room for it. I also do not want to have to by something exotic and waste money on things that I would rarely use. My family was PA Dutch and German and I learned to cook at my grandmother's and mothers apron. Most recipes are "adapted" as needed. I always follow recipes for baked goods exactly, but find most others open for adapting. I have purchased a few of the cooks illustrated mags and will continue to look for interesting new recipes. I found it easier to do when living in Southern California where fresh produce is available more easily than it is in PA.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:33PM
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Last night's dinner was roasted red pepper soup with cilantro cream dollops from a Cook's Illustrated collection of magazine recipes in magazine form (Sam's Club). The soup is delicious, but the recipe does contain gratuitous use of extra equipment, as others note above. For example, after the soup is removed from the pot and blended in the blender, the recipe calls for pouring it into a clean pot. Why ? Why not just use the pot from which you just removed everything for blending purposes?

I find that these magazines of recipes collected from old CIs are my preferred way to access CI recipes. $4.20 at Sam's, no solicitation for subscription to this or that, and a very high percentage of recipes I will actually use on a regular basis.

Edited to add the title of the mag:

"Cook's All-Time Best Soups and Stews" 2014.

This post was edited by kitchendetective on Sat, Mar 15, 14 at 15:20

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 1:25PM
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I actually prefer the magazine. The recipes are discussed in more depth, including the why's and how's of the technique, so you better understand why the recipe works and this how to use the methods elsewhere. Only a few recipes are presented in each issue, so you can't pick and choose and stay in your safe zone, but are forced to try new things and dishes that seem hard.

In many cities there will be a used magazine dealer. Search for one near you and you can pick up dozens of old CI issues for a dollar or so per.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:44PM
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I went to the library and got the book. I walked and didn't take a bag.......and this is a big, honking book, over 1,000 pages!

With no photos, it makes for a lot of reading LOL

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:09PM
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I went to the library and got the book. I walked and didn't take a bag.......and this is a big, honking book, over 1,000 pages!

With no photos, it makes for a lot of reading LOL

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:14PM
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