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The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Heavy-Duty Revised Edition Ring-bound – September 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

Over time, twin enterprises Cook's Illustrated magazine and America's Test Kitchen have published many books dedicated to providing exhaustively tested recipes--"best" versions of traditional dishes plus definitive takes on kitchen equipment and ingredients. Some series readers have complained of endlessly recycled or rejiggered recipes; others take each book at face value, finding the formulas and cooking insights good and helpful. America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which calls itself a cookbook, cooking school, and kitchen reference in one, offers over 1,200 approachable recipes for a very wide range of dishes--from "weekday" fare like Creamy Rice Casserole, Cheesy Nachos with Spicy Beef, and Skillet Lasagna, to dressier recipes, including Pan-Seared Lamb Chops with Red Wine Rosemary Sauce, Roasted Trout Stuffed with Bacon and Spinach, and Chocolate Marshmallow Mousse. There are "specialty" chapters devoted to sandwiches, drinks, and slow cooker and pressure cooker dishes; a grilling section is a tutorial in itself.

Unorthodox, "better-way" approaches abound. For example, a fried chicken formula instructs the cook to wet the bird's dry coating slightly before it's applied for an extra-crunchy crust. Predictably, side bars feature equipment and ingredient evaluations, on bottled salsa, for example; "good food/bad food" photographs show readers what to aim for when producing fare like holiday cookies; and there are tips, charts, and "Cooking 101" sidebars galore. Step-by-step photos offer more direction still.

Though the majority of recipes are sound and yield tempting results, readers poring through the book will note gaffes and curiosities. The recipe for poached eggs, for example, offers the option of extra cooking for "firm yolks" (hard-boiled poached eggs, anyone?) and hamburgers receive an indentation before cooking to avoid "puffy" domed burgers, a novel problem that could, in any case, be solved by proper shaping. The addition of sugar to some savory dishes--for example, a pan sauce for steak--is misguided. Readers should also know that the book, which comes in loose-leaf form, requires some assembly, and that the pages themselves are quite thin, making them vulnerable to spills and tearing in daily kitchen use.

These things said, the book delivers solid, family-friendly dishes with enough fully orchestrated "how- to" to make even novice cooks feel secure when tackling the basics or more ambitious fare.

What's New in the Revised Editon?
First out in 2005, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook was praised for its recipe ease, inclusiveness, and wealth of helpful information, but was also criticized for its physical production. A loose-leaf book with its pages included separately, readers found it inconvenient to assemble and its paper impractically thin. The revised edition is printed on heavier stock, and arrives with its pages already on its rings (there are two more now, for sturdiness) with only chapter dividers to insert, a simple task.

In addition, new inside front and back covers provide information on emergency substitutions, roasting guidelines, equivalent measures, and more--and a "Light Recipes" chapter has been included. Without defining precisely what "light" means--fewer fats and carbs, or a combo?--the section offers attractive all-course recipes, such as turkey chili, veggie burgers, meat and cheese lasagna, and chocolate bundt cake. Some readers will welcome the "slimming" of familiar dishes while others will find some of the manipulations--using cornstarch to thicken the sauce in fettuccine alfredo or ricotta to add body to a reduced-fat pesto, for example--unappealing. The book, however, remains a valuable kitchen tool--and one with greater convenience and durability than before. --Arthur Boehm

Exclusive Recipe Excerpts from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (Revised Edition)

Butternut Squash Soup

Light Chicken Parmesan

Classic Apple Pie

From the Back Cover

The America's Test Kitchen Guarantee: Recipes that work . . . the first time and every time.

We know how frustrating it can be when things go wrong in the kitchen. That’s why every single recipe in this book has been tested not once, not twice, but often as many as 20, 30, or even 40 times. And then, just to make absolutely sure, we often test our recipes using cheap cookware, mediocre stovetops, and the wrong ingredients. All of this work results, we hope, in a simple promise: our recipes work, the first time and every time. As we like to say, "We make all the mistakes, so you don’t have to." So here are 1,200 recipes you can count on. And that’s a guarantee from America’s Test Kitchen to your kitchen.


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Product Details

  • Ring-bound: 736 pages
  • Publisher: America's Test Kitchen; 2nd,Har/Lslf R edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193361501X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933615011
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 9.3 x 2.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (450 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Important Information

Example Ingredients

Example Directions

More About the Author

America's Test Kitchen is a 2,500 square foot kitchen located outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines and is the workday destination for over 3 dozen test cooks, editors and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to our public television show, America's Test Kitchen.

Customer Reviews

The recipes are easy to understand with great pictures.
J. Bruining
This book is going to be a great help to me as I learn techniques and tips that I haven't learned in my day-to-day cooking.
I try recipes out of this book with great confidence and highly recommend it.
Frustrated shopper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 121 people found the following review helpful By K. A. Conley on October 13, 2006
Format: Ring-bound
I enjoy the PBS series "America's Test Kitchen," so when I received this book as a Christmas gift last year I was very excited. Now, almost a year later, I have cooked my way through scores of the recipes in this cookbook and there is not a dud in the bunch. This book takes basic, American fare and boil it down to it's most essential (and flavorful parts), allowing you to cook tasty favorites. My only caveat is that is you are looking for quick meals, this may not be the best choice--many of the recipes are quite time consuming. However, if you only want one cookbook in your kitchen, this is the one!
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Jean on November 6, 2006
Format: Ring-bound
This is the first time I've been motivated to write a review. This is the most used cookbook in my kitchen - every recipe I have tried has been a winner. I appreciate the very specific instructions on preparing the dishes - small details that really make a difference and techniques I can apply to other dishes. I love the reviews on products sprinkled throughout the cookbook, as well as comments on whether short-cuts or substitutions will alter the result. Every recipe has great flavor and while can take some time to make, the time for prep is not burdensome and is clearly outlined on each recipe. If you are looking for a good workhorse cookbook this is it. (sorry to say I haven't used my betty crocker, better homes and gardens or Joy of cooking cookbooks in quite a while). I plan to get this as a present for all the women in my family this year.
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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Brett Hunt on October 5, 2006
Format: Ring-bound
I've purchased a ton of cookbooks over the years I've been cooking at home. However, once I purchased this cookbook all of the other cookbooks have become covered in dust. The only exceptions would be a handful of other Cook's Illustrated recipes not covered here in the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. If you are a cooking enthusiast or a new beginner this is the cookbook for you.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Michael Duenes on November 20, 2008
Format: Ring-bound
I have several cookbooks from America's Test Kitchen, and loved them. The New Best Recipe, in particular, is my favorite. I received this cookbook as a gift, and loved putting in the dividers and looking at all of the colorful illustrations (normally most of their cookbooks are illustrated in pen-and-ink drawings). It has a 1950's retro feel to it, which I like.

However, I must agree with another reviewer that while some of the recipes are straight out of their episodes and other cookbooks, there are several I've tried so far that seem "safe" and therefore bland. The blueberry muffin recipe turned out dry and crumbly. The chili had to be kicked up a notch with some additional spices at the last minute, and the spinach dip was watery and unremarkable.

But there are lots of recipes and I like the way they're organized, so I would say it's worth purchasing, but not worth the honor of the "go-to" cookbook that never fails you.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Emily A. Klinedinst on June 13, 2007
Format: Ring-bound
All right, I had cooked before, even made Thanksgiving dinner, but generally, when it came to anything more complicated than Hamburger Helper, I was all thumbs. In this book, very little in the way of prepared foods is used--some canned tomato products, peanut butter, frozen puff pastry dough, and not much else.

This book recommends brands for ingredients and equipment, and they are almost always right. (My husband and I can't tell the difference if I cook with their recommended chicken broth or the generic canned stuff.) It's also good at demonstrating techniques such as slicing chicken breasts into cutlets.

It also explains WHY they think it's important to use this ingredient rather than that one, or to do the steps in the prescribed order, or to do a certain technique their way.

Overall, this is a great cookbook for someone with just a little experience who is eager to improve their cooking. Not great for a total novice--they expect you to know how your range works, how to boil water...but they illustrate the differences between chopping, dicing, mincing.

This cookbook is one of the best gifts I've ever received, and my husband agrees. We're really enjoying going through these thousands of recipes.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Holly Gustafson on September 22, 2006
Format: Ring-bound
So you think you know the best way to make meatloaf, chili, and chicken soup?

The chefs in America's Test Kitchen try so many variations and publish the best, and they're always right! The recipes are specific and easy to follow. If ever I need to cook to impress, this is the book I use.
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Format: Ring-bound Verified Purchase
What Rick Steves is to bargain travelers bound for Europe, Chris Kimball is to homeward American culinary hobbyists seeking the perfect recipe. Both are nerds of a feather whose singular passion for their areas of expertise comes across as both professorially knowledgeable and infectiously quirky. This oddly comforting combination has lured me time and again to the PBS series, America's Test Kitchen, to witness the meticulous preparation of their appetizing, heavily tested recipes by their friendly, authoritative test cooks. Much more user-friendly than the Joy of Cooking, this almost overwhelming volume is a sturdy, five-ring binder of a cookbook, which helpfully allows you to take out the recipes you need without rifling through the whole volume. Once you purchase the book, it takes a while to unwrap the pages and organize the dividers, but the resulting treasure trove is well worth the effort. Over 1,200 recipes are separated into 23 sections, and I have tried at least a dozen at this time. I am very pleased to report that all came out beautifully - without exception - thanks to their thoughtful techniques.

For example, a simple roast chicken is exponentially enhanced by the brining they recommend and a liberal rubbing of tarragon butter under the breast skin and all over the skin. The pan-seared chicken breasts with vermouth and tarragon sauce come out perfectly when I use the combination stovetop and oven bake technique they prescribe. The corn chowder is significantly creamier thanks to their recommendation to puree the corn kernels beforehand.
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