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Steaks, Chops, Roasts & Ribs
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112 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2005
In general, this book is reliable, complete, and extremely useful to anyone who eats meat more than once in a while. It is good addition to your bookshelf and recommended highly. The primary value of this book is completeness. No matter what type of meat or cut you have, there is a relevant chapter and recipes for it; this book covers it all. Systematically developing recipes for all types of meat must have been a daunting task. Although this book is seriously flawed, if you cook based on the wonderful piece of meat you got at the supermarket or butcher rather than cooking from a cookbook from a famous celebrity chef, this book is pretty much the only game in town and rather indispensable. My main warning about this book: the recipes are focused on the proper procedure and technique, not on what is easy or convenient; some of the fussiest recipes I have ever seen come from this meat cookbook (I will refrain from complaining about the futility of Yankees trying to cook oriental food, chili, or barbecue).

The authors have focused on those wonky little details that are usually glossed over and can make or break a good meat dish: correct breading technique, meat thickness, internal temperature, proper resting method, etc. The first part of the book has a valuable catalog of meat cuts. Each cut has alternate names, a drawing, and ratings for flavor and cost. Only professional references available to butchers are more comprehensive. The chapter organization based on cut (ground, steak, etc.) rather than the usual type of meat (lamb, beef, pork, veal) is a good educational tool: it emphasizes proper preparation technique rather than animal type. Some recipes have been successfully re-engineered (mock Cassoulet; Beef Wellington, halleluiah), while others (osso buco, pot au feu) are no better than the ones I got from Joy of Cooking.

Although this book is indispensable to everyone but vegetarians, there is plenty to criticize and much room for improvement.

1) The authors have bland, Yankee taste buds (Cook's Illustrated facilities are located in New England). Many of the dishes are boring and insipid, and their renovations amount to little more than cutting back on spices and flavors (steak au poivre and pan-based wine reduction sauces to name just two disappointments).

2) The procedures seem to be rather fussy; I doubt that their version of blanquette de veau is any better than the one I have prepared successfully several times in a number of different circumstances (Professional Cooking, Gisslen).

3) The book suffers from side-bar mania: putting important information in little asides in random places in the text where you will never find them if you try to look them up.

4) There is the problem with names: they vary greatly depending on which part of the country you are in, and this issue is never addressed (ask a butcher in California for a spencer steak or shell steak and you will get a blank stare unless he is an old-timer).

5) The chapter organization by type of cut and preparation method (e.g. stew, chops outdoors, skewers, etc.) is intellectually more satisfying than a traditional one based on meat type (beef, veal, pork, lamb), but is more difficult to use. If you come home from the supermarket with some meat you got on sale, you will have to thumb through several different chapters to find relevant recipes.

6) The catalog of meat types would have been more useful if it also included tenderness, preferred preparation method, and recommended best recipes.

7) There are a few cases of sloppy editing (dried fig ingredient in a lamb dish disappeared halfway through the recipe; title confusion of Au Jus versus Yorkshire Pudding; skillets that magically become roasting pans ; not telling whether accumulated oil should be drained or used in the next step; the page reference on p. 347 should be "350", not "35"; p. 384 has "see page 000").

8) The home made tonkatsu sauce (Japanese pork cutlet) is a terrible, grade school imitation of the real stuff.

9) One sidebar suggests a dangerous procedure: picking up an electric wok by the handle with one hand and scraping out ingredients with the other hand (woks, electric or otherwise, should never be picked up with one hand, even those with western style stick handles). To remove ingredients from a wok, use one of those funny, shovel shaped wok spatulas.

10) The recipes tend to be long and fussy. Working your way through multiple steps can be frustrating.

11) A "time to execute" for each recipe would have been useful for beginners, as some recipes take many hours (or even days) to execute from beginning to end.

12) Some of the recipes are diffcult and for seasoned carnivores only. A difficulty rating would have been useful.

13) Even though a plurality of recipes require a grill, the authors never cover which one to get (also for gas grill recipes). It is clear that the recipe procedures assume that you have a Weber kettle grill; the recipes make no sense for some other commonly available grills.

It has chapers on: steak (grilled and indoors), kabobs, chops (grilled and indoors), cutlets, stir fry, stew, pot roast, roast (grilled and indoors), chili, barbecue, burgers, cured pork, and sauces.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2006
If you are not familiar with Cook's Illustrated magazine and their numerous cookbooks, let me introduce them to you. What they do is they take a recipe into their test kitchen, prepare it over and over again until they reach the very best way to make it, and then publish the recipe, along with a detailed report on their testing and how they arrived at their findings. This is a wonderful concept for the serious home cook and baker, because aside from their delicious (mostly) foolproof recipes, the cook is invited to learn the science behind the recipe, and this is a valuable learning tool. To me, the people behind Cook's Illustrated and their cookbooks are more than just a source of good recipes, they are EDUCATORS. And I have learned a great deal from them in the couple years that I have been exposed to them. "Steaks, Chops, Roasts and Ribs" is one of the wonderful cookbooks in the Cook's Illustrated series that I wholeheartedly recommend to the home cook who wants to learn more about the art of preparing various meats. Although some of the recipes within can be found in their much more comprehensive and all-encompassing cookbook "The New Best Recipe", this book stands apart if not solely for its wonderful and fully detailed section on the various cuts of meat. Every type and cut of meat imaginable is addressed in the beginning of the book, with a description of the cut, its alternate names, a rating of its flavor and an idea of its cost. There is also an informative section about the primal cuts of meat, what "branding" means and basic cooking methods. The information doesn't stop there, however, because scattered throughout the book are many other tidbits of information, like how to successfully make pan sauces, the best wines for cooking, product reviews, and helpful cooking illustrations. The recipes themselves (and their cooking methods) are varied enough to placate any home cook, from the grill maniac to the stew lover. There is something for everyone in this wonderful book. And unless you're already an expert on meat, I feel confident that you will learn something new from this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2005
I first encounted this book in the library, I was attracted by the title. I was a little skeptical at first, thinking it would be extremely boring since there is no fancy picture in the book, but as I started reading it, I was amazed by the info in the book, they tell you every single detail involved to make sure everything turns out perfect. And they tell you the every single little things e.g. the science behind aging your beef...

Even my husband who never cook in the kitchen enjoys reading it. One of our favourite receipe is beef kebob. My family and friends were all amazed how tasy they are, and begging for receipe. I like the book so much, so I ended up ordering if from Amazon, and since then I have also ordered a few more book published by the same published. I would strongly recommended this book to everyone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2008
I have been a cook for last 6years in Australia and working in Korea at the moment. The restaurant that I am working is very busy and always looking for new menues. Someone gave me this book and I tried to make some of dishes and rubs. The result was fantastic. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in cooking. Also it will be very helpful to professional cooks to get ideas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
I borrowed this book from the library, with high hopes it would be the perfect cookbook for a dyed-in-the-wool male carnivore such as myself. It came close, but ultimately fell short of the mark. The book has its good points - I found the "Meat Basics" up front very valuable. It contains sections on "How to buy..." for pork, lamb, veal, beef, beef roasts, and beef ribs. Every possible cut of meat you'd encounter at the butchers is here, along with little drawings of the cut, flavor ratings, relative cost, and alternate names you'd likely see - the perfect shopping guide to have with you in the market. Where I found the book less than desirable is its dependence on grilling as the cooking method. For example, the first five chapters are: I Want to Grill a Steak, I Want to Cook a Steak Indoors, I Want to Cook Meat on a Stick, I Want to Grill Chops, and I Want to Cook Chops Inside. As you can see, three of these five chapters are about grilling (charcoal and gas). There were other chapters involving grilling as well. Unfortunately, I live in an older high-rise apartment building. Outdoor grilling is impossible and indoor grilling is prohibited due to the fire hazard. This meant, for me at least, that about six of the sixteen chapters (about a third of the receipes) in this book had to be totally ignored.

The other disappointment of this book is the very limited color photographs of the prepared dishes. Of "more than 300 foolproof receipes" advertised on the cover, only 16 full-color photographs appeared in the center of the book. I realize adding more color photographs would raise the cover price, but I think it was a bad decision not to do that in this case.

As with other books from the Cooks Country/America's Test Kitchen franchise, this book does have useful information and tasty receipes. Just be aware this particular volume may not be ideal for apartment dwellers who cannot grill meats to their hearts' content.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2011
As with all of the America's test Kitchen books are well tested, this is no exception. Great tips and hints that their chef's share with the readers. A good book to form a foundation for meat cookery.
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on December 27, 2014
I just finished 4 books on cooking meat. Although Pat La Frieda's new book has great photos & some interesting butcher anecdotes, if I could only have one meat book on on my bookshelf this is the one that is most thorough, useful on a daily basis most informative, with its well tested methods and numerous step-by-step drawing.

The fact that it was published in 2004 doesn't lessen its value at all.

I have to return it to the library soon, but of all the great meat books I've read these last three months - this is the best of the bunch and the one I would buy.
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on September 28, 2014
This is not Cook's Illustrated latest Book, but it is excellent like all of the rest. This book was received in near new condition and it was well packaged as well as being quickly shipped. I am very happy with this purchase!
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on February 11, 2013
I have used this book over and over. Its easy to read and follow the recipes.
I really love the extra information on every piece. I feel this is a chef quality book.
I would definitely recommend this book.
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on September 3, 2008
Informative book. You may not agree with the lengthiness of some of the recipes but it all serves a purpose. They disregarded some really good steaks which turned me off.
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