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American Classics: More Than 300 Exhaustively Tested Recipes For America's Favorite Dishes Hardcover – April 1, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Derived from the pages of Cook's Illustrated magazine, American Classics (part of the successful Best Recipe series) offers 300 formulas for a soup-to-nuts trove of American standards--everything from clam chowder, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken to brownies, carrot cake, and lemon meringue pie (which required 28 tryouts before the "best" was achieved). The book goes far to realize its mission with exhaustive "what-we-were-looking-for-and-how-we-got-it" investigations; tons of useful asides on techniques, ingredients, and equipment; great how-to illustrations; and the recipes themselves, which are precisely thought through and clearly rendered. All in all, even a cursory dip into the book takes readers into the very heart of cooking.

How does it work? Let's take the recipe for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, a simple dish but one that's frequently botched. First, the problem of achieving the right filling distribution: "Tradition ... suggests that the cheese be cut into thin, even slices for easy melting," say the authors, but this can be problematic as "cheese planes don't work well on soft, rubbery cheeses" and cutting with a knife "requires patience, practice, and a relatively hard block of cheese." After a number of slicing failures, the authors opt for "the common box grater ... which is quick and efficient." Next, the bread: "Some like it soft and some like it firm," but even so, a supermarket brand gets the nod. Testing a full range of fats reveals salted butter is best for "superior flavor and its ability to turn bread deeply golden," and so it goes through the choice of skillet (heavy gauge with a flat bottom) and the correct cooking temperature (no more than medium low). An exemplary recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches follows.

If all of this sounds obsessive, it is. More compelling is the fact that this approach helps readers understand the parameters of any cooking task, thus educating their tastes while also providing true technical empowerment. And the dishes really are keepers. --Arthur Boehm

Review

"Required Reading...." --Cincinnati Enquirer, May 1, 2002
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Product Details

  • Series: Best Recipe
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Cook's Illustrated; First Edition edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936184558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936184555
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I fell in love with Cook's Illustrated magazine -- I've subscribed since the charter issue ten years ago. So I bought Chris Kimball's COOK'S BIBLE when it appeared. It included many of the same recipes lifted from the magazine, but that was okay, because it made searching for a particular dish easier. Shortly after that came his YELLOW FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK. More of the same. Meanwhile, the magazine is issuing individual-theme "booklets" for $15. It's up to a couple dozen by now, and all of them simply riffs on previously published material in the magazine. Then came Pam Anderson's (she was former exec ed and her absence is sorely missed) THE PERFECT RECIPE, which contained 30 of her COOK'S magazine articles. More repeats of the same information. A year later Cook's puts out THE BEST RECIPE, virtually identical to Pam's. More repeats of the same classic American fare. Now we have the BEST RECIPE SERIES, up to four at last count, the most recent being, AMERICAN CLASSICS, yet ANOTHER spin redux on mac-cheese and lemon meringue pie (by the way, if you want the ultimate lemon pie recipe, buy Anderson's PERFECT RECIPE, which contains the EXACT same lemon meringue pie recipe as the one featured on the cover of AMERICAN CLASSICS; confused? -- the COOK'S marketing machine no doubt hopes you are, so you'll end up buying all of their books, no matter how superfluous ). All of this is perfectly legal of course. You can't be arrested for plaigirizing your own recipes. But is it ethical? How many more printed versions of the same roast chicken recipe do we need? You can find nearly the same one in all of the COOK's books. Furthermore, I've begun to notice that there are odd discrepancies creeping into their recommendations.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have tried nearly every recipe in this cookbook. All of them came out well, and the explanations that come with the recipes are excellent.
You can find more recipes in the Joy of Cooking, but you won't be as assured the food will taste good. Cooks Illustrated runs through several iterations to create the "perfect" recipe. Most of the ingredients are simple and readily available. The instructions are easy to follow.
This is an excellent cookbook for inexperienced and experienced cooks alike.
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Format: Hardcover
I spent time in the States when younger, and some things that I ate were a little eclectic for British Tastes. However, when I saw this book reviewed in the British press, I knew it would have all the recipes I would need. I wasn't wrong! Not many pictures, but clear, concise instructions, and reading it has made my tummy rumble! Can't wait to try the stuffing recipes - so much different to British stuffing, and the Coca-cola glazed Ham. This will keep me busy for ages!
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Format: Hardcover
Did it ever occur to the whiners writing reviews about duplications that these might exist, not because the editors don't "have enough" recipes, but because some recipes BELONG in more than one cookbook? A grilling recipe from the Test Kitchen series might be appropriate in the Best Recipe: Gilling and Barbeque book. In fact, the Grilling and Barbeque cookbook might be lacking a key technique or dish without it. The Best Recipe (1999) was the first of its kind, and since it contained "best" Italian recipes, chicken recipes, and soup recipes, a few of these would be entirely appropriate in cookbooks that claim to cover all the basics in the sub-categories. And I wouldn't want an incomplete Perfect Vegetables cookbook, for instance, just because a recipe had been perfected during the Test Kitchen television series. The 1/3 figure is much too high, by the way.
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Format: Hardcover
These books are great! I love my Cooks' Illustrated Books and use them all the time. Many of the recipes from this book have become favorites. My one and only complaint is that they have now published the Best Recipe series and now the Test Kitchen books and they don't have enough recipes to fill them each one with enough unique recipes to distinguish one book from another.
A few repeated recipes is forgiveable, but they have gone way over the top. If you buy more than two of their books, the third is bound to be composed of a third the recipes from each of the first two. Same test info, everything. This only leaves 1/3 of the recipes as original.
Because of this, I say look carefully before deciding which from this series you purchase unless you want multiple copies of the same testing articles and recipes.
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Format: Hardcover
If you take any interest at all in cooking, you will LOVE reading this book! But the proof is in the pudding, of course, and time after time, the recipes I use from this book have been successful. For instance, my husband and adult son agreed that the macaroni and cheese I made from this collection was the absolute BEST I had ever made. You may think I was an average cook to begin with, but that isn't the case. The editors were right, evaporated milk was the key to a smooth cheese sauce. And who would have thought of using fettucini instead of egg noodles in the tuna casserole, but once I did it, I would never use anything but.

I read the long, ranting and complaining about this and other books by one reviewer and thought it was petty. I consider this American Classics book to have two solid attributes: excellent discussion of testing and methods as well as reliable recipes. Not only did I purchase the Italian Classics and the Best Recipes books (both of which I enjoyed as well), I plan to purchase the large basic cookbook by the same publisher as gifts to my adult children this holiday season.

This book has given me a HUGE boost of energy and enthusiasm for cooking, and we're all enjoying the benefits.
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