Cooks Illustrated

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Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Henrick » Fri May 26, 2006 4:54 pm

I got an invitation to subscribe to Cooks Illustrated in the mail a few days ago, along with a free issue. I am giving serious thought to subscribing, but thought I would get some reactions here first...so if you have an opinion on the magazine let me hear it.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby John Tomasso » Sat May 27, 2006 9:20 am

Bob, the magazine has its good and bad points. I still think it's worth subscribing.

I enjoy when they do comparative testing on things like toasters, pans, etc. They do a thorough job and their reporting is informative.

I'm not as crazy about their approach to cooking, though. In many cases, it seems like dumbing down to me, with the whole intent of the exercise to get the food out quickly. That's fine for some people, but it's not really what I'm after.

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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Robin Garr » Sat May 27, 2006 10:20 am

Bob Henrick wrote:if you have an opinion on the magazine let me hear it.


When it first came out, Bob, I loved it, and declared it my favorite food magazine. I still like some things about it - subscriber-supported, no advertising, and a very geeky perspective on hands-on cookery. But all that said, I let my subscription lapse about a year ago and haven't missed it. I'm not quite sure how it changed for me, but it was sort of a combination of it becoming more self-indulgent, more formulaic and less useful. Initially, I loved the idea of articles in which the writer would try five different ways to roast a chicken, then report on how they differed and why, but after a while they pretty much ran out of good topics.

I've also never thought much of their wine coverage. Initially they had a column by Mark Bittman that was so poor it prejudiced me against Bittman's <i>cooking</i> articles. Apparently the editors agreed, as they dropped his column, but the experience evidently poisoned them against covering wine at all. Now they don't do it.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Stuart Yaniger » Sat May 27, 2006 11:17 am

Despite Robin's earlier recommendation, I never subscribed. Not because of content, but because of their unending stream of spam and other unpleasant marketing tactics.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Larry Greenly » Sat May 27, 2006 11:18 am

I've never subscribed, but I've enjoyed the issues I've read.

My friend checked out a Cook's Illustrated cookbook from the library that he raves about. Perhaps you should look into that in lieu of a subscription.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Robin Garr » Sat May 27, 2006 12:53 pm

Stuart Yaniger wrote:Despite Robin's earlier recommendation, I never subscribed.


Hey! That's like the lefties who got in trouble with the FBI for being against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. They called them "premature anti-fascists."

Not because of content, but because of their unending stream of spam and other unpleasant marketing tactics.


They do waste a huge amount of money on postal spam, don't they? I must have gotten a whole tree's worth of free samples of their "Country Cooking" (?) spinoff, something in which I have absolutely zero interest.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Ross » Sat May 27, 2006 2:23 pm

Bob, I recommend against subscribing. I've done so for a number of years, but will let my sub expire in the fall.

I've found that I enjoy getting the issues at the library and browsing through them for hints and tips and approaches. It may be that I'm at a stage of my cooking life where small ideas can make a big difference. And I do enjoy reading the letters from users, the reviews of various equipment and techniques, etc.

But I don't pick up back issues and read them, unless I find them in the library.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Jenise » Sat May 27, 2006 3:47 pm

Bob, I've subscribed for about a year now. Put me squarely with John T--sometimes what they do is useful or even impressive, but sometimes I think their procedures are laborious. Or maybe, just laborious to read about. More than once I have suspected them of taking a simple, straightforward thing they decide is perfect, and then 'invent' this histrionic set of steps that they pretend to have gone through to arrive at their goal. And sometimes, they're just wrong. They recently wrote a procedure for the perfect Asian pot sticker that looked more like a ravioli and is in fact counter to Asian principals. It should not be, as they claim, flat and completely devoid of air pockets--those pockets are where juices will collect, and that little burst when you're lucky enough to have it happen is prized. Just for instance.

But I'd have never oven roasted green beans without them writing that up, so there's good there. Lots to think and talk about in their issues. They're just not quite the be-all, end-all paragon I'd like them to be.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Howard » Sat May 27, 2006 4:38 pm

I liked the magazine very much when I first subscribed a couple of years ago and even now, every once in a while there's something really great that they've deconstructed and put back together again.

Having said that, I'm now starting to get "last issue" notices in the mail and I think I'm going to let my subscription lapse. It's kind of like what Robin said. I'm not sure when or why, but it's just not doing it for my any more. Maybe it's the same thing as my initial reliance on Parker scores when I first started drinking wines. I think I like having them hold my hand through a basic technique and help me apply it to other things. I could still use the advice because I've still got lots to learn but somehow I've outgrown their format I think.

My 2 cents.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Larry Greenly » Sat May 27, 2006 4:43 pm

I do enjoy their TV show, however.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Henrick » Mon May 29, 2006 8:40 pm

What You don't like "country cooking"? I was in Nashville this past weekend for my family reunion. We always have a picnic in the park on Sunday, and I have a niece who ALWAYS brings her signature dish. It is a 12 quart dutch oven in which she cooks 4 pounds (dry weight) of Great Northersn beans, to which she adds a whole picnic (shoulder) ham. nothig more as there is enough salt in the shoulder. All I needed this year was two big squares of chipotle cornbread to go with the beans to make the picnic a huge sucess for me! It don't get more "country cooking" than that!
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Henrick » Mon May 29, 2006 8:47 pm

It sounds to me as if one 1 year subscription is good, anymore though one starts to get turned off. Maybe I will buy a medium priced bottle of wine with my $20.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Robin Garr » Mon May 29, 2006 10:42 pm

Bob Henrick wrote:What You don't like "country cooking"?


I'm sort of neutral on it, Bob. It's not really part of it in my family heritage, but obviously I've had plenty of exposure to it at down-home restaurants in this part of the world, and I like some of it. I love fried chicken, and I can eat a lot of corn bread, but I'm not much for grits or greens.

I was talking specifically about Cooks Illustrated's new magazine called "Country Cooking," though. I definitely don't need a magazine to give me a recipe for country fried steak. :)
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Randy Buckner » Mon May 29, 2006 11:25 pm

Bob Henrick wrote:It sounds to me as if one 1 year subscription is good, anymore though one starts to get turned off. Maybe I will buy a medium priced bottle of wine with my $20.


I have every issue, Bob. There is not an issue that goes by that I don't pick up at least a tip or two, plus a delicious recipe here and there. Razz the naysayers.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby wrcstl » Tue May 30, 2006 11:35 am

OK, I have to say it again. I agree with Bucko. Sure there are things that I will never try but most of the recipes are well developed. They made me a brining convert and their reviews of cooking products are much better than consumer reports. I think the "Country Cooking" is a waste and have yet to see a recipe I would try.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Jenise » Tue May 30, 2006 3:10 pm

Walt, agreed about Cook's Country. It's not so much what I'd consider country cooking as simplified, almost 50's style cooking. Lots of canned and bottled products are featured. Ick.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue May 30, 2006 7:11 pm

Bucko, you knew I wanted to spend $20 on this! Now you go and enable me. I thought you didn't like me, then you go and enable me. :wink:
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue May 30, 2006 7:13 pm

Larry, I have never seen their tv show, but ANYTHING has to be better than 90% of TFN!
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Larry Greenly » Tue May 30, 2006 11:54 pm

Well...okay...whatever TFN means.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Bob Henrick » Wed May 31, 2006 9:31 am

Larry, TFN is for the television program The Food Network. I don't mind a few of the cooks/chefs on the program, but a lot of them are just not cooking. Maybe it is a flow over of my opinion of TV weathermen/ladies. They aren't weather people, they are broadcasters, yet they call themselves Meteorologists.
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Re: Cooks Illustrated

Postby Larry Greenly » Wed May 31, 2006 9:58 am

Ah.... I don't have cable, so I couldn't figure out the acronym. Perhaps Robin should come up with a glossary of all the acronyms used here. Some of them are worthy of a Mensa test.
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