The Encyclopedia Brittanica of Cooking – Cook’s Illustrated

Posted by Nads on June 30, 2012


Over dinner the other night, a friend asked me point blank – how do you learn to cook.    He explained that he thought that he would like to cook, could see himself enjoying it but had no patience for cookbooks or food shows.  “I’m not going to sit through an hour show just to learn how to cook one recipe, nor am I going to go and by a random cookbook – too many choices and most often the recipes are hard to follow or don’t always turn out well.  What would you suggest?”  I thought about this for awhile.  I had taught quite a few people to cook in the past, tried to break down the basics and very quickly realized that the most important way to learn was to understand the basic techniques and principles behind recipes.  This knowledge was what allowed you to get in the kitchen and throw something together or experiment or substitute.  This was really what learning to cook was all about.  I finally came up with a suggestion for him.  Some years ago, my sister hooked me onto

Cook’s Illustrated.  Now this is no flashy, beautifully photographed or sexy publication.  My hands have passed over it in the magazine aisles for years and I have never been inclined to pick it up.  It reminds me of the Farmers Almanac.  Leave it to my sister and her engineering brain to come across a stash of these at the cottage and dive right in.  Cook’s Illustated is all about testing, trials and lengthy explanations.  It is the only magazine that I read cover to cover and every issue is a venerable compendium of information.  Ingredients, techniques, trial and error, tips, etc – it is jammed with fool proof recipes.  The premise is to take a recipe and trial it until the perfect outcome is achieved.  All the steps and logic are described along the way, all the techniques required outlined and illustrated.  They include product, gadget and ingredient reviews as well.   The website and the published cookbooks are amazing too.  This is my first go-to place whenever I want to try something new or read up on a classic.  

Grilling techniques, make-ahead dishes, desserts, classics, all time favourites, you name it, they’ve covered it.  The cookbooks are very affordable and the web subscription is under $20.00 a year.  Next time you come across an issue, give it a try.  Cook’s appeals to cooks at all levels, but especially for beginners, it is a foolproof way to great success in your kitchen.  It’s definitely one of my secret weapons.  

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