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The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Great Cook

de America's Test Kitchen

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"After 20 years in the test kitchen, we've discovered the best methods for approaching essential cooking techniques and a wide range of recipes. We also know what questions home cooks will have, and what problems they'll face. In this landmark project, we share everything we've learned, from simple knife skills and cookery fundamentals, such as whipping egg whites, to perfecting recipes like pepper-curated filet's mignon and layer cakes"--Amazon.com.… (mais)
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It took several months to work through this cookbook. Working through it I learned how to make sauces and custards and that overcooking, over-mixing and over-baking is not my friend. I learned that reducing a recipe takes more than just dividing the ingredients by serving size. I learned the right equipment matters.
I had already owned the celebrated "Joy of Cooking" and many swear by Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and I'd seen recommendations for Martha Stewart's cookbook for basic cooking as well. I'd still pick "Cooking School" as my first cookbook (and get the more comprehensive "Joy of Cooking" second). For one, "Cooking School" doesn't just have recipes. They tell you what can go wrong, why a recipe works and the cookbook has extensive tutorials with step-by-step pictures--you won't find that in the relatively spare "Joy of Cooking." Also ATK recipes are thoroughly tested. The one compliant I've seen in review after review of Bittman is that his recipes are poorly proofed and inconsistent in their results. Despite making numerous adaptations because of a restricted diet, I found it rare to find a recipe--after practicing some tricky techniques--to fail. In fact, in this cookbook I'd say only the fish cakes were a disappointment despite following their recipe to the letter.

Downsides? Well, I suspect Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen is modeled on a very limited range of tastes. (Christopher Kimball's?). The recipes are richer in fats and sugars than I'd like. Nor do I think they tend to do well by ethnic recipes, which they tend to Americanize too much and make too bland (Kimball is on the record that he doesn't like spicy food). And example number one is their Hot and Sour Soup--without lily buds or wood ear fungus.

There's only one cookbook I looked at in stores I could consider a rival and I'm tempted to buy--J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's, The Food Lab. He's an ATK alumnus and it's obvious his recipes are throughly tested and he has a similar scientific approach to cooking. His recipes reading through them seem both lighter and more authentic and often simpler. And unlike "Cooking School" he gives specific brand-name recommendations for equipment. Like "Cooking School" his cookbook is also richly illustrated. If there's a downside it's that the emphasis is on cooking--there are no baking chapters. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Mar 28, 2016 |
The "America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook" is a beautiful, sturdy, easy-to-read how-to book with 822 pages printed on heavy, glossy paper and with 2,500 color photos. This is not really a cookbook, but an instructional manual with recipes for the curious, engaged cook/chef who wants to work on improving skills, techniques and products. If you just want to make Aunt Mary's sugar cookies each Christmas, with not variation, you don't need this book.

This cookbook has much advice that experienced cooks/chefs know from years of practice. Novices can use this cookbook to jumpstart their skills and knowledge levels by heeding this advice.

The material is extremely well organized. Chapters are entitled: " How to [insert the item to be produced, e.g., cook eggs, make stocks and soups, cook meat]." Looking at Chapter 14, "How to Make Cookies," we see the outline of each chapter:

A. Getting Started.
1. Essential equipment.
2. Essential ingredients.

B. Core Technique. Each of the techniques has essential equipment and step-by-step instructions with photos demonstrating each step and explaining the "why" of each step.
1. How to brown butter.
2. How to toast and chop nuts.
3. How to chop and melt chocolate.
4. How to make drop cookies.
5. Etc. . . . .

C. Recipe Tutorial. Each recipe has step-by-step instructions with photos and includes a detailed section on "what can go wrong." This section contains common mistakes and bad outcomes and how to avoid them. If you read and follow the tutorial, not much could go wrong with your product!

D. Recipe Library. Recipes without the step-by-step instructions and photos. Yet, each recipe has a section entitled, "Why This Recipe Works," containing cautions and explanations of ingredients and techniques.

Do not hesitate to buy this book for anyone but the most experienced or professional chef. For the experienced cook/chef the step-by-step directions with the "whys" are totally unnecessary. However, that does not mean that the entire book is useless for the experienced cook/chef. The eighteen chapters cover a lot of territory, and it is unusual to be well-versed and experienced in all culinary areas. For example, the baking chapters might be useful for the general line cook, and the grilling chapter might be useful for the baker.

The "America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook" is a good investment and a worthy addition to the cookbook collection. ( )
1 vote brendajanefrank | Jan 2, 2014 |
America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook should be a staple in any young cook's kitchen. Oh that it had existed all those years ago as I strugged through 'The Art of French Cooking.' And while I will always be in debt to Julia Child, this is the book that I will offer as wedding and graduation gifts from here on.

I am providing a close up look at one of the eighteen chapters; potential purchasers may assume that all the chapters reflect this throughness.

Chapter Eleven: How to Make Salad

Chapter 11 is divided into four sections: 1) Getting Started explains how to buy and store salad greens. It also explains the different types of greens and how to best pair them with vinaigrettes. Cooks are reminded how to measure greens and then essential equipment and ingredients are discussed. (If you want to know ATK's opinion of the best canned tuna on the market, this is the section to browse.)

2) The Core Techniques section starts with the basics: how to make vinaigrette, wash and dry greens, dress a salad, make mayonnaise (so much easier and better tasting than new cooks expect!), how to make coleslaw, chicken, and tuna salads.

3) Recipe Tutorials gives detailed instructions and prep pictures for Caesar, Cobb, and French Potato Salads. Each recipe ends with a very helpful 'What Can Go Wrong' page. (Mealy potatoes? Harsh garlic flavor? Mangled potato slices? ATK explains why it happened.)

4) Recipes for three basic dressings with seven variations follow. Then to the heart of the matter: Classic Caesar, Greek, Spinach, Arugula, Herbed Goat Cheese, Chopped, Nicoise, Cobb, Coleslaw, Pasta, Tabbouleh, Potato, Chicken, Tuna, and Shrimp with additional variations provided for many of the basic recipes.

Now multiply this thoroughness times eighteen. It's a beautifully planned and executed book. Rich in detail and filled with easy to understand recipes.

Even experienced cooks can learn a few new tricks.

(A review copy was provided by the publisher.)
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1 vote dianaleez | Dec 21, 2013 |
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"After 20 years in the test kitchen, we've discovered the best methods for approaching essential cooking techniques and a wide range of recipes. We also know what questions home cooks will have, and what problems they'll face. In this landmark project, we share everything we've learned, from simple knife skills and cookery fundamentals, such as whipping egg whites, to perfecting recipes like pepper-curated filet's mignon and layer cakes"--Amazon.com.

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641.5Technology Home and family management Food And Drink Cooking, cookbooks

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