Cook’s Illustrated probably has the most devoted following of any food magazine – and for good reason. Their no-nonsense magazines each contain recipes that were exhaustively tested to ensure they represent the best result possible, as well as product and equipment reviews that you can trust. The first Cook’s Illustrated magazine hit the stands in 1992, which means that the magazine is about to celebrate it’s 20th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, and to recognize all of the hard work that has been put unto every issue, The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook was put together. The massive volume can replace the stack of dog-eared back issues of the magazine that is sitting in the corner of your kitchen. It contains 2,000 of the best recipes that Cook’s Illustrated has published in the past two decades.
As you flip through the book, you’ll notice that there are far more recipes in here than you could possibly have imagined. Although 2,000 recipes does sound like a lot, avid readers of the magazine will probably feel that they have a good handle on the types of recipes that they’ll find in here. This is true, to an extent, but everyone who picks it up with discover (or rediscover) favorites. The recipes are divided into categories and further divided into smaller sections – the Pasta chapter, for instance, is divided into 9 sections based on the types of sauce and pasta used – so it is easy to find recipes on any particular subject. They are all written in the same, familiar style as the recipes from the magazine and other Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks: there is a discussion of how they put together this version of the recipe and why it works before the instructions.
Alongside the recipes are many tips (with hand drawn illustrations, of course) on completing various kitchen tasks, from stuffing won tons to slicing fennel to assembling double crust pies. Every tip and every recipe is clear and helpful. If I were to fault the book on anything, it is on the total lack of color illustrations or photos. That said, I definitely have a strong connection to Cook’s Illustrated, just as many other long time readers do, and the lack of a few pictures isn’t going to lower my confidence in my ability to make any of these recipes or in my confidence that they will all come out very well when I do make them.