Shelf Love: The Best Recipe

I’ve been using this cookbook a lot lately, and I love it. The best thing I can do for my cooking is be informed, and the editors at Cooks Illustrated provide plenty of insight and information to boost my chances of success. These are the same people who bring you the PBS show America’s Test Kitchen with Christopher Kimball (the guy with the bow tie).

The best thing about this book? They try everything, so I don’t have to. They test and tweak various aspects of each recipe, from ingredients to techniques until the perfect result falls somewhere between science and taste. In my edition, there are only 700 recipes, but it contains a wealth of useful information. Understanding why a recipe fails is essential for future success, and the writing is straight-forward and easy to follow. If you like the Cooks Illustrated magazine, you’ll dig this book.

There aren’t any glossy photos, but there are some excellent illustrations for the how-to sections that accompany some recipes (Cuttng Up A Chicken, p. 145). You’ll also find plenty of information about ingredients (e.g. maple syrup, canned tuna, limes, cinnamon) and additional sections about kitchen tools or techniques (e.g. food processors, waffle irons, grilling, brining) as well as the science behind success (Why Commercial Baking Powder Doesn’t Work in Waffles, p. 399).

There’s a new expanded edition availalable! I’m tempted to purchase it myself.

The Best Things:

  • All the information! This book is a wonderful thing to read, and I’ve learned to more successfully tweak recipes to suit my own tastes.
  • Variations on basic Master Recipes. The basic muffin recipe (which is yummy on its own) comes with 7 delicious and inspirational variations.
  • Reliability! Their recipes have not failed me yet. If they say it’s going to be sweet or crisp or juicy or spicy, you can lay money on the results.

My only complaint:

  • The index is skimpy, considering all the information between the covers. This seems to be the case with many cookbooks, though.

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