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Meet the Fine Cooking Test Kitchen

A typical tasting in the test kitchen.

A typical tasting in the test kitchen.

By Sarah Breckenridge, producer

February 28th, 2011

If you read Fine Cooking magazine, you know the test kitchen is a huge part of everything we do. But, we're often asked, what exactly does the test kitchen do, and how and why do we test recipes?

Our recipes come from diverse sources: cookbook authors, chefs, professional food writers. By their nature, when we get them, they tend to only have been tested by one person: the author. Things that work well in the author's kitchen may not work well in other kitchens; a technique explanation that's clear to the author may not be clear to other cooks (with all due respect to restaurant chefs, whom we love, many are not the best recipe writers!). So the test kitchen and food editor's job is twofold: be sure the recipe works as written, and tweak the recipe so it's written as clearly as possible, without any potential for confusion.

Each test is tasted by all the FC editors (yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it) and we give our critiques: is there something missing in the flavor? Is there too much salt, or not enough? Is the texture off? The tester jots down all our notes, revises the recipe accordingly, and tests again, until most of us are satisfied that it's as delicious as it can be. We test each recipe as many times as we need to to reach this goal: sometimes recipes arrive in nearly perfect form; other times, tests may climb to a dozen or more.

We also make sure that over the course of testing, the same recipe is made by different testers, using different equipment, and any effect that has on the finished dish is incorporated into the recipe: for instance, we might discover that cast-iron is really the way to go, or two different testers interpret "small dice" differently, so a more exact measurement is needed.

So which recipes go through this exacting process? Well, all of the ones that run in the magazine. On FineCooking.com, we also excerpt recipes from cookbooks, from either Taunton Press or other publishers. These recipes are generally not tested by our test kitchen, though in the cases they are, you’ll also see them marked with our “Test Kitchen Guaranteed” logo just like the magazine recipes.

posted in: Blogs, test kitchen, recipe testing
Comments (1)

idahogourmet writes: Love, and use, your recipes. Thanks so much. Sometimes I see an oversight or instructions that might confuse your readers and have a desire to help. We forget that many of your readers are not accomplished cooks and perhaps your crew who write and proofread are too "close" to the task and are not seeing what they are reading. For example, the "Corned Beef and Cabbage" by Juli Roberts, was Juli using "Corned" beef brisket where the salt and spices have been marinated into the brisket or perhaps she used a brisket (uncorned) and added her own spice packet as recipe inplies. One reviewer had a problem with saltiness.

Also I enjoy reading reviews and get upset when reviewers change out the ingredients then wonder why the recipe failed. Bet you do too! Posted: 6:39 pm on March 18th

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