Did I Goof!!!!!!!!

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by cakerookie, May 15, 2006.

  1. cakerookie

    cakerookie

    Messages:
    1,191
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    I got this wild idea yesterday that I would sign on at Cooks Illustrated and volunteer to be a recipe tester. Got an e-mail from them today. I have no idea what I have got myself into. Anybody know from experience what I should expect? I just thought it would be fun and give me some experience trying different dishes and using ingredients that I have never used before. Did I goof?

    Regards Cakerookie....
     
  2. suzanne

    suzanne

    Messages:
    3,853
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Food Editor
    The purpose of testing a recipe is to see if it makes sense and if it works -- that is, can a normal person follow it and get the desired outcome? (Well, as normal as any of us may be. :eek: ) I tested recipes for Paula Wolfert for the update of The Cooking of Southwest France and tried out to test recipes for an upcoming cookbook from Gourmet magazine. I found it fun, and yes, you may get to do some dishes you might not otherwise, but it's more like working in a science lab than cooking in your own kitchen. You need to discipline yourself to follow everything to the letter.

    Things to remember when you test recipes:
    1. If they give you guidelines on how they want things written up, follow them precisely. They may give you a report form to use -- if so, use it, and answer all the questions they ask with as much detail as you can. If they don't give you a form, be as clear and complete as you can.
    2. Follow the recipe you are given EXACTLY AS IT IS WRITTEN, or as closely as possible. Don't change anything unless you absolutely must (see #4 and #5 below).
    3. Keep very specific notes on what you did when making the dish, what (if anything) you didn't understand in the recipe, and what you had to do differently if you couldn't follow the recipe as written.
    4. DO NOT TRY TO BE CREATIVE. No extra ingredients, nothing left out (because you don't like it), no different procedures from those specified, no changing measures. Substitutions should be as close to what's called for as possible, and ONLY if you absolutely cannot find the listed ingredient. And of course, if you need to make a substitution not suggested in the recipe, make sure to tell them in your report what you substituted, and why.
    5. If it is clear to you that something is not working -- for example, the pie shell is still raw after the prescribed baking time -- make the necessary adjustments, but tell them what you did, and why.
    6. If the recipe doesn't seem to work, be very specific about what seems to have gone wrong. This is not the same as just not liking the finished dish; you don't have to like it, but you DO have to be able to explain why it might have tasted funny to you, or looked bad, or whatever.
    So no, you didn't goof -- but you have to be prepared to cook in a way you may not normally, following a recipe closely and keeping notes on everything you do.
     
  3. cakerookie

    cakerookie

    Messages:
    1,191
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Wow! Thanks Suzanne.You just answered just about every question I had and then some. But I understand what you are saying. I think its going to be awesome cause I have never did this before. I think it will be a great learning experience too.

    Regards Cakerookie...
     
  4. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

    Messages:
    1,403
    Likes Received:
    37
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    Great post Suzanne!

    The only thing I would add is to get an oven thermometer and make sure your oven is calibrated correctly. That way, if the recipe calls for something to be baked at 350?F. for 20 minutes, you know that you are testing it exactly as instructed.

    Oh, one other thing, make sure you use the proper tools for measuring-a liquid measure for liquids and dry measure for dries. And if you use packaged products, always note the measurment listed on the container. Example: 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
     
  5. suzanne

    suzanne

    Messages:
    3,853
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Food Editor
    Thanks, fnf! :blush: I'm sure there are lots of other hints I forgot, and I hope others will fill them in.

    Cakerookie -- I hope that once you get started, you'll be able to tell us a little about what you're doing. (Within the bounds of confidentiality, of course.) Many of us wonder how ATK comes to the decisions they do, so you might be able to give us a little bit of an "insider's" view. (I just watched the show this past Sunday, and was relieved that they preferred the brand of chicken stock I buy when I don't have any homemade -- Swanson's Organic in the aseptic quart package. Whew!)
     
  6. deltadoc

    deltadoc

    Messages:
    958
    Likes Received:
    12
    I'm not sure if I would bother with the calibrated oven thing. This is just my opinion, but my guess would be that they are collecting statistically significant input from many recipe testers. In doing so, they are obtaining data on typical home cooking appliances, which are typically uncalibrated. Unless they are asking for specific models and brands of ovens, I would think that they are looking to identify recipes that work for a certain standard deviation of the intended population for the recipe from a statistical standpoint.

    In other words, they want recipes that will work well for a significant proportion of typical users of the recipes. In this case, Cooks Illustrated (are they not associated with America's Test Kitchen?) is probably aiming towards collecting feedback from home cooks in typical family kitchens, including a typical spectrum of typical appliances and home cook cooking ability skill sets.

    Just my thoughts, anyway.

    doc
     
  7. cakerookie

    cakerookie

    Messages:
    1,191
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    You bet Suzanne. Will keep everyone abreast of whats happening when the fireworks start, maybe a while though.

    Regards Cakerookie....