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The 12-Step Path to Recipe Perfection

America's Test Kitchen's 12-STEP PATH to RECIPE PERFECTION They may seem effortless, but each of our fail-safe recipes is the result of months of meticulous research and testing. And like everything else in the test kitchen, there's a specific path we take to perfection. Here's the method to our madness-the life of a recipe, from conception to publication, featuring the trials and tribulations of our recipe for Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. WEEK 1 STEP 1: ASSIGN Each test cook brainstorms recipes that might work well in the test kitchen's arsenal: classic American dishes in need of perfecting, updated approaches to traditional cooking methods, or home-kitchen versions of restaurant dishes. These ideas are vetted via online survey our Friends of Cook's, a trusty volunteer group of enthusiastic, opinionated recipe testers. If it rates highly enough, a recipe idea is assigned to a test cook up to 7 months before its publication date. (Did we mention that our testing is exhaustive?) WEEK 2 STEP 2: RESEARCH Once the recipe idea is approved by our home testers, the test cook begins to research different chocolate chip cookie recipes, drawing from a variety of sources: Cooke the test kitchen's 4,296-book library, the Internet, our on-call culinary historian or food scientist, personal connections, popular culinary trends, and in this case, even his family's beloved cookie recipe. WEEK 3 STEP 3: PROPOSE The test cook uses this research to draft a proposal to the editors that summarizes the recipe's history and anticipated challenges. From this point on, he reports on the progress of the recipe at weekly editorial meetings, where he fields recipe questions and troubleshoots with fellow cooks. WEEK 4 STEP 4: SAMPLE The test cook holds a five-recipe test, in which he prepares five diverse recipes-from the most traditional to the most extreme- that his fellow test kitchen cooks and editors taste and critique. This helps determine the most (and least) popular characteristics of each sample, which the test cook will include (or avoid) in his final version of the dish. WEEK 6 STEP 5: EXPLORE During this phase, the test cook experiments broadly and informally with techniques that he will use to form a working recipe. He consults with our science editor for ideas about how unexpected ingredients techniques can solve common problems that arise during testing. WEEK 8 STEP 6: REFINE The test cook develops an original recipe, pulling from the five-recipe test results and the exploration phase. This foundational recipe is a rough draft, and it will now be tuned, tweaked, and foolproofed using a battery of subsequent tests. WEEK 10 STEP 7: TEST, TEST, TEST While holding constant other factors, the test cook experiments with individual variables such as ingredient quantities and qualities (for example, amount of chocolate chips and type of flour), oven temperature and rack position, cooking or baking times, and any other techniques and methods called for in the recipe. WEEK 12 STEP 8: SURVEY Once the editors and the test cook are satisfied with the working recipe, it's tested in-house by test kitchen interns, updated with clarifications as needed, and sent back out to the Friends of Cook's, who prepare it in their home kitchens and provide feedback. WEEK 14 STEP 9: APPROVE If and only if at least 80% of our home recipe testers reply that they would make the recipe again, it moves on to step 10. If not, the test cook cycles back to step 7, reevaluates the recipe, and proceeds to make improvements with further testing. WEEK 16 STEP 10: ABUSE TEST The test cook conducts tests anticipating any issues that might arise in our readers' home kitchens. He prepares the recipe using middling equipment, ingredient substitutions, and imprecise techniques. Findings are used to inform cautionary headnotes, recommendations, and step-by-step diagrams that clarify detailed techniques. WEEK 18 STEP 11: FINALIZE Dozens of tests, hundreds of eggs, and tens of pounds of flour later, the recipe is finalized by the test cook and senior editors. From there, it goes off to the art directors, who determine the accompanying design, illustrations, and photos. WEEK 20 STEP 12: WRITE The test cook leaves the kitchen and goes to his desk to write the story of the development process. The story then goes through edits and revisions until it's approved for publication. Soon after that, it arrives in your home kitchen-through the mail, on one of our websites or apps, or in one of our cookbooks. THE RESULT Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies COOK'S America's TEST KITCHEN www.Americas

The 12-Step Path to Recipe Perfection

shared by testkitchen on May 24
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A timeline illustrating exactly how America's Test Kitchen's foolproof recipes are developed.


America's Test Kitchen


Lauren Pettapiece


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