Before flying home to Los Angeles, The Astronomer and I made one final stop in Brookline, Massachusetts for a behind the scenes look at America’s Test Kitchen. I have been a huge fan of the Test Kitchen’s cookbooks ever since I began feeding myself after college. As a nervous home cook with little experience, I trusted these rigorously tested recipes to hold my hand as I tackled everything from roasted beets to roasted turkey. Using recipes that guaranteed a delicious end product not only kept The Astronomer and me extremely well fed, but it also served to build up my culinary confidence.
To this day, the America’s Test Kitchen’s Family Cookbook remains my kitchen bible. It is the most beaten up, abused, dogeared, and stained tome in my vast collection, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bright and early on the morning following Memorial Day, The Astronomer and I met up with the Test Kitchen’s Social Media Manager Steph Yiu for an informal tour. After years of using the Test Kitchen’s recipes, it was surreal to see exactly where the magic happens. Everything from editorial to photography to recipe development takes place in this unassuming walk up in suburban Boston. Even the PBS show is taped here.
From the reception area, Steph led us to the Test Kitchen’s library and tasting table. The first step in developing a “perfect” recipe is preparing various versions that have already been published. I spied a copy of Modernist Cuisine and wondered if molecular techniques would make their way into future recipes.
Since all photography for the cookbooks and magazines is completed in-house, a tremendous collection of props and “photo only” equipment line various shelves, nooks, and crannies throughout the building. I was excited to learn that one-hundred percent of their photos are taken using natural Bostonian light.
One of the Test Kitchen’s associates was baking her umpteenth dacquoise, a cake made with layers of almond, hazelnut meringue, and whipped cream or buttercream, on our visit. Every “test cook” has a culinary degree, as well as restaurant experience, and a number are also trained as biologists or chemists.
I was surprised to see that all of the ingredients and equipment used were not industrial strength or sized. Since the recipes developed in the Test Kitchen are intended for average home cooks, it’s important that the ovens, pots, pans, standing mixers, and the like that they’re tested on are made for consumer use.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was checking out the pantry. In addition to putting recipes through the ringer, the Test Kitchen is known for sniffing out the best products as well. Who would’ve thought that Two Buck Chuck’s Cabernet Sauvignon was perfectly palatable and that Rachael Ray’s beef stock was tops?
Thanks for making our Test Kitchen groupie dreams a reality, Steph! Please send C.P.K. our best.
Tried and true America’s Test Kitchen recipes on Gastronomy:
- Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
- Cardamom Crumb Cake
- Bake-Sale Brownies
- Lemon Bars
- Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Coconut Macaroons
- Orange Spice Cookies
- Apple Crisp
- Soy Sauce Brined Turkey
- Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash and Fried Sage
- Pasta alla Norma
- Skillet Noodle and Sausage Supper
- Chocolate-Marshmallow Mousse
- Roasted Beets
- Vegetarian Chili
- Mushroom Barley Soup
- Pasta e Fagioli
- Turkey Broth and Turkey Noodle Soup