A RECIPE IS BORN
FANS OF America’s Test Kitchen brands
(ATK; americastestkitchen.com) turn
to the show—and ATK’s books and
magazines—because they know the
recipes will work. But how are those
recipes tested? Hosts Bridget Lancaster
and Julia Collin Davison walk through
America’s Test Kitchen polls a
group of recipe testers to see what
they’re interested in.
Recipes that do well are assigned
to a test cook.
The test cook searches through
ATK’s library of books and magazines
to pick five versions of that recipe. All
five recipes are made exactly as
They’re tasted to determine what
does or does not work for everyone.
Once an ideal version of the food is
determined, the test cook starts testing
the variables in a methodical way so that
they can accurately describe the difference between different equipment and
brands of ingredients.
“And we’re tasting down in that
library,” says Collin Davison. “You know:
Here’s three cakes; here’s five more
stews. What we like, or do not like, until
we get to what we think the ideal recipe
is. And then we abuse it. What if you use
a different pan? What if you don’t use
“Once you have the recipe, trying to
get people to follow that recipe as it’s
printed is the problem, because everyone is going to make substitutions and
no one has the same type of equipment.”
The recipe goes back to a group
of recipe testers who are asked to make
the recipe and then answer some survey
questions. Questions include: Did you
like the recipe? Did it meet your expectations? Did you follow the instructions?
Did you make substitutions? Do you
need steps to show you how to do
things? Were the instructions clear?
“This is how sometimes we come
up with our time ranges and visual cues.
The visual cues are always more important, because people’s ranges at home
are going to be very different than ours,”
explains Lancaster, a Costco member.
“So we’ll be able to come up with a time
range—you know, sauté until it’s golden
brown, about seven to 10 minutes. So
our readers give us a lot of information
Recipes that don’t hit 80 percent
approval are sent back to the kitchen to
be fixed. Then they are sent out again
with another set of survey questions.
Adds Collin Davison, “By the time
we’re done printing a recipe, we’ve
made it a ton. We’ve really looked at it
from all angles, and that’s why it’s so
CC: How did you decide on the theme of
the book, Cooking at Home with Bridget
& Julia: The TV Hosts of America’s Test
Kitchen Share Their Favorite Recipes
for Feeding Family and Friends?
BL: It answers a question that people have
asked Julia and me when they meet us:
What do you make at home? What are your
JCD: What I choose to do in my own spare
time, I think that’s interesting. We have
busy lives and not a lot of time, but we like
good food. How do you bridge that gap?
BL: My husband always says it’s a shame
that the best restaurant in town is our
house, you know, because it’s hard to go out
JCD: When we go out to eat it’s such a bum-
mer. We’re like, “Yay, we don’t have to do
dishes.” That’s about the best part. The
food is never as good. It’s hard to turn that
o; when you’re paying for it.
CC: Do you have a favorite recipe from
JCD: Turkey pesto meatballs. It’s a recipe
designed for busy people.
BL: The Korean fried chicken wings make
me want to weep [with delight]. [They’re]
spicy, super crispy.
CC: What sets America’s Test Kitchen
apart from other recipe sources?
JCD: The recipes work. We put a lot of time,
money and e;ort into the actual recipe to
make sure it works for a multitude of peo-
ple in their home kitchens. Anyone can
show you how to cook, and it will look great,
but [we] show you why it cooks. We’re
teaching the basics, Cooking ;;;. Also, it’s
not a glamour show. We’re in the back alley,
moving cars to show you how to grill some-
thing. It’s showing the testing, the things
that didn’t work. [We show] food gone
wrong. No one shows bad food on TV.
CC: How do you feel about the trend of food
always having to look beautiful?
JCD: We put way too much pressure on ourselves. Everybody has to have the best food
or the best picture of the food.
BL: It used to be you put the food on the
table; everyone bowed their heads and said
grace. Now everyone bows their heads
because they’re looking for a camera in
order to take a picture to post it on
Instagram. At what point is it now a prop
instead of your dinner? There’s no shame
in feeding your family. I would never tell
somebody that they can’t use a cheaper
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here to watch Bridget Lancaster
talk about Cat Head Biscuits. (See page
11 for details.)