America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and on our two public television cooking shows.
Despite the cozy image conjured by the name, few people actually make home fries at home, probably because the dish calls for more time, elbow grease, and stovetop space than most cooks care to devote. We wanted nicely crisped home fries with tender interiors that would serve six to eight hungry people—and wouldn’t chain the cook to the stove for an hour. Because if you’re making a beautiful batch of perfectly scrambled eggs, you probably need some equally good potatoes to go alongside.
Since time was a priority, we decided to parcook the spuds before roasting them in the oven. Parcooking would dramatically cut down on roasting time, while finishing them in the oven would allow us to make a big batch.
Potato salad is an easy dish to make and transport to a summer potluck. But all too often the star of the show is mayonnaise, rather than the recipe’s namesake ingredient. We found that the secret to a creamy and light potato salad is to emulate the Austrians: Ditch the mayo and look to the soup pot.
We boil the spuds in a shallow pan with chicken stock, water, sugar, and salt, which leads to deeply flavored potatoes. We also found that adding a surprising ingredient, white vinegar, expanded the window of time during which the spuds go from properly cooked to mushy and broken.
This is because potato cells are held together by pectin, a large molecule that acts as a glue. This glue weakens when heated in water, allowing the cells to come apart, which first softens the potato and then breaks it apart. Vinegar’s acidity slows the breakdown of pectin, expanding the amount of time between the point when a potato starts to soften and when it fully breaks down.
We use Yukon Golds in this dish, as they have just enough starch to contribute creaminess without breaking apart. To finish our potato salad recipe, we add mashed potatoes to the dressing, which thickened it perfectly every time.
Vegetables are leafy, crunchy, luscious, colorful little presents the earth gives out to say it loves us. They're packed with the vitamins and nutrients we need to keep from perishing of all manner of dreadful pirate diseases like rickets, scurvy and beriberi.
The least we can do is prepare them as deliciously as possible. Here's our best advice for making the most of the season's bounty.
Vegetarians are (mostly) not here just to ruin your good time. Really. I swear. I was one, myself for seven years and all I wanted at a cookout was to hang out with my friends, and not have to worry that the omnivores would gobble up all the meat-free sides before I got to the table.
These days, while I'm likely to smoke up a brisket, a rack of ribs or some animal innards when company comes over, the non-meat options surely don't get short shrift.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the bounty of the season and make sure all my guests leave full and satisfied - no matter how they choose to chow down.
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