Blog Posts by America s Test Kitchen

  • 5 Grilled Vegetable Tips from the Pros

    Why heat up your kitchen to cook vegetables when you can get crisp-tender texture and deep, smoky char from your grill? Here are our proven methods for getting the best results.

    RELATED VIDEO: Testing Portable Charcoal Grills with Christopher Kimball and Adam Ried on Cook's Country TV

    1. Build a Medium-Hot Fire: Most vegetables respond better to moderate heat than to a blazing fire. To test the temperature of your grill, hold your hand 5 inches above the grill grate. You should be able to hold it there for three to four seconds.

    2. Make the (Right) Cut: Preparing vegetables for the grill is all about maximizing their surface area to increase flavorful browning, and cutting shapes that discourage them from falling apart or slipping through the grill grates.

    RELATED VIDEO: Dill Potato Salad with Christopher Kimball and Julia Collin Davison on Cook's Country TV

    3. Brush with Oil: Applying a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil to vegetables (except corn) before

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  • Is it OK to Drink Expired Beer?

    Is it safe to drink beer six months past its "drink by" date?

    RELATED: Beer-Battered Onion Rings as Featured on Cook's Country TV (recipe available with FREE email registration)

    The simple answer is yes, the beer is still good insofar as it is safe to drink. Since most beer is either pasteurized or filtered to eliminate bacteria, it's extremely resistant to spoiling. How the beer will taste is another matter. For a taste test, we met with Grant Wood, then-senior brewing manager of the Boston Beer Company, to sample fresh lager next to one that had seen its first anniversary. (Typically, the drink-by dates on beers are four to six months out; this is based on how long the brewer thinks the beer can retain fresh flavor.) The difference was dramatic. While the fresh lager presented bright hops flavor and refreshing bitterness, the year-old bottle was distinctly malty, sweet, and, according to most tasters, "flat." The difference was even more pronounced when we repeated the

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  • And the Best Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread Is...

    Gluten-free bread may be a multi-billion-dollar industry, but are there any slices actually worth eating? The editors of Cook's Illustrated investigated.

    America's Test Kitchen senior editor Lisa McManus butters toasted gluten-free bread samples

    When you're avoiding gluten, it's tough to give up toast and sandwiches. Enter gluten-free bread: a multi-billion-dollar industry that's rapidly expanding as the trend of avoiding gluten for dietary reasons continues to grow. Hoping to find a loaf that was a serviceable alternative to (not a sacrifice compared with) regular sandwich bread, we tasted eight national brands of gluten-free white sandwich bread both plain and toasted with butter.

    Almost all of the breads were very unappealing straight out of the packaging. Toasting and buttering turned a few inedible samples palatable, but most were still subpar by our sandwich bread standards. The exception: our winning bread, whose "light wheatiness" and "yielding" chew were impressively close to that of regular white bread. So what was this manufacturer doing differently?

    First we

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  • Potato Salad: It's Probably Not the Mayo that Makes You Sick

    Ranch Potato Salad, by Cook's Country

    It's picnic season! And nothing says summer like potato salad. However, there's a persistent myth that food poisoning is mostly caused by mayonnaise gone bad -- but is that really true?

    RELATED: 3 Sandwich Favorites Featured on Cook's Country TV
    Patty Melts
    Baltimore Pit Beef
    South Carolina Pulled Pork

    It's not the mayonnaise you need to worry about -- it's the potatoes. Though mayonnaise is often blamed for spoiled potato salads it is rarely the problem. In fact, it's the potatoes that are more likely to go bad. The bacteria usually responsible for spoiled potato salad are found in soil and dust, and they thrive on starchy foods like potatoes.

    RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Cooking Potato Salad

    No matter what kind of dressing you use, don't leave any potato salad out for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees), and promptly refrigerate any leftovers in a covered container.

    RECIPE: RANCH POTATO SALAD

    WHY THIS RECIPE

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  • Is Pink Pork Safe to Eat?

    Herbed Roast Pork Tenderloin by Cook's Country

    The pork of yesteryear was always cooked till gray, but that pork was a lot fattier than what's on the market today. Selective breeding has made today's pork much leaner, and if you cook it till gray, the meat will be dry and tough. We think the leanest cuts (like tenderloin) are best cooked to 145-150 degrees. At this point, the meat will still have a tinge of pink in the center.

    RELATED: 3 Pork Recipes Featured on Cook's Country TV
    BBQ Country-Style Ribs
    South Carolina Pulled Pork
    Smothered Pork Chops

    What about trichinosis? Better farming practices have all but eliminated the trichina parasite from American-raised pork. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of trichinosis cases averages 12 per year -- and most of those cases have been linked to wild game, not commercially raised pork. Also, the trichina parasite is killed when the temperature of the meat rises to 137 degrees, so cooking pork to 150 degrees should do the job.

    RELATED:

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  • Secret to Ultimate Cheeseburgers: Mix Cheese into the Patty Itself!

    To get serious about your cheeseburgers, don't simply slap a slice of cheese on top. We've found that mixing shredded or crumbled cheese directly into the raw beef before forming the patties adds more flavor.

    RELATED: 3 Grilling Recipes Featured on Cook's Country TV
    BBQ Country-Style Ribs
    Baltimore Pit Beef
    Grilled Chicken Wings

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    Mixing cheese directly into the raw beef before forming patties guaranteed cheesy flavor in every bite. Dimpling the patties before throwing them on the grill prevented domed, dry-edged burgers.

    Grilled Burgers by America's Test Kitchen

    Serves 4
    Start to Finish: 25 minutes

    Whatever you do, don't press on the burgers while they're on the grill -- they'll release their juice and end up dry and crumbly. For those who like their burgers well done, poking a hole in the center of the patty before cooking helps the burger cook through without becoming dry. In addition to serving burgers with the usual accompaniments of buns, lettuce, tomato, and pickles,

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  • Turn a Cheeseburger Inside Out with Jucy Lucy Burgers

    Jucy Lucy burgers feature a warm, melted center of cheese inside an incredible juicy (but not greasy) patty.

    What's the story behind the name? A debate still rages as to where the Jucy Lucy was created. Two Minnesota taverns, Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club, claim to have created the burger in the 1950s. As the story goes, a customer requested a burger with the cheese sealed in the middle. When he bit in, the hot cheese spurted out and he exclaimed, "That's one juicy lucy!" As for the unusual spelling, that's still a mystery.

    RELATED: 3 Grilling Recipes Featured on Cook's Country TV
    BBQ Country-Style Ribs
    Baltimore Pit Beef
    Grilled Chicken Wings

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    To keep the cheesy center of our recipe in place, we created a double-sealed pocket by wrapping a chunk of cheese inside a small beef patty and then molding a second patty around the first. Grilling the burgers over medium heat fully cooked the burgers and melted the cheese inside. Adding a panade (a mixture

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  • DIY Cheez-Its: Better Than the Real Thing?

    Easy and fun, homemade Cheez-Its take the junk out of junk food. Enjoy this step-by step guide and DIY recipe.

    RELATED: Check out 100+ recipes like this in our DIY Cookbook, from sour dill pickles to homemade bacon. What will you make next?

    I can pretty easily refuse most salty snacks. Chips? Who needs 'em. Fries? Can't be bothered. Pretzels? They just make me thirsty. But when it comes to Cheez-Its, I am defenseless. As an avid label reader, I should refuse to eat them, because the ingredients list alone (thiamine mononitrate, anyone?) should be enough to scare me away. And while I refuse to buy them myself, if someone puts a box of Cheez-Its in front of me, I will devour its contents before you could ask "What exactly is TBHQ?" or "If oleoresin is used for color, what color is it?"

    But lately, my guilt about the ingredients has been getting the best of me. I can't justify chowing down on something made of things which I mostly can't pronounce or even buy at the grocery store. Since

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  • Sweet Idea: Thoroughbred Pie for the Kentucky Derby

    What better way to top off the Kentucky Derby than with a slice of chocolate-walnut-bourbon pie? None, as long as you rein in the runaway sweetness.

    RELATED: 3 Southern-Style Recipes
    After-Hours Southern Pecan Praline Pie
    Kentucky Burgoo
    Tennessee Pork with Greens

    In the final stretch of any properly hosted Kentucky Derby party--trailing behind the mint juleps, burgoo, and hot browns--comes a slice of gooey, rich, chocolate-nut pie. Although you can find countless recipes for it, the Kern family created the standard-bearer. They began baking it at their inn in Prospect, Kentucky, in 1954 and subsequently trademarked it as "Derby-Pie."

    Generically called thoroughbred pie, it's soft and very sweet, and studded with walnuts and chocolate chips; the top of the pie has a sugary, slightly crackly crunch.

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    The majority of Thoroughbred Pie recipes that we prepared were far too sweet. We reduced the amount of sugar to almost half of what was

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  • Margarita Cake: As Good as it Sounds

    Skip cocktail hour. Instead, enjoy a slice of this tart icebox cheesecake, with its salty-sweet pretzel crust and gelatin glaze "shot."

    RELATED: 3 Festive Recipes Featured on Our TV Shows
    Skillet Chicken Fajitas
    Chicken Chimichangas
    Spicy Pork Tacos

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    Cool, creamy icebox cheesecake meets a salty, pucker-inspiring margarita. We bring the best of both worlds to center stage in our Margarita Cake. As the top glaze has the boozy kick of its namesake, this cake is a lively contribution to a grownups-only party.

    Margarita Cake

    Serves 8 to 10

    1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
    1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 lime, sliced thin (2 limes)
    3 cups pretzels
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    3/4 cup water
    4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
    1 (10-ounce) can frozen margarita mix, thawed
    1/4 cup tequila
    1/4 cup triple sec
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
    1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    4 ounces cream cheese, softened

    FOR THE

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