Blog Posts by America s Test Kitchen

  • Crushed, Diced, or Whole? Know Your Canned Tomatoes

    Welcome to Cooking 101, a fun, weekly series of cooking lessons and hands-on learning from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Who are we? Our knowledge and techniques are based on 20 years of test kitchen work creating foolproof recipes for Cook's Illustrated magazine and for our television shows. We believe that everybody, whether novice or advanced, can gain the skills and confidence to become a better cook.

    Week 13: Canned Tomatoes 101
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    It's hard to think of pizza without tomato sauce. But even in Italy, those tomatoes used to make the sauce are likely to come out of can. Good quality fresh tomatoes are available only a few months out of the year.

    RELATED: Is there a right -- or a wrong -- way to add pizza toppings? Watch Bridget Lancaster's video tip on how to do it like a pro.

    Since canned tomatoes are processed at the height of freshness, we find that they always deliver better flavor than off-season fresh tomatoes. But with the

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  • The Ultimate Stuffed Jalapeños

    Classic bar food, stuffed jalapeños are spicy chiles that are loaded up with cheese before being battered and deep-fried. We wanted to take this ideal game-time snack and make it even better, cutting the calories by half with this quick, easy recipe from our new book Comfort Food Makeovers.

    RECIPE MAKEOVER by AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN
    BEFORE*: 220 calories, 15 fat, 6g sat fat
    AFTER: 120 calories, 7 fat, 4.5g sat fat
    *Numbers based on Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños from T.G.I Friday's; 1 serving = 3 pieces

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    To make this appetizer more figure-friendly, we replaced the batter with bread crumbs and turned to the oven. A blanket of panko, toasted and sprinkled over the filling, provided so much crunch that tasters didn't even notice that our stuffed jalapeños were coated on the top only. A blend of reduced-fat cheeses delivered the best flavor and texture: Cheddar gave our filling its savory, cheesy flavor, while cream cheese contributed

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  • Instantly Improve Your Kitchen Knife Skills

    Welcome to Cooking 101, a fun, weekly series of cooking lessons and hands-on learning from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Who are we? Our knowledge and techniques are based on 20 years of test kitchen work creating foolproof recipes for Cook's Illustrated magazine and for our television shows. We believe that everybody, whether novice or advanced, can gain the skills and confidence to become a better cook.

    Week 12: Knife School
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    If you can prep your ingredients quickly, then you're well on your way to being faster and more efficient in the kitchen. Crucial to being a speedy prep cook, however, is having the right knives and making sure they are sharp. Here's a quick guide that will set you up with the basics that we think are essential for every good cook. If you're eager to learn more, take your cooking skills to a new level with more than 100 fun, interactive, online courses in our online cooking school.

    THE 3 KNIVES YOU REALLY

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  • Lightening Up Shepherd's Pie

    Shepherd's pie, a meaty filling topped with rich mashed potatoes, can be pub grub at its very best. However, at more than 700 calories and 40 grams of fat per serving, it's decidedly not dainty fare. In our lightened up version, we wanted to retain the heartiness and rib-sticking qualities of this classic Irish dish while streamlining its numbers. Our shepherd's pie is cooked in and served straight from the skillet. An aromatic beef mixture is topped with creamy scallion mashed potatoes, which are piped evenly on top and scored with a fork before a brief finish under the broiler for perfectly golden-crispy ridges. Sláinte!

    RECIPE MAKEOVER by AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN
    BEFORE: 710 calories, 40g fat, 19g sat fat
    AFTER: 450 calories, 15g fat, 6g sat fat

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    For a lower-fat shepherd's pie that was still ultra-rich and hearty, we used lean ground beef and handled it gently when cooking so we had big chunks of meat throughout. Tossing the meat with a bit

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  • 5 Secrets Behind Amazing Chicken Soups

    Welcome to Cooking 101, a fun, weekly series of cooking lessons and hands-on learning from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Who are we? Our knowledge and techniques are based on 20 years of test kitchen work creating foolproof recipes for Cook's Illustrated magazine and for our television shows. We believe that everybody, whether novice or advanced, can gain the skills and confidence to become a better cook.

    Week 10: Tips for Successful Chicken Soup
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    The best chicken soup is built on a soild foundation. Make sure you follow these 5 tips to ensure a stellar soup.

    RELATED VIDEO: Watch Bridget Lancaster show you our revolutionary stock making technique. It reduces cooking time to under an hour and delivers the maximum amount of flavor.

    1. Sauté Aromatics

    The first step in making many soups is sautéing aromatic vegetables such as onion and garlic. Sautéing not only softens their texture so that there is no unwelcome crunch in the

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  • The Proven Best Way to Cook Dried Beans

    Welcome to Cooking 101, a fun, weekly series of cooking lessons and hands-on learning from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Who are we? Our knowledge and techniques are based on 20 years of test kitchen work creating foolproof recipes for Cook's Illustrated magazine and for our television shows. We believe that everybody, whether novice or advanced, can gain the skills and confidence to become a better cook.

    Week 11: Tips for Cooking Beans
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    How to cook humble dried beans is the source of much argument among cooks. Whether beans must be soaked, quick-soaked, or left unsoaked before simmering and the effects of salt on the beans' tenderness, are topics that have been debated. After cooking batch after batch in the test kitchen, we now know what works and what doesn't.

    Brine Your Beans, Not Just Simply Soak, for Tender Skins

    Recipes often recommend soaking beans in water overnight before cooking. A quick-soak alternative is to

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  • Ultra-Romantic and Hassle-Free Valentine's Day Menu and Recipes

    A romantic Valentine's Day meal doesn't require a whole day's work. Show your love with this elegant menu, designed to impress with minimal fuss. Less time in the kitchen means more time spent with your loved one. Cheers to that!

    On the Menu
    Amuse Bouche: Easy Melted Brie with Honey and Herbs
    Starter: Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
    Entree: Coffee-Rubbed Rib-Eye Steak
    Side: Cauliflower Gratin
    Dessert: Pistachio Cannoli

    Find these 5 quick recipes, and 745 more, in the America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook.

    Easy Melted Brie with Honey and Herbs
    Our microwaved version of baked Brie, drizzled with honey and chopped fresh thyme, is ready in minutes.
    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: This great last-minute appetizer has all the warm, gooey appeal of classic baked Brie but takes just a few minutes to get on the table -- no puff pastry required. To balance the rich flavor of Brie, we drizzled honey over the top and sprinkled it with a bit of fresh thyme. A very quick spin in the microwave warms the honey and softens the Brie for a no-fuss yet elegant appetizer.

    Serves

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  • No-Stress Super Bowl: Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings

    No matter who wins the Super Bowl, we all know the real touchdowns will be on the snacking menu. But who has time or energy to fuss around in the kitchen when real attention should be paid to the game? Our easy recipe for Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings saves the day. These sweet, tangy, perfectly sticky chicken wings are a cinch to prepare for a crowd -- and are decidedly hands-off.

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    Perfect sticky wings are moist and lacquered with a slightly thick, sweet yet tangy sauce -- the stickier and messier, the better. First, we coated the chicken with a pungent mix of dark brown sugar, soy sauce, and aromatics and let it cook for about 4 hours until tender. Meanwhile, we made an easy sauce with tomato paste, soy sauce, and more sugar and cayenne. We knew these wings would need some time under the broiler to become charred and crisp, and this sauce provided just the right finishing touch. This recipe can easily be doubled for a crowd, but you will need to broil the

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  • A Salad That's Not as Healthy as You Might Think—and How We Lightened it Up

    Salad on a menu sounds pretty healthy, but the numbers can be shocking. For example, a Chicken Cobb Salad from Fresh City delivers more than 700 calories and a staggeringly high 51 grams of fat. (Nice "light" lunch, right?) To lighten up our version of cobb salad, we kept the main players -- tender chicken, hard‐cooked eggs, avocado, tomatoes, bacon, and blue cheese -- but made a few small changes.

    RECIPE MAKEOVER by AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN
    BEFORE: 738 calories, 51g fat, 17g sat fat
    AFTER: 320 calories, 19g fat, 4.5g sat fat

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    Swapping turkey bacon for regular bacon delivered the same salty, smoky flavors and crunch, and the salad included so many other elements that tasters didn't even notice. Relying on potent Roquefort or Stilton allowed us to cut back on the amount of cheese, while poaching proved a low‐fat way to prepare the chicken. Tossing the chicken, tomatoes, and greens with a bit of our boldly flavored vinaigrette ensured that each

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  • Our General Tso’s Chicken is Tastier (and More Healthy) Than Any Takeout

    Deep-frying and a thick, velvety, spicy-sweet sauce make this Chinese dish incredibly popular, but they also make it incredibly unhealthy. With a single serving clocking in at over 900 calories, we thought it was time to put General Tso on a diet.

    RECIPE MAKEOVER by AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN
    BEFORE: 910 calories, 45g fat, 5g sat fat
    AFTER: 490 calories, 8g fat, 1.5g sat fat

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
    Swapping the traditional dark meat for white meat was a good start. Moving on to the breading, we started with cornflakes, which gave our chicken an ultra-crisp exterior. After dredging our chicken pieces in flour and dipping them in egg whites, we coated them with our cornflake crumbs and baked them elevated on a wire rack to allow for even crisping all over.

    For the sauce, we combined soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, ginger, and garlic; a bit of cornstarch helped to thicken it. Sugar made the sauce taste overly sweet, so we tried swapping in a number of alternatives.

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