What's the best cooking magazine for serious cooks?
November 29, 2004 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Would like to get my wife a cooking magazine subscription for Xmas. They all look the same to me! She is a serious cook, scoffs as kitchen gadgetry, and is only sort-of interested in wine. Help!
posted by Mid to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cook's Illustrated---Nothing else even comes close for recipes, reviews and technique. It only comes out 6 times a year though.

Saveur is another nice one but that's more a foodie, Architectural Digest, lifestyle magazine, rather than a cooking journal.
posted by bonehead at 7:27 AM on November 29, 2004

Cook's Illustrated--don't even consider anything else.
posted by box at 7:42 AM on November 29, 2004

Cook's Illustrated is great. I think they make you pay for online access, but the hardcopy version is fantastic.
posted by Alt F4 at 7:43 AM on November 29, 2004

I second Cook's Illustrated. Depending on age you might take a look at Chow Magazine, which just launched. The hook is that it's young and hip. I got the first issue, and I was not overwhelmed, but I like the concept of a magazine for my generation. (Late 20s to mid-30s)
posted by OmieWise at 7:44 AM on November 29, 2004

You can't go wrong with Cook's Illustrated.
posted by majcher at 7:53 AM on November 29, 2004

Might I suggest Food and Wine? It usually has a wide range of recipes, from easy to complex.
posted by shinyj at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2004

Since nobody has mentioned it yet, I'll suggest Cook's Illustrated.

Seriously, it's THE magazine for serious cooks.
posted by bondcliff at 7:58 AM on November 29, 2004

Instead of (or even better, in addition to) I'd suggest one of the books by the Editor's of Cook's Illustrated. They are often compilations of the best recipies from the magazine, plus a whole lot more. The Best Recipe has never let me astray.
posted by gregchttm at 8:01 AM on November 29, 2004

I like "Cook's Illustrated," but mostly as a primer in how to best prepare traditional foods. They take a dish and then vary aspects of its preparation to see how to best prepare the dish. While frequently helpful, the process is still dependent upon the personal tastes of the author and tasters. You might also consider "Fine Cooking" by the Taunton Press. It doesn't stick as closely to traditional dishes so is overall more interesting and just as informative in providing detailed information about preparing various dishes. All of Taunton's publications are great. As a caveat to my opinion - I do know Jan and Paul Roman who started the Taunton Press. Nevertheless, I would probably think that "Fine Cooking" is the best cooking magazine even if I did not know Jan and Paul.
posted by caddis at 8:07 AM on November 29, 2004

Ya know, i've recently read this magazine, Cook's Illustrated. Definitely check it out! It's THE magazine for serious cooks. Nothing else even comes close for recipes, reviews and technique. It only comes out 6 times a year though. I think they make you pay for online access, but the hardcopy version is fantastic. You can't go wrong.
posted by omidius at 8:07 AM on November 29, 2004

La Cucina Italiana, food, wine, cured meats, yum.

don't even consider anything else
What? Lame.
posted by jonah at 8:11 AM on November 29, 2004

My foodie g/f and her co-workers at the cookware store she works at all dig Saveur in addition to CI. It's a less fluffy Gourmet, with great recipes and culinary explorations.
posted by mkultra at 8:12 AM on November 29, 2004

I would skip "Food & Wine", "Gourmet" and/or "Bon Appetit" as they are increasingly less about food and more about an expensive lifestyle all the time.

As I mentioned the other day in a similar thread, if "Cook's Illustrated" is a bit too uptight for you, Cuisine At Home is a good alternative.
posted by briank at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2004

I just bought three gift subscriptions to Cook's Illustrated. Well, two gift subscriptions and one for me. It seemed a fair ratio.

The problem with most cooking magazines is that they're more about food porn and gorgeous softly focused pictures and less about actual cooking. And now, they're as much about things completely unrelated to food, as actual food. Cook's Illustrated is the exact opposite.

If she's interested in collections of recipes rather than collections of techniques, you might also have a gander at the publications of the Taste of Home group. American homestyle cooking, they feature no advertisements, cheesy pictures and lots and lots of recipes. I subscribe to Light & Tasty and appreciate the short, informative articles, and the nutritional information included with the recipes.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2004

You hardly need another vote for Cook's Illustrated (which rocks, by the way), so I'll add that the editors have started a sister magazine called Cook's Country. You can sign up for a free trial issue. I haven't received mine yet, so I can't vouch for it; but I've never been disappointed with an issue of the original, so I'm not worried. In fact, I bought a subscription.
posted by cribcage at 8:48 AM on November 29, 2004

"Cook's Illustrated - Seriously, it's THE magazine for serious cooks."

No. It's not. It's the magazine for cook's who want to learn some fundamentals, or see some alternate methods for traditional recipes. Serious cooks have hopefully move beyond Cook's Illustrated.

Cook's Illustrated is very good. Their book is better, and cheaper in the long run.

Food and Wine has the highest percentage of recipes I actually end up cooking.

Gourmet is a close secon
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2004

Okay, so I seem to have come late to this discussion, but if anyone's still reading this far, I've always been thoroughly unsatisfied with Cook's Illustrated.

Here's why.

For tool reviews, they always invariably test 15 or so mediocre gadgets and pick the best of those, but miss the actual one that's the best and usually either the same price or even slightly cheaper. Pick up a PCD catalog - most of the things they sell are better than what you can find at Williams-Sonoma, yet those products never make it into the reviews.

For techniques, a similar problem. They do limited testing and come to broad sweeping generalizations, but their underlying method is "find a few likely candidates and test those", but they almost always overlook some alternative that's actually superior. It looks like science, but it's not.

In short, I've never read a Cook's Illustrated column I didn't have some issue or another with, either their methods or testing range or conclusions.

I've been much happier with Fine Cooking. Yes, they have glossy pictures. But every recipe I've made from them has been not only good, but outstanding, and generally easy. They frequently get great chefs to write guest articles too (most recently, Karen DeMasco, pastry chef at Craft, did a piece on homemade caramel popcorn for their Holiday Baking issue - fantastic!).

This is the magazine I look forward to every month.

Saveur is good travel food porn, but it's more of an entertaining read about food than it is a helpful cooking reference.
posted by Caviar at 9:33 AM on November 29, 2004

A good 75% of Cook's is beyond reproach; they take a classic dish, deconstruct it, and empirically determine the best way of preparing it. This is all done very thoughtfully and tastefully. I am, however, inclined to say that the other 25% is somehow slightly misleading. In their quest for "the best recipe," Cook's can gloss over a lot of nuance and tradition, which is what is necessary to take many recipes from good to great. Still a good magazine, though.

I'm a "serious cook" and though I don't feel like I need Cook's, I enjoy flipping through a copy of it every couple months.
What Caviar said, basically.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:36 AM on November 29, 2004

Whoops, sorry, that link for PCD is wrong. It should be http://www.pcd.com.
posted by Caviar at 9:36 AM on November 29, 2004

Yes, rxfrx has it - in their attempt to deconstruct, CI loses a LOT of the art of cooking. Coupled with the fact that their deconstructions are often incomplete and their explanations sometimes superficial, I just find it unsatisfying. Fine Cooking still captures a lot of that. Rather than try to figure out what's "best" with a recipe, they explain the technique first, then give you some good examples to play around with.

If you want food science, read Harold McGee.
posted by Caviar at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2004

And, of course, now that I've actually gone looking for it, I've found that there's a Fine Cooking website, complete with a video demonstration of the caramel popcorn article (which wasn't required - the written instructions are very clear).

posted by Caviar at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2004

That CI is not perfect, I'll be the first to agree. They are the quintessential "suburban kitchen" magazine, that is, they rarely use any exotic ingredients, and heavily Americanize any "ethnic" recipe they present. That said, I've never had a poor result with a CI recipe, some mediocre ones, but never a complete disaster. If you know its limitations, CI is a fine magazine.

Fine Cooking is more adventurous, true, but is generally more superficial than CI, in my opinion. It is also an excellent magazine, probably the best of the glossies.

McGee has a new edition of "On Food and Cooking" coming out, by the way. Apparently it's a substantial rewrite (the first edition came out in what, 1984?). That too would make an excellent gift.
posted by bonehead at 10:06 AM on November 29, 2004

Caviar -- thanks for the PCD link. I'm a fairly new (but enthusiastic) cook, and their items look verrry tempting.
posted by katie at 10:29 AM on November 29, 2004

I too will say "Cook's Illustrated"
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2004

Also, on the PCD note. I have done business with a large number of cooking supply companies (as a serious amateur chef), and PCD hands down has absolutely the best customer support of any of them. I once asked a question and got the surprisingly refreshing "I don't know. Hold on a minute, let me get one and try that".

Their prices are good, and their products are, while in the same general class as the other companies, generally a step up or three in quality. My only complaint is that they don't carry Mac knives.
posted by Caviar at 10:53 AM on November 29, 2004

I also love CI. I used to buy the dead tree edition, but last year for my birthday my husband got me a website subscription. That lets you search for recipes and articles from the entire run of the magazine, and print them out. The only thing you don't get is Kimball's editorals, which are pretty skippable in my mind, anyway. As far as their books, I recommend American Classics. I've checked it out of the library about six times now, and I've finally decided to break down and buy my own copy. (I've got a limited budget, so I usually check cookbooks and knitting books out of the library first and only buy the ones I'm sure I'll use frequently.) I also like The Quick Recipe, but a "serious" cook may turn up her nose at that. They are the best "quick" recipes I've found, though. (Get thee behind me, Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray.)

Fine Cooking is also nice, and has at least one former CI'er working for them (Pam Anderson). They are a bit more frou-frou than CI, but still much more down to earth than Gourmet. Saveur I thought was just silly and pretentious.
posted by Shoeburyness at 11:23 AM on November 29, 2004

No one's mentioned it, so I will: Cooking Light. We use more recipes from this mag than any other.
posted by sixpack at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2004

I second Cooking Light. Additionally, they have done an excellent job setting up their online recipe database. Searchable via multiple ways (ingredient, type, etc.), and they offer 3 different sizes when printing (full page, 3x5, 4x6 ) Very useful for keeping those printouts with the rest of your stuff.
posted by xena at 12:29 PM on November 29, 2004

I think that CI is the best cooking mag published in the US today. Even with all its faults and weirdly dogged tone (eloquently pointed out by Caviar and rxfrx), it's still better than the alternatives.

Fine Cooking is good, but I find CI ultimately more useful. And I am a very serious cook.

Cooking Light is by far the best "special interest" cooking mag published in the US.

You can't go wrong with any of those, or with a package of all three.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:25 PM on November 29, 2004

I also subscribe to Gourmet and look at Bon Appetit when I get a chanst. Because I can't get enough of the cooking stuff.

I wish Alton Brown would have a magazine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:26 PM on November 29, 2004

I like Cook's Illustrated too, but if you'd like to give her a little something different (that she won't find on the checkout line shelf) I have a couple other suggestions. Gastronomica is more a magazine about food than a cooking magazine, it has essays instead of recipes. Great for people who read cookbooks like they're novels. Alternatively, I was once given a subscription to John Thorne's newsletter Simple Cooking, which I loved. It's half recipes and half entertaining adventures in cooking, if you browse the site I linked you can get a good idea of what it's like.
posted by cali at 1:46 PM on November 29, 2004

I was going to suggest "Chow" and "Gastronomica", both of which I love for different reasons.
posted by padraigin at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2004

I've had a subscription to Gourmet since 1990. I've never had trouble with any recipe I've tried. I've found some of the food articles intriguing and have been mostly left flat by the travel articles. I'm relinquishing my subscription because I don't have the time to read it anymore.
posted by plinth at 4:52 PM on November 29, 2004

I add my vote to Cook's Illustrated as well! great book.
posted by punkrockrat at 5:31 PM on November 29, 2004

My vote is for the Art of Eating. It easily has the best writing in the field of food.

Saveur is the next best, and the best of the mass market magazines.

Chow shows promise.

I find Cook's Illustrated to be overrated. The latest issue, for example, one of their two highly recommended store bought Italian dressings was praised for it's school cafeteria qualities.
posted by Kreylix at 11:01 PM on November 29, 2004

If you don't mind looking a little further afield, Delicious is a new-ish (I think) Australian food magazine that is very good indeed.
posted by misteraitch at 2:45 AM on November 30, 2004

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