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Cook's Illustrated, Issue 100
Cook's Illustrated, Issue 100

If you like to cook, you must subscribe to this magazine. It is always packed with useful tips and helpful step-by-step instructions. While it will never stir my emotions to a fever pitch, I still find that I learn something new every time I read it. But it's like a well written text book: no matter its quality, it's still just a text book.

Content: 58/60

I like the fact that there is so much content here, yet it doesn't feel crammed in. Although articles are never more than 2 pages and usually include a side bar or two, they remain tightly focused on the topic and convey the right amount of information.

My favorites in this issue are the articles on Steak Tips with Mushroom Gravy, Rethinking Sunday Gravy and the Foolproof Vinaigrette. I skipped over the Secrets to a Perfect Cup of Coffee, Mexican Grilled Corn and discussion on "Green" Skillets, but only because they didn't interest me. My favorite tip this issue was to not use extra virgin olive oil when cooking, rather stick with the regular stuff since what you pay for in the good stuff – the unique flavors and aromas – dissipate with the heat.

Quality: 17/20

It used to irk me that, within the covers, this is a black and white magazine. It's not so much an issue, any more, but still rankles me a bit. Would be nice to see what the food is supposed to look like. My other beef is that the writing style is uniformly written in the first person, this grates on my inner blue pencil. This might work if there was only one author throughout the whole magazine, but that's not the case here.

Food Porn: 8/20

If it wasn't for the wonderful illustration that they always have on the back cover, this would be a zero. This gets back to the lack of color in the magazine. But even the cover shots, in this case of Swiss Chard, rarely get a rise out of me.

Recipes: 10/10

Yes, yes, yes, I have claimed that recipes are not so important to me. Tell me the how and I'll figure out the what. But these guys really pull this off well. For example, after a detailed discussion of what it takes to make a good Apple Upside-Down Cake, they offer variants with almonds or lemon and thyme, along with what needs to be adapted in the original recipe. Excellent.

Final Score: 93/110 (B)

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There is a wide variety of sources on food: books, magazines, websites and television. Likewise, what is presented ranges from traditional cookbooks to history and travelogues. Despite this diversity, I will use the following general evaluation to rate food media.

Content (60 points)

What did I learn? While this varies depending upon the subject, I need to feel like I learned something useful or that this would be a good introduction for a newbie. Does this provide you with new techniques or knowledge that will aid you in the kitchen or make eating more enjoyable?

Quality (20 points)

How well was the content presented? Was it well organized, well written? Was there something in the content that makes me question the author's credibility? While this measurement is closely tied to my evaluation of the content – a low content score will likely also mean a low quality score – I keep these separate to account for the case where good stuff is obscured by a crappy presentation.

Food Porn (20 points)

Show me the money shot! Yes, I want to learn, but I want to salivate, too.

Recipes (10 points extra credit)

I do not want a simple recitation of recipes. Divorced from context, this is solely rote memorization. Recipes, if present, serve to support the content.

Grading Scale

I will divide the points awarded by the maximum possible (rounded to nearest whole number) and assign a letter grade according to this scale:

A: 93 - 100%

A-: 90 - 92%

B+: 87 - 89

B: 83 - 86

B-: 80 - 82

C+: 77 - 79

C: 73 - 76

C-: 70 - 72

D: 60 - 69

F: Less than 60