Review: The New Best Recipe

The New Best Recipe CoverThe New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, is a hefty tome weighing in at over 900 pages and collecting 1,000 of what are purportedly the best recipes developed by the magazine. If the collection has a theme, it is familiar favorites: comfort foods, American standards, frequently ordered items from restaurant menus and the like. Each recipe is preceded by a lengthy introduction, explaining exactly what and why the particular cooking methods, ingredients and equipment were used to turn out the best results. If you are interested in the hows and whys of cooking, this makes for entertaining reading; if you are not, skip it.

With some exceptions, these are multi-step recipes, and some of the steps seem quite bizarre. In most cases, the results are unexpected but impeccable. For instance, when making Chicken Stir-Fry, taking the time to marinate the chicken pieces, coat them in flour and cornstarch, and cook them before the stir-fry results in crispy browned chicken pieces that are, in my opinion, better than what you get in most Chinese restaurants. In a few cases, the extra steps required to get to a bowl of, say, Cream of Tomato Soup, just may not be worth all the bother.

The most useful chapters for me were:

  • Salads: These are the salads and salad dressings I remember from my childhood, from potlucks, church dinners and picnics; this is a collection of all the standards in one place, with plenty of suggestions and room for playing around with the recipes
  • Vegetables: If you are a novice cook, this chapter will arm you with all you need to know about cooking any vegetable and provides many ideas for jazzing up simple sides
  • Poultry: Again, the basics for cooking chicken are well covered, from brining and roasting to breading and sauteing; plus, there are quite a few really good recipes (Chicken Fricassee, Chicken & Rice) that, once mastered, can be modified easily to suit your tastes

In addition, extensive attention is paid to desserts, from cookies to cakes to ice cream, if you have a sweet tooth. There are also chapters on baking bread, making pizza and grilling. And if you don’t even know how to fry an egg or boil pasta, you’ll learn how to do that, too. In fact, if you’re not a too adventurous eater, this may be the only cookbook you’ll need.

While I haven’t even approached trying all 1,000 recipes, here are a few of my favorites:

  • Herbed Spinach Dip
  • Classic American Potato Salad
  • French Potato Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Pad Thai
  • Oven-Baked Brown Rice
  • Cheese Bread
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10 thoughts on “Review: The New Best Recipe

  1. cooknkate 12 November 2006 at 6:46 pm

    I.LOVE.THIS.BOOK!!

    It is my ultimate reference book, gigantic and full of more recipes than I could ever cook in a lifetime. But when I need something and I have to have it wonderful, I go here. Worth every penny and strained muscle I get hefting it out of my cabinet.

  2. inmykitchen 20 November 2006 at 12:56 pm

    I got this book for Christmas last year. I love it! I don’t have any one dish I like better than the others, everything I’ve tried, I’ve liked.

  3. […] I didn’t do a lot of cooking this week, mainly because I was on my own a lot and was trying to eat up Thanksgiving leftovers. But I did make one recipe out of The New Best Recipe that definitely goes in the “keeper” file. Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese was inspired by a restaurant favorite but was surprisingly easy to reproduce at home. The goat cheese was rolled in herbs, dipped in egg and then crusted with crushed Melba toasts of all things, so that it got brown and crusty on the outside, warm and melty on the inside when baked. I think the salad was actually superfluous; served with some crusty bread, the cheese itself would be a nice appetizer.   […]

  4. […] The result was a glorious dish called Breakfast Strata. The recipe I used came from The New Best Recipe, and the results were fantastic. If you are not familiar with a strata, it is basically layered bread slices, cheese and some kind of filling, baked in a custard of eggs and cream. It sounds weird, but done right, the strata puffs up beautifully with a nicely browned top, and the ingredients meld together into a heavenly rich concoction. (I am really sorry I didn’t think to take a photo.) […]

  5. […] American Classics and Italian Classics are both relatively slim collections of “best recipes” from Cook’s Illustrated, organized around a theme. (There are many of these volumes, but these are the two I happen to own at the moment.) If you already have The New Best Recipe, I would recommend against purchasing either of these because there is a lot of duplication between them. However, if you don’t have TNBR, either one is a nice cookbook to have. […]

  6. […] Oven-Fried Chicken, recipe from The New Best Recipe […]

  7. […] also brought a French Potato Salad. The original source of the recipe is Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe. While I appreciate potato salad in all its forms, I think this is my favorite version. It relies […]

  8. […] every recipe in a cookbook. For some cookbooks, like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything or The New Best Recipe, this isn’t really practical. These gigantic tomes better serve as reference books for […]

  9. […] Scalloped Potatoes (recipe from The New Best Recipe) […]

  10. […] the traditional macaroni salad. Use macaroni or any other small pasta shape. The recipe comes from The New Best Recipe. Chipotle Pasta […]

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