Cook's Illustrated is a magazine that has been published since 1992. It's edited by Christopher Kimball, who has an unfortunate predilection for bow ties. In spite of Kimball's dubious sartorial choices, however, the magazine is very good.

Cook's Illustrated specializes in exhaustive testing to find the "perfect" recipe. The journalistic formula is simple: the author describes the dish they are trying to achieve; explains how the dish is usually made and why it is, in that form, lacking; details their trial-and-error method for improving the dish; and concludes with a recipe for the perfected dish.

Along the way, the authors often research received kitchen wisdom. For example, in their search for the most velvety, delicious, toothsome mushroom soup, they explored the commonly accepted idea that you shouldn't wash mushrooms because they will absorb water. Instead, the thinking goes, you should brush them off with paper towels, or even, for the gadget-obsessed, special mushroom brushes. By comparing the weight of unwashed, brushed, and washed mushrooms, the experts at Cook's Illustrated were able to prove that washing does not promote heavy, water-logged mushrooms. The conclusion: plunge your mushrooms into water in order to clean them.

Though Cook's Illustrated's recipes favour American home cooking, and though their desserts tend, in my opinion, to be too sweet, the magazine is an invaluable one for cooks who want to expand their repertoire and learn a few tips and tricks.

Another point in their favour, by the way, is that the magazine is completely advertisement-free. A refreshing change from the usual commercialized drivel that graces our local newsstand shelves.

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