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David T. Cole

America's Test Kitchen

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I watched the newest taste testing of chicken broth; even though I pretty much always have some of have my homemade stock in the freezer (I freeze it in ice cube trays so I can defrost only a little bit at a time if needed), it's good to know what commercial variety isn't completely awful should the need ever arise.  I like that they taste-tested chicken broth again, given all the additional options since the last time they crowned a winner.  And I cracked up at the analysis of the protein content of even the winning varieties -- that basically a chicken had passed through the factory at some point, and that's about it.

 

It was also news to me - and to them, prior to this experiment - that nearly all of the broth on supermarket shelves started out as concentrate from the same company, prepared to each brand's specifications and then reconstituted at the brand's production site.

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It was also news to me - and to them, prior to this experiment - that nearly all of the broth on supermarket shelves started out as concentrate from the same company, prepared to each brand's specifications and then reconstituted at the brand's production site.

 

That's interesting, Bastet. I didn't know that either.

 

So, which brands did they like the best and which rated lower?

 

 

ETA: Curiosity made me Google it:

 

http://www.americastestkitchen.com/taste_tests/590-chicken-broth

 

All the info is there except the brand names. You have to click on "Watch the Video" at the end of the article to see the segment. They had two winners; one was a concentrate and one was chicken stock in the box. The concentrate was Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base, but they warned that it's borderline too salty. The favorite of the chicken broths was Swanson's Cooking Chicken Stock in the carton.

 

Good to know, since that's the only one I ever buy. They rated College Inn's Light and Fat Free Chicken Broth as flavorless and bland, and the one that tasted horrible was Pacific's Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. 

Edited by LuckyBitch

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I just about made their carnitas (the clip is on YT).  I used the same proportions of ingredients, but did the main cooking in a crockpot, so I used less water than they called for, since basically none evaporates - I put in just enough to barely cover the pork.  Even so, the penultimate step where you boil down the juices left after cooking to make a glaze to toss back into the shredded pork took about forever - at least a half an hour, maybe 40 minutes.  I found the end result tasty but a bit on the bland side. It made a good taco with salsa on top, but straight up the seasonings added at the beginning pretty much disappeared and the citrus juices left the barest trace of their presence.

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I've made the carnitas several times, and the reducing step does take longer than they call for, but I don't think it's taken 30-40 minutes for me. I think they say something like 8-10 minutes and it's taken me about 15. I really love that recipe. The meat is like candy when it's done.

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Personally I love Better Than Bouillon.  I use it to make gravy for assorted roasts (turkey, beef).  So far I haven't found it to be overly salty, but then again, I'm not reducing it significantly.  I stopped using College Inn a while ago.  I use my local super market brand instead if I need quick broth.  It tastes much more "chicken-y" than College Inn, but I'm sure it comes from the same processing plant as Swanson/other brands!  I should try to make my own stock someday to taste the difference.

 

I really like Italian Wedding Soup but their recipe looks overly involved with the processing of the pork.  Plus I get a little grossed out when I see recipes don't pre-cook/ brown meatballs.  Dropping raw meat into a soup or sauce  is just a big NO for me.  I couldn't eat or serve it if I knew that's how it was prepared (I'm sure I've eaten plenty of items cooked this way without knowing- ignorance is bliss!)

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Just once, I would like to see them make a recipe that doesn't call for some stage of the ingredients to be put into the refrigerator for an hour or overnight.  Especially when they are reworking old-time recipes that were made before refrigeration even existed. 

 

I don't know abou you, but when you have to bring out a ruler to measure the sides of rolled out dough, then IMO, you are carrying things a bit to far.

 

And I swear, if I have to hear one more time about cleaning oiling the grill before using it, I'm going to scream.  Whenever we barbeque, we leave the grill lit on high after we remove the food, so that anything stuck to it carbonizes and we can just clean it off then.  That way we have a nice clean grill whenever we want to cook the next meal.

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I like Better Than Bouillon, too, but they're right that it can be salty. Unfortunately, there's no lower-sodium option.

 

Whenever we barbeque, we leave the grill lit on high after we remove the food, so that anything stuck to it carbonizes and we can just clean it off then.  That way we have a nice clean grill whenever we want to cook the next meal.

 

My mom has a little Weber charcoal grill, and she makes sure to either clean it after it's been used or when the grill is hot but she hasn't put the food on yet. She never grills anything too messy, so it's not that big a chore.

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We use our grill often and year round, but my husband usually handles it. He doesn't put oil on the grill; he just sprays some Pam on it before he turns it on. Then, as soon as he removes the food, he uses a steel brush to scrape any food off the hot grill so it's clean for next time.

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I like Better Than Bouillon, too, but they're right that it can be salty. Unfortunately, there's no lower-sodium option.

 

That's odd - I was in Costco yesterday where they had some king-size jars of it.  I had seen them before but was afraid that it would go bad before I got around to using it, so when CK said it lasted two years in the fridge it re-sparked my interest.  I didn't buy it because I'm still working off the last of some home-made stuff from the freezer, but I could have sworn it said "Reduced Sodium Recipe" on all three variations (chicken, beef and veg).

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I just checked the website for Better Than Bouillon and they do have reduced sodium versions of their chicken, beef and vegetable bases:

http://www.betterthanbouillon.com/products/default.aspx?catid=4

Unfortunately, it's only 25% less sodium of an already sky high amount. Looking at the reduced sodium chicken base, it says:

Sodium content has been reduced from 680mg to 500 mg per reference serving.

http://www.betterthanbouillon.com/products/product-detail.aspx?productid=37

Edited by LuckyBitch

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I made the meatloaf with mushroom gravy for the second time last night, and while it certainly is time consuming (took me a little short of 2 1/2 hours all in) it really is super delicious - the ground mushrooms in the loaf base make for a wonderful texture.

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I really love ATK's Maryland crab cakes. Holy hell they are good, I have made them a handful of times. Being from southern New England, I made them last night but subbed in lobster meat instead. Really great, though more delicate/prone to breaking than the crab but I managed to make them small and keep them intact. I like that their recipe has little filler, calling for as little as 2 T of bread crumbs for a pound of meat (though you add up to 4T if necessary to bind). You form the cakes at least 30 minutes before cooking to let them chill/set up but can make them a day in advance which is great for quick weeknight meals. Even if you make and cook them that night, it really isn't much effort, especially for an ATK recipe. I highly recommend them if crab cakes are your jam.

Edited by MelsW
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I keep Better than Boullion on hand but it is extremely salty (and I like salt). If I am using it in a recipe where there is a lot of broth (say soup, for instance), I will generally not need to add any additional salt. The sodium content must be why it keeps forever in my fridge without going bad.

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I've never seen a lower-sodium version of BTB, but NYC supermarkets are usually too small to have every option. I'll keep an eye out for it, though. Every bit helps.

 

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That looks pretty similar to the way I make them.  So it must be good, ha.  Any crab cake recipe with a long list of ingredients, I just skip right past.

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I started making their banana bread for my dad because has started to have more left over at the end of the week. 

 

The video is here

 

Now I hate bananas like everyone on my mom's side so I've never tasted it but my dad seems to really like it. He's calling me more often about picking up over ripe bananas. And my mom accidentally ate one thinking it was pumpkin bread and she admitted that it tastes great. I think it's the light cakey texture that makes a difference to her.

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I haven't bought broth in years, I've been using chicken and beef base.  If you use bases, just check the first ingredient.  You don't want it to be salt/sodium, otherwise, yes, it will be a little on the salty side.

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BTB can be salty but if you add it to a soup or stock near the end of cooking, the stock won't reduce enough to turn into a salt lick.

 

Amazon usually carries some of the BTB flavors, but the best source for me has been SoupsOnline.com. It looks like they carry all the flavors including several Vegan, Organic and Kosher varieties, and many are often on sale, like now. Their flat rate shipping charge is only $5.99

 

Hope it's ok to post a link:

http://www.soupsonline.com/m-48-better-than-bouillon.aspx

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First ATK disappointment for me.  I saw the episode including Cuban-style Picadillo this week and thought  it seemed like a good and easy dinner.  It took forever and was passable at best at the end - it badly needed salt (Bridget didn't put any in, saying that the olives and capers brought plenty, but I disagree).  There are other picadillo recipes online where the meat is actually browned rather than basically boiled/steamed as it was in this recipe, if you want to try making it I'd choose one of those.

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My first ATK disappointment was their oatmeal cookies. I should have known not to bother when they started the segment by saying that the recipe on the lid of the Quaker canister is pretty perfect as is. They were right--it is. Their recipe came out bland and the texture was drier.

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Got the 14 day free trial for their site about a week ago (I recently began watching the show) and I've been trying a few of their recipes. I made their Pepperoni Pan Pizza, Lighter Mac and Cheese, Ultimate Banana Bread, and just yesterday made the Brown Sugar Cookies.

 

The Banana Bread was just okay, not bad, but no better than any other I have made. It's funny because they spend so much time trashing other recipes. That said, the others were totally solid. The texture of the cookies was insane, so chewy and so delicious. I do think they were a little on the sweet side. I think next time I'll substitute with light brown sugar. Pizza was great as well. When I usually make pizza, I use sheet pans and the crust has always been disappointing. Using the cake pans with the olive oil was a revelation, the taste and crunch was just right. 

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Those recipes sound good @Adan Canto . I'll have to look them up. Even though ATK's site is paid subscription, if you Google the name of a recipe you can usually read some of the info on their site and then find the recipe on some other website or blog.

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Hey Lucky! Thanks for the heads up. I've been a maniac this last week looking through their recipes and printing away. I have thought about staying after the trial, but for now I'm printing, lol.

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Hello everyone.  I'm a former TWOPer and glad to have a new place to talk about ATK and CC.  I've made many of their recipes and most turn out pretty good, but recently I had two disappointments.  The Pot Roast in Foil - it was not good.  I followed the directions exactly, cooked it fo 4-1/2 hours, and the meat was not fall-apart tender.  Since the roast cost $26, I was very disappointed.  Second was the Green Chile Cheeseburgers - not much flavor.  I much prefer using the panade in the Well-Done Burger recipe, although we eat them medium rare. 

 

Anyone else cooking?

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I made their leek and mushroom stuffed chicken breasts, and I have to say, it's a really great recipe.  It would be perfect for a dinner party, because you can make most of it in advance.  Lots of bowls/pans/utensils, though.  As per usual!

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Made one of my favourites, Chicken Tikka Masala last night. Not too dishwashing heavy, and very tasty. I am so happy summer id coming to an end, and I'll be able to make some of my favourite dishes again, I'm not willing to use the oven when it is hot out, and am getting very tired of grilling.

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I've been smitten by the Chicken Parmesan dish. It's the one where you make a 20 minute sauce, the chicken in breaded in panko and parmesan cheese with an egg wash and sauteed and topped with a mozzarella and fontina cheese combo and broiled. It's so dang good.

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Made the Mujadarra from the latest issue (oct'14), was really good, crispy onions and yogurt sauce made the dish.

'Iguessnot'- that chicken Parm us one of my faves. I often make a double batch of sauce and save it in the freezer to make it faster for the next time.

Edited by Sarahendipity

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My parents' 43rd wedding anniversary was coming up and I wanted to make them a home cooked dinner since my dad's mom is not doing too well with dementia and he's afraid to leave her. He loves a Cape Verdean milk pudding that my mom makes so I figured flan would be perfect cake instead of our favorite bakery. Just in time for the Magic Chocolate Flan to pop up on CreateTv at least 3 times last week that I saw on Cook's Country.  I made a test cake and shared with extended family for their thoughts as I really really hate flan-like desserts. I also refuse to pay $4 for a gallon of milk at my local grocery stores when it's $2.50 at Costco which I normally go to at the end of the week (plus I could give the rest to my grandparents who have no less than 5 kids at their home at one time so I know it would be appreciated). So I mixed my 2% Lactaid with some heavy cream after doing some crazy math conversions.   I went to 7 grocery stores and couldn't find one jar of caramel sauce so I had to make my own. The extended family and neighbors loved it with only one person saying the flan part was too jello-y but she loved the chocolate part and her son loved every part.The flan came out light chocolate colored and my caramel sauce didn't look as pretty but tasted so great (I wish I had something to use it with as a topping!).

 

My father says he really hates cheese, yet when he doesn't know, he devours foods with cheese (stuffed shells, french onion soup, calzones, Smartfood, cheesecakes, broccoli with melted shredded cheese,  etc...).  So I figured, even if he detected the cream cheese (which somehow escaped him with the cheesecakes or the freaking french onion soup on the cruise), he would keep on eating as long as everyone kept quiet. He did have huge seconds and my niece had thirds. So there we were: me not a fan of flan, my nephew, brother, and I somewhat allergic to eggs, my niece trying to do anything for more chocolate cake after I told her she needs to find someone to eat the flan part first, my mom adoring the chocolate part, a cousin popping in with her son, my paternal grandmother eating whatever we give her, and dad and SIL loving the flan part. So we had to start splitting and sharing pieces between my dad and SIL and the rest of us. Less than half of cake was left by the end of the night.

 

I need to start making baked goods I enjoy eating other than no knead bread.  And now I have 8 egg whites which I have no idea what to do with (I'm also allergic to the white part of eggs if raw) and I really don't want to make an omelet. Maybe I'll make a Cape Verdean (okay Portuguese) meringue cookies called Kisses.

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Christopher Kimball's disdain for anything that comes from a supermarket (clutch the pearls!) is completely off-putting. Yes, it would be lovely to make everything by my own hands or pluck it from my backyard garden, but I have other things to do sometimes. Like living. I have learned how to whip up a few sauces at home on my own and they generally are better than what's in the jar. But the jar comes through in a time crunch and it's good to know which brands are worth the cash. Sometimes, I want Jack to smack him during the taste test segments. Get over yourself!

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I ALWAYS want to smack him during the taste test segments.  And I sense that Jack does, too.  He thinks he has such a superior palate, doesn't he?  I do appreciate hearing what the tasting panel prefers on things, like Hershey's cocoa!!  My mom uses it, I use it, but I had no idea it was superior in flavor to the Dutched cocoa-what a revelation!  However, what does irritate me sometimes is when the winner of a taste test is a regional item, like the Blue Plate mayo.  It's not fair to the rest of us!

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To me, he actually has a really limited palate, because he can't handle anything with any level of spice. Come on. That's like the basis of 50% of the world's cuisine, at least. I know he's aware of that and they give him a lot of crap for it, but still. It makes me side-eye all of his preferences. But otherwise, it doesn't bother me that he's snobby about preferring freshly made items to prepared foods because a) that's his whole job and the work of his life, so I would expect him to have some pride about that, b) once again, he's self-aware about the snobbishness and his colleagues tease him about it too, and c) I use prepared foods all the time, but I recognize that most of the time, stuff does taste better if I make it fresh.

 

But the way they do those taste tests, at least with him, is sometimes really stupid. I feel like it only makes sense to taste things in the way they will be used. Like, you're never going to eat mayo or salad dressing or hot sauce on a spoon. (If you do, don't tell me.) Half the time, they do at least also present the item as it would be used, but not always. And I just don't get that. Oh, so that hummus is really strongly flavored until you eat it on pita or with vegetables, both of which are really bland??? You don't say.

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However, what does irritate me sometimes is when the winner of a taste test is a regional item, like the Blue Plate mayo.  It's not fair to the rest of us!

 

But didn't they basically announce that as the one to pick if you're in the area where it's available, with Hellman's/Best Foods (which is my personal favorite) the go-to if you're not?  I don't mind that one because it's available in such a large - and expanding - region.  I don't want to see items only available in a tiny percentage of the country included in the taste testing, but I don't think everything has to be available nationwide, either. 

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But the way they do those taste tests, at least with him, is sometimes really stupid. I feel like it only makes sense to taste things in the way they will be used. Like, you're never going to eat mayo or salad dressing or hot sauce on a spoon. (If you do, don't tell me.) Half the time, they do at least also present the item as it would be used, but not always. And I just don't get that. Oh, so that hummus is really strongly flavored until you eat it on pita or with vegetables, both of which are really bland??? You don't say.

 

Sometimes tasting the item by itself is the best way to figure out if there's something unpleasant about it, but in general, I agree with this. Maybe he could first taste the item by itself, then taste it how it's most likely used. It's not as if Kimball tastes the samples only once (unless something is really horrible) anyway

 

My favorite taste test is still hot sauces. You know that was probably Jack's happiest moment at the company. Hee.

Edited by dubbel zout
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Sometimes tasting the item by itself is the best way to figure out if there's something unpleasant about it, but in general, I agree with this. Maybe he could first taste the item by itself, then taste it how it's most likely used. It's not as if Kimball tastes the samples only once (unless something is really horrible) anyway

 

My favorite taste test is still hot sauces. You know that was probably Jack's happiest moment at the company. Hee.

You are correct.  R&D departments taste the foods by themselves, with the exception of a few items that are HARD on the palate, like hot sauce, or vinegar.  Vinegar is usually tasted by dipping a sugar cube into the vinegar and sucking it.  I know, it sounds weird, right?

 

The problem with tasting a product like hummus on a pita chip is that salt content can vary wildly from chip to chip, and not create a consistent tasting for a panel.  Items like mayo are generally tasted by itself, but used in many applications to see if one performs better, like when cooked, baked, etc.  Those things usually have little to do with the taste, and more to do with the engineering of the product. 

 

That hot sauce tasting was EVERYTHING.  Jack was in heaven.

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However, what does irritate me sometimes is when the winner of a taste test is a regional item, like the Blue Plate mayo.  It's not fair to the rest of us!

It really is the best mayo. I was raised on Blue Plate and the other brands have never equaled it. 

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It really is the best mayo. I was raised on Blue Plate and the other brands have never equaled it. 

I saw a Triple D (don't judge me) at my favorite po boy place in NOLA, and they used Blue Plate, which is when I got angry that it's regional, because it must be really delicious.

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I have the Hearty Spanish-Style Lentil and Chroizo Stew at the top of my "to make" list. I think the recipe is from Cook's Country. I just made the Authentic Beef Enchiladas for the millionth time last week and they are still one of my favorite ATK recipes. I'll have to try the Skillet Chicken Fajitas, thanks for the recommendation Sarahendipity!

Edited by MelsW
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Just tried to watch test cook Erin McMurrer make Five-Alarm Chili.  Does she moonlight as an auctioneer?  She talks way too fast for TV.

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Does anyone have the recipe for "Spicy Fry Sauce"? I don't pay and can only access this season's recipes. For one of the recipes (thick cut sweet potato fries), they suggest you serve with a spicy fry sauce, which sounds intriguing. The problem is I can't access their link to the fry sauce recipoe because it is from March/April 2014 Cook's Illustrated. I can see in the opening blurb that it has mayo and "Asian garlic-chili sauce" in it but I need to know what else. The usual Google method didn't work this time. Shockingly no one has blogged about it in the past year.

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They're locking down their recipes as much as they can because they want people to buy their cookbooks.  I feel your pain, I really wanted to make their Caramelized Onion Jam, but could only find a recipe 'adapted from' the ATK recipe.

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