Sometimes, being a test cook means making 80 batches of chili. Other days, it means getting to taste test Indonesian fried rice. As a Cook’s Illustrated associate editor, Andrea Geary has experienced it all. She took a break from testing her current project, a peanut butter sandwich cookie, to chat with us.
How did you end up at the Test Kitchen?
I started cooking in restaurants in the Boston area, and then I went to live in Scotland for eight years, and cooked there. I came home because my whole family is based here, and I was ready for a big change. Even in Scotland, I had read Cook’s Illustrated, because you could get it at the local bookstore. A lot of people in my position might have just applied for a job, but I actually started as an intern.
What are your favorite kind of recipes to test?
Because I started my career mostly baking, doing pastries, desserts and breads is my comfort zone. But I like to challenge myself and do something I don’t have much experience with. I did a recipe for Memphis Dry Rub Pork Ribs, which is something I have never done before. I always researched, but I researched a huge amount on this one. I think I looked at it differently that someone who is more familiar. I think it’s kind of good to look at a subject with fresh eyes.
When you are done cooking all these gourmet meals in the Kitchen, what do you make yourself at home?
I do think my time in Scotland influenced my eating a lot. I eat an enormous amount of oats, which is a complement to what I do in the kitchen, because oats are very healthy. I was cleaning out my pantry these weekend, and I don’t actually have a whole lot of food in there, but I did have four different kinds of oats!
Choose a recipe that you can banish from the kitchen, forever.
I understand why we do roast chicken so much, because that’s what readers are interested in cooking, but if I never have to eat another piece of roast chicken again… [laughs] I’d be very happy.
If you could take home any piece of equipment from the Test Kitchen, which would you pick?
It’s a total luxury item, but the Vita-Mix blender. Those are fantastic. It’s the kind of thing I would never spend the money on myself. But if they gave me one? I’d be fine with that.
Alright. Let’s hear about your biggest kitchen disaster.
It was when I was developing a brownie recipe. I had done 5 different recipes, and it wasn’t difficult but it was labor-intensive, with the chopping of chocolate and everything. This recipe in particular had a foil sling, and I had forgotten to label all the pans. So I just took my Sharpie and wrote on the foil: A, B, C, D, E. When they were done, I put them on the counter. I hadn’t realized that if you write with a Sharpie on foil, and you put it in a high temperature environment… it evaporates. That test was very expensive and it took all day, and it went down the drain. It was a disaster for me, but not for the rest of the kitchen, because they got to take home all the brownies.
“Meet the Kitchen” is a weekly series where we learn a bit more about the folks who work at America’s Test Kitchen. See the archived interviews here.