How many people does it take to make the perfect brownie? How long does it take to film a season of America’s Test Kitchen? Join us every week as we explore the Secrets of the Test Kitchen.
Meet the America’s Test Kitchen library, one of the largest private cookbook collections in America, with more than 4,000 items. It’s a vital part of the Test Kitchen’s day-to-day operations because the first step in our recipe development process is research. When the test cooks are assigned a new recipe, they hit the books. The library, maintained by Assistant Test Kitchen Director Gina Nistico and the library interns, has seemingly everything, from Ad Hoc at Home to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
Here are 9 facts about the Test Kitchen library:
1. Most Expensive Book
Ringing up at $500, Modernist Cuisine is the most expensive acquisition in the library. The six-volume set contains more than 2,000 pages of stunning photography – and recipes to make your own foams, gels, and emulsions in your home kitchen (if your home kitchen is outfitted with equipment like a centrifuge, and ingredients like liquid nitrogen).
2. Newest Cookbook
The newest addition in the library is Finger Lakes Feast, which focuses on wholesome cooking from the region, including Dinosaur BBQ sauce and Tomato Pie. It will be published in November, but the library has a preview copy.
3. Oldest Cookbook
The library’s oldest book is The Every-Day Cook-Book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes by Miss E. Neil, published in 1884. The book instructs 19th-century housewives on how to cook dishes from Mock-Turtle Soup to Pickled Walnuts (the recipe for which, she notes, is “Very Good”).
4. Grossest Book
The stand-out title for biggest “Ick!” factor is That Amazing Ingredient: Mayonnaise! While expected recipes like All-American Macaroni Salad make an appearance, recipes such as Chocolate Chip Cookies may cause a double-take, and the Lasagna Roll-Ups contain only cooked lasagna noodles, ham, broccoli, and a mayo-cheese sauce.
5. Heaviest Cookbook
After the Hunt: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Wild Game and Game Fish Cookery is the single heaviest cookbook in the library, weighing in at 9 lbs, 9 oz with 854 pages. It will not only tell you how to cook your beaver tail, but how to first kill the beaver.
6. Smallest Cookbook
The smallest cookbook in the library, How To Make Salads and Sandwiches, measures under six inches tall, and weighs in at just 0.4 oz. A 1904 promotional booklet for Slade’s Salad Cream, this tiny cookbook (just 16 pages) assures readers that “Slade’s” is synonymous with “pure.”
7. Most Referenced Cookbooks
While there is no official check-out system, library interns re-shelf every book taken out – and take note of the repeat offenders. Joy of Cooking and Boston Cooking-School Cook Book are the two most frequently referenced books, as test cooks often start with the basics when developing a new recipe.
8. The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook Collection
All 78 publications from America’s Test Kitchen are available in the library – from the oldest (The Cook’s Illustrated 1993 Annual) to most recent (Pasta Revolution).
9. How It’s Organized
America’s Test Kitchen will eschew tradition in search of a better way: the books are not organized by the familiar Dewey Decimal system. Instead, we’ve developed our own organization system where books are sorted by themes –from type of cuisine to type of ingredient.