The folks at America's Test Kitchen wanted a bread pudding that had a moist, creamy interior and a crisp top crust. They chose challah for its rich flavor. To cut down on the egginess, they used only yolks and still achieved a luscious, silky custard. For a crackly crust, they dotted the top with additional toasted bread cubes and brushed on melted butter followed by a sprinkling of white and brown sugars. Watch the video here for the technique.
'This Week in America's Test Kitchen' on Serious Eats
Pot roast can be boring and bland, full of dry, stringy meat, stubborn bits of fat, and wan gravy. The folks at America's Test Kitchen wanted a meltingly tender roast sauced in savory, full-bodied gravy. For fork-tender meat and rich, complex gravy, they separated the roast into two lobes, salted it prior to cooking, used beef broth as a cooking liquid, and sealed the pot with aluminum foil before putting the lid on. Watch the video here and then visit America's Test Kitchen for the recipe. (Free registration required.)
Chicken pot pie always sounds homey, but this dish is a production. You have to cook and cut up a chicken, make a sauce, parcook vegetables, and all the while prepare, chill, and roll out pie crust. The folks at America's Test Kitchen wanted to streamline the dish and get it on the table in 90 minutes, tops. And they wanted a completely homemade pie (no prefab crust) full of tender, juicy chicken and bright vegetables. Watch the video here to see how they did it, and then visit America's Test Kitchen for the recipe (free registration required).
Recipe research taught the cooks at America's Test Kitchen what they didn't want in their Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake: indistinguishable layers and texture, and a flavor so overpoweringly rich that it's hard to finish more than a few forkfuls. By finessing one layer at a time, starting with the dark chocolate base and building to the top white chocolate tier, the cooks at America's Test Kitchen aimed to create a triple-decker that was incrementally lighter in texture—and richness. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
To add flavor to this mild cut of beef, the cooks began with a simple technique that worked wonders: salting the tenderloin before roasting. And when searing the meat first resulted in unevenly cooked, gray meat, they found the trick was to reverse the process, roasting the meat first and then searing it on the stovetop. What it gave them was a roast with uniformly pink meat, a deep brown crust, and strong beefy flavor—a beef tenderloin worthy of its price tag. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
Sablé is French for sandy, and during the holidays, these French butter cookies offer sophistication and style. That is, if you can capture their elusive sandy texture, which separates them from sturdy American butter cookies. Unfortunately, most of the sablé recipes that the cooks at America's Test Kitchen researched baked up without the delicate crumbliness that defines this cookie. To create the hallmark sandy texture of sablés—light, with an inviting granular quality similar to shortbread—it took some detective work. The answer was a common baking ingredient—with a not-so-common preparation—that gave their cookies the texture they wanted. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
The cooks at America's Test Kitchen knew what their ideal slicing knife would have: an extra-long blade that could slice through large cuts of meat in one easy glide, enough sturdiness to ensure a straight cutting path, and a round tip that wouldn't get caught in the meat mid slice. They narrowed the field to nine models for testing and sliced through fish and multiple cuts of meat. In the end, the three knives jockeying for the top spot all had something in common that the poorer performers didn't. Watch this video for more about their top picks, or read the full comparison on America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
Nobody ever waxed poetic about margarine, but boutique butters get gushing reviews, with raves over their "subtle tang" and "grassy'' notes. Some restaurant chefs even list on their menus which butter they use. Is there more to these butters than hype? To find out, the tasting panel at America's Test Kitchen tried seven premium unsalted butters (both cultured and sweet cream, as well as their favorite supermarket stick), both plain and in simple butter cookies. The tasters' preferences boiled down to a matter of culture—both geographically and scientifically. Watch the video above for more about these picks, or read the full comparison on America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
Roasting a whole turkey is a race to keep the white meat from drying out while the dark meat cooks through. So who says you have to roast it whole? The cooks at America's Test Kitchen envisioned a new Thanksgiving classic, one with ultra-moist meat, crisp, crackling skin, and a rich gravy—all achieved in only a few hours.
One of the reasons people go overboard on the main dishes at Thanksgiving? Oftentimes, the desserts aren't worth saving any room for. Take pumpkin pie, for example. Too often, this holiday classic appears at the end of a Thanksgiving meal as a grainy, overspiced, canned-pumpkin custard encased in a soggy crust. The cooks at America's Test Kitchen set out to create a pumpkin pie recipe destined to be a new classic: velvety smooth, packed with pumpkin flavor and just enough fragrant spices. To do this, they concentrated the moist canned pumpkin, prebaked the pie crust, and relied on an unusual ingredient to boost the flavor. Watch the video here for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
The ideal roasted salmon is moist, succulent fish encased in a crisp crust. The problem is that one usually comes at the cost of the other. To achieve this elusive combination, the cooks at America's Test Kitchen developed a hybrid roasting method for the fillets, preheating the oven to an extra-high temperature and reducing it considerably just before putting the fish in. The initial blast of high heat firms the outside of the salmon, while the interior gently cooks as the oven cools. And while salmon is rich and flavorful on its own, America's Test Kitchen's cooks came up with a simple and flavorful no-cook relish that uses citrus fruit to cut the fish's richness. Watch the video here for step-by-step instructions and then get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
When pork tenderloin is done right, nothing can match its fine-grained, buttery-smooth texture. But even when it's perfectly cooked, this piece of meat can be sorely lacking in flavor. The cooks at America's Test Kitchen knew that a glaze was the perfect way to enhance this bland cut—but only if you could get it to stick. To ensure their coating stayed put, they used a cornstarch-and-sugar mixture to create a textured crust that could hold the sweet glaze. And to make sure the final veneer was thick enough, they borrowed a technique used by professional painters, applying it layer by layer after the previous one had dried. The result? Moist, tender meat burnished by a thick, flavor-packed maple coating. Watch the video for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
European-style dinner rolls boast an airy crumb and yeasty flavor, but the best part is their crust—so crisp it practically shatters when bitten into, yet chewy enough to offer satisfying resistance. That outside is what keeps these rolls the provenance of professionals, who typically rely on a steam-injected oven to expose the developing crust to moisture. The cooks at America's Test Kitchen wanted to create a reliable recipe that tasted like they came from an artisanal bakery. They found a two-step baking process to mimic a steam-injected oven's effect—and it didn't require any special equipment besides a water spritzer and a cake pan. Watch the video here for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
America's Test Kitchen tested four small teapots with unusual strainers and dispensing mechanisms that promised to make dealing with loose tea mess-free. In each case, they used the same tea and a four-minute steeping time. But they did find one favorite that met all their criteria, brewing good, strong tea and keeping loose leaves in check with its ultra-fine-mesh strainer. Watch the video above for more about these picks, or read the full comparison on America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
Baked ziti is a bad cliché: overcooked pasta in a dull, grainy sauce topped with a rubbery mass of mozzarella. The cooks at America's Test Kitchen wanted to rescue baked ziti so they could have perfectly al dente pasta, a rich and flavorful sauce, and melted cheese in every bite. Watch the video here for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
A few preliminary attempts at making tempura revealed to the folks at America's Test Kitchen why some Japanese chefs devote their entire careers to this one technique. Success hinges almost entirely on the batter—which is maddeningly hard to get right. Among other things, they settled on using the largest shrimp available, since it's easy to overcook small shrimp. Instead of a wok, they substituted a large Dutch oven. For the batter, they replaced a bit of the flour with cornstarch to improve the structure and lightness. For a super tender coating, they used a combination of seltzer and vodka instead of the traditional tap water. To see how they did it, watch the video here and then go visit America's Test Kitchen for the recipe. (Free registration required.)
In a recipe, even a small amount of vanilla can make a big difference. Like salt, vanilla is a powerful "flavor potentiator," which means it enhances our ability to taste other flavors. But does imitation extract work just as well as pure vanilla? To find out, the experts at America's Test Kitchen stirred 12 top-selling brands of vanilla extract—both fake and pure—into milk and pudding before trying a few choices in cake and cookies. In some tests, the choice of vanilla extract made a big difference, but in other recipes testers were stumped. Watch this video to learn when real vanilla really matters, or read the full comparison on America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).
Ever since canned pineapple became widely available in the early 1900s, pineapple and upside-down cake have become practically synonymous. But there was a time when this cake was made with seasonal fruit such as apples. After testing a few recipes, however, it was clear why sweet, juicy pineapple had overshadowed the humble apple. Rather than a luscious topping full of deeply fruity flavor, the apple slices tasted bland and watery. Here, the folks from America's Test Kitchen restore apple-pie order to this upside-down cake. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).