Take a behind-the-scenes look at the test kitchens.

August 15, 2008

Every Tuesday through Friday, members of Cooking Light's editorial team assemble in our kitchens torate the recipes tested that day. Food editors and test kitchensstaff are always present; other tasters may include members of thecopy desk, art, food styling, and photo departments. Such a broadmix of palates guarantees lively -- and often passionate --discussion about a dish.

All told, we test more than 4,000 recipes a year. To do that, weuse a simple yet rigorous system: Some dishes simply fail, whilethose that pass receive a numerical rating: 1 is defined as an OKrecipe; 1+ is good overall; 2 is very good overall; 2+ is ahigh-quality recipe; and 3 is superior in all aspects.

"The majority of recipes in the magazine are rated 1+ orhigher," says Test Kitchens Director Vanessa Johnson. "We don'tpublish many 1s because they're usually reworked until they get ahigher rating."

Still, we're a demanding crew and 3s are rare. In 2001, Cooking Light published just 11 recipes that gained ourhighest rating.

A Three Is Born
Three is a small number, a humble number. But at CookingLight, it's also a magic number. Here, a rating of "3" means arecipe is the best it can be--killer, incredible, a wow kind ofdish.

There are many indications that a recipe deserves a 3, one ofwhich is that there's not much left by the time taste testingstarts around noon. The first of each day's recipes begin to appearat 7 a.m., so when one of them is outstanding, it's usually nibbledon all morning, leaving just enough for the group to sample.

Cooking Light staffers say they also ask themselves avariety of questions about each dish they taste:

How could you make this better?

If I had this at a restaurant, would I think it was superb?

Would I make this tonight? Would I make it again and again?

Is it better than other versions of the dish I've had?

Can you tell it's light?

Will I tell all my friends to make this?

Would I be proud to serve this to guests?

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