America’s Test Kitchen

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Inside America’s Test Kitchen

Honey. Preserved fruit. A bit of chalk.  No, it was not lunchtime at the schoolhouse, but it was late afternoon, through an unmarked door, and into the depths of a culinary powerhouse: America’s Test Kitchen. Recently the Food Literacy Project took a trip to America’s Test Kitchen, where they shoot the popular public television cooking show of the same name, as well as produce the popular cooking magazine, Cooks Illustrated. And one of the fascinating things we took part in there evoked just though mysterious words above… a chocolate tasting.

When was the last time you really tasted your food, as in, really tasted it? I thought I always did, but try out this experiment for size and the results may surprise you. Three unmarked boxes of chocolate chunks each from different commercial suppliers (A, B, and C), taste them each in turn and note their difference, their similarity, your impression, your preference.

Sample evaluation chart

We were instructed to spend some time with each sample: let the chocolate melt in our mouths, consider the after tastes. We cleansed our palates with dry crackers in between samples. The taste test was exacting; responses to each question were on a scale of 1-10.

But the open-ended question was hardest of all. What notes underlie the distinctively chocolatey taste? Perhaps there’s more salt in A? B in comparison to C suddenly seems dry and brittle. By the third chunk of C you put a name to that familiar flavor, something bitter—coffee! I dare to say this is the time of experiment that would be great for a small get together and stir-up lively conversation: try it! Great food with great people.

When America’s Test Kitchen holds their tastings, they include one control. In an America’s Test Kitchen taste test, one of the samples is present twice. That way, the taste testers can test their tasting  by identifying which sample occurs more than once. Some taste testers, the tour guide told us, take great pride in their ability to identify the control.

You don’t even have to limit it to a chocolate tasting. America’s Test Kitchen does this with their staff with all sorts of products to give recommendations of the best cooking products out there. Perhaps don’t go so far as their fish sauce tasting (one of the worst, someone insisted), but coffee, tea, even three different chocolate chip cookie recipes would be delicious and fun! (Here’s a list of some of the taste tests that America’s Test Kitchen has held).

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Wedge Salad Tasting at America’s Test Kitchen

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Library of [food] Awesome !

~Natalie Padilla (Lowell FLP Rep)

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