Recently I toured the Good Housekeeping Research Institute – the product testing arm of Good Housekeeping magazine. Good Housekeeping issues a limited warranty for products that have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal. It was fascinating to see how the different test labs are set up to evaluate all sorts of products – ranging from plastic food storage containers to bathing suits to televisions to vacuum cleaners to anti-aging facial cleansers.
Of course, the area near and dear to my heart is the Test Kitchen, also known as the Food Department. Among other responsibilities, the Food Department develops all the recipes that are in each issue of Good Housekeeping. Recipes are tested multiple times – at least three – and they’re tested using gas ovens as well as electric ovens, and are also tested using different brands of appliances and cookware. But the equipment used is what Good Housekeeping readers are likely to have in their homes – not commercial grade apparatus. The Test Kitchen staff also creates and tests recipes for Good Housekeeping cookbooks. Each recipe takes months to plan, test, and tweak.
There can be surprises. In response to a recipe contest, “My mom makes the best _____________” readers submitted their treasured recipes. The Food Department baked a cake from one of these submissions and the cake that emerged was unusually heavy. Apparently there wasn’t enough sugar in the recipe, and that accounted for the heaviness of the cake.
According to the web site, in a typical month, the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen buys $2,241 worth of groceries, conducts 142 taste tests, and washes 6,481 dishes.
An interesting tidbit from the web site: The Food Department staff keeps their weight off, not by spitting out the food, but by “eating strategically.” They only taste a few bites of a dish and if they will be tasting desserts, they’ll skip lunch.
After I completed the tour, I wondered: Do all magazine and cookbook publishers perform such rigorous recipe tests? If so, why do so many recipes not turn out quite the way I think they should? Before, it was so much easier to blame the recipe. Now I may need to blame the baker/cook (me!).