Monday, August 29, 2011

Cooking Light Tasting Sessions: What Goes On?

Thorough testing of recipes is a "must" towards ensuring the reliability of recipes published in a cookbook,on a web site, or in a magazine. The following was a post describing the tasting process at Cooking Light:

A Guide to Taste Testing at Cooking Light

Taste-testing is a daily working session in which we analyze and rate dishes for publication in Cooking Light. Here is the method, and what you can expect:

1) The TK staffer responsible for the recipe summarizes the ingredients and procedure (see "Procedures" below for criteria).
2) The recipe is discussed.
3) All participants then rate the recipe on a scale of:

3 = Superior in all aspects
2+ = A high-quality recipe
2 = A very good recipe overall
1+ = A good recipe overall
1 = A simple recipe that is sometimes just okay
Retest = Recipe with a chance of passing, but needs adjustment in
flavors, procedure, yields
Fail = Poor procedure, bad taste, unacceptable appearance,
misfit for CL.

Criteria for Taste Testing

These are the items that taste testing participants evaluate before rating a recipe with one of the above values:

1. Appearance - is the food appetizing.
2. Taste/flavor
3. Texture
4. Ease of Preparation
5. Number of Ingredients
6. Accessibility of Ingredients
7. Creativity
8. Realism (Would you make this at home?)
9. Wow factor (Would you tell friends about it?)
10. Worth (Is the end product worth the effort, time, and cost?)
11. Repeatability (Can you get the same results time after time?)
12. Context (How good is it for what it is?)
13 Amount of equipment used and how it affects clean-up time.

Here is what the Foods staff is looking for or discussing during taste-testing:

1) The Recipe Summary
- The responsibility of identifying and relating pertinent and/or questionable parts of a recipe rests on the TK staff either during testing, taste testing, or meeting with the food editors afterwards.
- Standardized procedures facilitate testing, taste testing, editing and the reader success.
- Talking through funky procedures allows them to be addressed and streamlined.
- Preparation time is relevant when: First because of AOL, and the end product is not worth the effort; every recipe in the story takes so long or is so involved that raders might not prepare them; or if the recipe is in Dinner Tonight and Superfast.
- Ingredient amounts and procedures are important in how they affect the end product.
2. Yields
- The serving size and the yields must equal for correct nutritional info at the end of the recipe.
- Must discuss how to juggle ingredients or procedures to fit yield.
3. Ingredients
- Ingredients should be discussed when national availability is questionable, the cost of the ingredient or several in the recipe are expensive, the amount of sodium and/or fat may be too high or need to be decreased, the ingredient is not what we usually call for, or to identify ingredients that may need to fall in the Glossary.

The Participants
Anyone is welcome to attend taste-testing. The TK Director sends a Group Page alert to those who normally participate. There are some things to keep in mind:
1) This is business that is central to the magazine's identity. It is not social hour; though not a drudgery either.
2) Arrive as quickly as possible after being alerted; please don't expect a well-balanced meal.
3) Help us stay focused on the recipe at hand; whispered conversations are very distracting.
4) The majority rules on whether a recipe passes or fails.
5) Everyone should rate the recipes.
6) Diversity of opinion is welcome and expected. So is working together amicably.

No comments: