Test Kitchen: Behind the Scenes
Test Kitchen Secrets
Head over to the Daily South for recipes, tips, and ideas from the experts in the Southern Living Test Kitchens.
Test Kitchen, Home Kitchen
Each of four kitchens is set up like a home kitchen so that the cooking conditions mirror that of your home. The appliances and pantry staples are just like that of a typical household. Even the groceries are purchased at ordinary stores. Besides being staffed by Test Kitchen Professionals, it might as well be your next-door neighbor's kitchen.
Did you know? The Test Kitchen used about 15 dozen eggs to test the 2010 Big White Cake recipes.
Every day the staff of writers and cooks gathers at a large rectangular kitchen table. Each person sits in a similar spot as the day before, like at a family dinner. Some days their plates (real china, of course) hold samplings from two or three dishes. Other days the spread of food is so plentiful that a separate plate is necessary for the desserts, and there are enough dishes to make a holiday meal out of "tastes." The staff files through the stations of carefully labeled food and pours glasses of sweet tea or water before they begin to taste and discuss.
Did you know? The Test Kitchen conducts an average of 260 tastings each year and evaluates as many as 20 recipes at a time.
Facing the Scrutiny
At the tasting table, the Test Kitchen Professionals take turns introducing particular dishes before opening up for feedback from their colleagues' well-trained palates. Is the combination of spices right? What about the texture? Is it Southern? Is the preparation process doable for a busy mom on a weeknight? Would my aunt or friend or mother make it?
Did you know? The staff tests about 3,000 recipes each year.
Rating the Recipe
The staff votes on a rating for each recipe after their discussion. A single number sets apart the good from the great: 1, 1+, 2, 2+, or 3—with 1 being the lowest. All recipes that run in the magazine receive at least a 2, and only the very best recipes receive a 3. About 30% of recipes will be tweaked and retested at least once.
Did you know? The staff takes one to two bites to taste test each recipe.
After testing, each recipe is passed to our recipe editors for careful examination. They check each detail against a recipe stylebook, ensure the can and food packaging sizes are consistent with what you'd find at the grocery store, and read and reread the instructions to eliminate any ambiguity. But even that is not the end: The recipe must pass the edits of several more food and copy editors before being cleared for you to try it at home.
Did you know? Test Kitchens Professionals wash their hands an average of 20 times for each recipe they prepare.