Testing Recipes in the Saveur Test Kitchen

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

SubZero Wolf
One of the first things we do when testing recipes is set up our stations. Recipe testing is super precise, and we have to make sure we have all our tools ready to go when we start. We always have measuring cups and spoons, a digital scale, tasting spoons, a whisk and spatula, and a timer. We time everything! It's all about precision. I also love the Boos cutting boards. Not only are they gorgeous, but they are fairly large, so we can put a lot of our mise en place right there on our station and still be chopping away.Matt Taylor-Gross

You open up your SAVEUR magazine, or scroll through our website, and see a recipe. We in the kitchen see the hours and hours of testing that goes into each one.

Yes, we test every single recipe that goes into the print magazine and onto the website, multiple times. (Even the homemade Hot Fries). We work with measuring cups and scales and record how much recipes yield and at what minute the onions turn from translucent to brown. Every single thing is noted down in a red Sharpie. Then our editor-in-chief, Adam Sachs, food editor Ben Mims, and other members of the editorial team come in to taste and give feedback. (Tough life, those editors.) We take pictures to see how each dish might best be photographed. We take notes: this is too salty; that is too chewy; that sauce should be thicker. Then we keep testing, again and again and again, until the recipe comes out perfect.

Our goal is that the recipes we are giving you work and that you are able to achieve the same results at home in your own kitchen. If you cook one of our recipes and they don’t turn out successfully, then we are not succeeding at our jobs.

Below is a recipe I give our recipe testers when they first start so that they can see what we are looking for.

Go through this worksheet, and you’ll never look at a recipe the same again:

SAMPLE TEST RECIPE

GREEK LASAGNA (PASTITSIO)

(authentic/regional name usually in parentheses)

Hednote: (Any notes regarding the recipe ingredients or process, usually provided by the editor or author)
Serves: 10–12 (Note the yield of each recipe, including volume/weight measurements (ex. 3 cups/1 ½ lbs.), dish size if applicable (ex. 13"x9" pan), and number of pieces (ex. 8 rolls))

Ingredients

For the Meat Sauce

1/3 cup olive oil (note the volume by oz.)
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and minced (note the weight by oz.; how many cups minced?)
2 medium yellow onions, minced (how many oz.? how many cups?)
1 lb. ground beef, veal, or pork (note the proportions of meats used in oz.)
3 oz. dry-cured chorizo, minced (what size was the 3 oz. piece? how many cups?)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (from what size can? How many oz.?)
1⁄3 cup red wine (volume by oz.?)
1⁄4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 fresh or dried bay leaves (did you use fresh or dried?)
1 2" cinnamon stick (how much does it weigh?)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (how much did you use?)

For the Béchamel and Pasta

8 tbsp. unsalted butter (how many oz?)
1 cup flour (how many oz.?)
4 cups milk (volume by oz.?)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (how many oz.?)
3 eggs, separated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 lb. No. 2 Greek macaroni, bucatini, or elbow macaroni
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (volume by oz.?)

Instructions

  1. Make the meat sauce: Heat oil in a (what size by inch? is it non-stick? ex. 12") skillet over (what level? ex. medium-high) heat. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, (how many? ex. 8–10) minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer onion mixture to a plate and set aside. Add ground meat and chorizo to skillet and cook, breaking meat up into (what size? ex. "tiny pieces"), until browned, (how many?) minutes. Add reserved onion mixture, along with tomatoes, wine, chile flakes, bay leaves, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, (are you stirring? how frequently? ex. "stirring often"), until sauce thickens, about (how many?) minutes. Remove sauce from heat, discard bay leaves and cinnamon, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; let cool. (how many cups of sauce does the recipe make? how many oz.?)

  2. Make the béchamel: Heat butter in a (what size by qt.? ex. 4-qt.) saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and slightly toasted, (how many?) minutes. Add milk; cook, whisking often, until sauce coats the back of a spoon, (how many?) minutes. Remove from heat, add 3⁄4 cup cheese and egg yolks; season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until smooth; set aside. (how many cups of béchamel does the recipe make? how many oz.?)

  3. Heat oven to (what temperature? ex. 350°). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook halfway through, about (how many?) minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg whites in a large bowl until frothy (how long?). Stir in remaining cheese; drain pasta in a colander and then toss with egg white–cheese mixture to coat evenly. Set aside.

  4. Grease a deep (what size? ex. 9"x13") baking dish with olive oil. Place half the pasta mixture (how many cups?) on bottom of dish and cover evenly with meat sauce. Top with remaining pasta mixture. Pour béchamel over pasta, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until the top is golden brown, about (how many minutes/hours? ex. 1 hour). Transfer to wire rack; cool (how long? ex. 20 minutes) minutes before serving.