Not Martha

Visiting America’s Test Kitchen

I was in Boston recently and got a chance to tour the offices of America’s Test Kitchen. It was utterly thrilling! At the time we visited most of the staff were up in Vermont filming episodes of Cook’s Country so the upshot was that instead of feeling hopelessly in the way my group got a chance to have a nice look around. Huge thanks to Steph for arranging and giving us the tour, it was an excellent way to start our trip.

Thanks to Busywork, A and Scott for cheerfully joining me. Especially considering for some of us it was hideously early in the day and for others it was well past lunchtime.

We got to peek at their library of cookbooks and recipe related publications and learned that they have their own classification system. And they do have a full set of Modernist Cooking which I was too afraid to touch without gloves. (This being the second time I was too timid to grab these books makes me all that much more likely to carry my own cotton and/or latex gloves just in case I should encounter the set again.) We also got a brief look into their photo studio which is actually a corner room that gets fantastic light. Their room was full of bounces, which makes a northern-dweller like me feel better about what lengths I’ll to through to get a half way decent photo on dim days.

The offices and studio are in an old building and space is limited so shelves holding cookware are everywhere. Everything is organized and labeled and I desperately envy their collection of All-Clad. Know what? They do use paper plates to separate frying pans and plates when they are stored, just like the tip in the magazines.

They have two kitchens, the larger one you see during the show and a smaller one where recipes are developed. They have walls of ovens and Kitchenaid mixers and storerooms full of the recommended appliances, which they keep for two years in case they need to do some follow up testing with them.

They use gas stoves for recipe development but somewhere, hidden under a countertop, is an electric stove that they test all recipes on to make sure people with electric stoves (including myself) will have the same results.

The show is underwritten by certain brands so they are unable to test and recommend those brands’s products. On the other side they cannot accept underwriting from companies whose products they test and will potentially recommend, which is why you won’t see underwriting from cookware brands you might know and love yourself. They purchase all the equipment they test and never accept freebies.

The larger kitchen looks just like you see on the show but overhead are lights and cords, and when they are filming cameras and sound equipment are crammed all around one counter.

When you see people working in the background of filmed segments they really are cooking, but are doing so more slowly and quietly they they would normally. If they need activity to fill in the background beyond what would normally be going on, we were told, you can often see interns making batches upon batches of cookies.

One of the most delightful things we learned was that all their grilling is done in the alley outside the building. They test things on multiple grills (and we saw at least 20 grills while we were there) so if anything is being slow cooked or smoked there will always be somebody out there.

If you turn around you are looking at a few parking spaces which is where they film back yard segments. This is why they thank their neighbors at the end of each episode. They also send over cookies, which have got to be the very best thank you cookies ever. Gosh I wish I was their neighbors.

One of the most popular places to be at the end of the working day is peeking inside the leftovers fridge where all the food made that day is portioned and available to be taken home by employees. (Curse our 10 a.m. visiting time.)

This oven right here is the one you see Bridget using in the show. Which: Eeeee! I have seen so many perfectly finished things emerging from this oven.

The Wall of Awesome is updated each week with the good stuff people blog and tweet about. This photo was taken really early in the week and I can only imagine what it looks like by Friday. I have to admit I was inspired to know that the people there (who work six or more months in advance) could see the ecstatic results of what they do as they speed past on their way to making cranberry sauce in, say, June. So, cheers to America’s Test Kitchen! I’m amazed at how much quality you pack into such a small space. Here is to many more years of the test kitchen on public television!

· comments [26] · 10-9-2012 · categories:travel ·

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cindy deRosier // Oct 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Wow. So cool! I love America’s Test Kitchen.

  • 2 Kristin A. // Oct 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    NO WAY!!!!!! I am so INCREDIBLY jealous!! How fun!!

  • 3 jamieofalltrades // Oct 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Amazing. That’s so cool!

  • 4 Sara // Oct 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    SO JEALOUS! Thanks for all the inside info.

  • 5 Little Big // Oct 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I am so thrilled you got to take a tour and I’m even more thrilled you shared it here!

  • 6 Mariana // Oct 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Oh my goodness, I would do anything to go there! I love America’s Test Kitchen. It’s probably the best quality and most helpful cooking show on TV!

  • 7 Ellen // Oct 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    So very cool. My daughter’s very good friend is currently interning there – I was scouring your pictures for a glimpse of her :)

  • 8 Julie. // Oct 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    HOW COOL!! wow! Thanks for the pics and the mini tour!

  • 9 Michelle // Oct 9, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    This would be a DREAM visit! Thanks for giving us the tour!

  • 10 Emily // Oct 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    About the All-Clad…

    If you ever have the chance to be in Pittsburgh in June or December, the All-Clad factory holds a GIANT clearance sale! I think my stock pot was around $60 and a saute pan was $90.

  • 11 megan // Oct 9, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    It was amazing to get to see inside! I wish I’d packed my bigger camera for the trip as the pictures didn’t come out well. It was really a remarkably small place, I’m amazed at how much they get done in a year!

  • 12 Libby // Oct 10, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I want to go to there.

  • 13 Catherine // Oct 10, 2012 at 7:24 am

    As a foodie this has got to be one of my favorite posts of yours! Thanks for so many pictures.

  • 14 Tina // Oct 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

    “Here is to many more years of the test kitchen on public television!” – Or maybe not…. is it possible Romney has other plans for America’s Test Kitchen as well as Big Bird!?! Please tell me that’s not going to happen!

    Thanks for sharing the details of your visit – I love ATK and loved seeing the behind the scene details of your visit.

  • 15 pam // Oct 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

    you lucky duck… so jealous! but also grateful to get to live vicariously through you!

  • 16 Jan // Oct 10, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Love America’s Test Kitchen! Every one of their recipes I have ever tried has turned out perfect. One of these days, maybe I will get to go on that tour. Until then, thanks for the virtual tour.

  • 17 Mags // Oct 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    What everyone else said — love the show, love the magazine, love the cookbooks, LOVE that you got to visit! Sigh. Someday I’ll see those double ovens for myself…

  • 18 Kat // Oct 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Yay thanks for posting, I love ATK!

  • 19 Nella // Oct 11, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I tweeted something to Chris. I wonder if it made the wall of awesome?

  • 20 Sally Anderson // Oct 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks so much for this. It must have been really fun to go there. We’re big fans of Chris & crew and I’d have loved this tour.

  • 21 Erin // Oct 15, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Great “tour” of the Test Kitchen! I had the chance to go there a few years ago for a cookbook sale/signing and I loved it! Very glad that you included a picture of their library – drool!! To my knowledge they no longer do the signings there :(

  • 22 Tanya @ Lovely Greens // Oct 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    What a fun tour! It’s amazing to see something you’re so familiar with but from a completely different perspective.

    I’m not so sure I’d like to be their neighbours though…sure all the cookies would be great but just think of all that bbq smoke wafting in from twenty grills!

  • 23 Scott Bohner // Oct 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Such a huge fan, I’m sure my sister is just above. Almost enough to move to Vermont or, dare I say, Massachusetts.

  • 24 Ellen // Oct 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    So fun – thanks for sharing this tour! Oh, and we are so gonna steal the “wall of awesome” for the Helliemae’s factory…

  • 25 wella // Oct 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I’ve never seen the TV show. I don’t even know how to cook. But your photos and captions told me everything I needed to know. I really enjoyed this post. The photos were particularly well selected. Glad you were able to do the tour when no one was there, even if it meant no food pictures. :) Keep up the good work!

  • 26 KJ // Oct 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    So. Jealous. OMG!

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