Test Kitchen Approved!
Our recipes come from home cooks—not gourmet chefs—and feature familiar ingredients, beautiful photos and easy-to-follow instructions. So how does a recipe get the Taste of Home stamp of approval? It all happens in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen.
Home cooks send us their favorite recipes.
It's true! Real home cooks are the ideal recipe resource because their favorite recipes have already passed two critical tests: The recipes can be made successfully at home, and family and friends request them over and over again.
We receive about 10,000 recipes per year and publish about 2,000 to use in our digital and print products. Sorting through all of these recipes is a big job. For just one recipe contest, our food editors sift through hundreds of entries to find the best ones to share with you.
When choosing recipes to test, our food editors look for:
- Mass appeal
- Familiar ingredients that can be found in most markets
- Easy to make at home
- A heartwarming story about when it is served or how it came to be
- An interesting twist on a classic
- An unexpected way to use an ingredient
- A visually attractive presentation
We test our recipes so they'll work.
Our culinary team prepares recipes to make sure the ingredient amounts, yields, equipment, temperature and method are correct. If something doesn't work or could work better, they make adjustments so you can re-create the recipes at home.
The Test Kitchen staff includes:
- 3 prep cooks to prep the ingredients
- 3 test cooks to prepare and present the recipes
- 1 culinary assistant to keep the pantry stocked
Our test cooks know their stuff. They come from professional culinary backgrounds, with specialties ranging from pastry to food science. They are expert problem-solvers and make adjustments while keeping the integrity of the original reader recipes intact.
The culinary assistant averages 200 grocery trips per year to about 20 different local vendors! Every year, the culinary team uses:
- 450 lbs. of butter
- 600 lbs. of flour
- 300 lbs. of sugar
- 200 lbs. of cream cheese
- 100 lbs. of chocolate chips
The Test Kitchen is stocked with 20 stand mixers, 22 ovens, 10 stovetop ranges, over 350 different sizes and shapes of cookie cutters, and over 5,000 small appliances and prep tools on hand.
The culinary team is also a resource for new cooking methods, tips and advice. They often lead Test Kitchen University (TKU) classes for our editors and Facebook fans on various food-related topics. Here, Lauren and Nick show us how to grill pizza:
The culinary team regularly hosts informational tours and Q&A sessions for local culinary arts students. They make media appearances on local radio and TV stations, too.
We taste the recipes to make sure they're good.
The tasting panel meets twice a day to sample and evaluate tested recipes. They sample between 6-10 recipes per day, usually in one- or two-bite portions. Then they evaluate the recipes using the following criteria:
- Flavor. Does it taste good? Are the flavors balanced? Does it need more or less seasoning?
- Appearance. Does it look appetizing? Does it need a garnish for added color? What can be done to make it look better?
- Texture. Is everything cooked properly? Is anything over- or undercooked? Is the dish too crunchy/soft, etc.?
- Method. How difficult is it to prepare? Can it be simplified?
- Brand. Is this a recipe we think readers would like? It is delivering the most bang for the buck? Are the ingredients easily found?
As you can imagine, our test cooks are patient listeners. If you've ever had a panel of tasters (or a crew of family members) critiquing a recipe you made, you understand!
We publish recipes that real people can make, so we like to include home cooks in our tastings. On any given day, you might see a busy mom or weekend grill warrior from our accounting, IT or editorial department contributing as a guest taster. And we take their feedback very seriously. Some observations from our "real cook" tasters:
- "Everyone is encouraged to share honest opinions. We are respectful of the reader submission and experience, making every effort to remain faithful to what the reader submitted. Tastings are fun. We ask lots of questions of the test cooks, who walk us through exactly what they did and any tweaks they may have made." —Deb Mulvey, Copy Chief, guest taste tester and busy mom
- "They really look at everything from the reader's perspective and not just 'does the recipe taste good or not.' Can it be frozen? How would it be reheated? Is it easy to cut? There is a lot more discussed than just taste." —Ashley Knoebel, Senior Analyst, guest taste tester and busy mom
Sometimes the panel decides a recipe needs to be retested, so the food editors and test cooks tweak it and send it through the testing and tasting process again. The recipes that make the cut move on to final editing, photography and publication.
We review the recipes to make sure they are clear and accurate.
Recipe editors ensure our readers' recipes are in the best condition for testing, photography and publication. They preserve the character of the original reader recipe and ensure that the instructions are accurate, clear, consistent and food-safe, and follow proper food science techniques. You'll always be able to recognize a Taste of Home recipe by its clear organization and easy-to-follow directions!
We make sure it's picture-perfect.
We know the visual appeal of food can be as important as taste, so after a recipe makes the cut, we take a photo of it. Each photography team includes a photographer, an art director, a set/prop stylist and a food stylist. The photo teams shoot about 4,000 gorgeous images per year for print and digital products.
Shooting each recipe takes about 90 minutes and involves:
- Setting up the surface, background and props
- Lighting the set
- Preparing the recipe
- Making adjustments
- Capturing final images
And check this out: There are 50,000+ props in the photo studio prop room!
A Taste of Home recipe lives an exciting life.
After we test and photograph a recipe, it may appear:
- On our website
- In Taste of Home or Simple & Delicious magazine
- In a cookbook
- In a Taste of Home special interest publication
- In a Taste of Home Live event
- In one of our newsletters
- On Facebook
- On Pinterest
- On Instagram
We like to keep it fun, so we hold a lot of recipe contests. Winners receive cash prizes, free products and Grand Prize bragging rights. Because of its taste, appeal and overall "wow" factor, Sue Gronholz's Contest-Winning Neapolitan Cheesecake recipe took home a $25,000 prize. And the next winner could be you!
Send us your favorite recipes today.
Submit your recipe to the Taste of Home Test Kitchen. Our editors want to see your recipes! For a chance to see your name in print in our magazines or books, click here to see the recipes we're looking for. And check back often—the categories are changing all the time. Submit your recipe now.
Enter your recipe in a contest. Submit your best dish into one of our current recipe contests for a chance to win big prizes and a featured spot in a Taste of Home publication. See all current recipe contests.