America's Test Kitchen

The WORST episodes of America's Test Kitchen

Every episode of America's Test Kitchen ever, ranked from worst to best by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The worst episodes of America's Test Kitchen!

In "America's Test Kitchen From Cook's Illustrated," a team of expert chefs continue to provide viewers with practical recipes and recommendations that they can use to save money, time and effort in the kitchen. With its uniquely scientific flavor, the show uses blind tasting judges, flash animations and laboratory procedures to answer a variety of kitchen questions. Putting everything from pasta and pasta pots, cheese and cheese graters, as well as host Chris Kimball to the test, this series offers surprises that often defy price points and move beyond fancy packaging and brand expectations.

Last Updated: 8/17/2022Network: PBS
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Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin
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#1 - Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Season 5 - Episode 11 - Aired 3/12/2005

We don’t part easily with money, but we will on occasion break the bank and buy a beef tenderloin. The tender, buttery interior is the big draw, and the combination of a healthy dose of seasoning and the flavor from the charcoal grill is a perfect solution to a rather mild-tasting (boring) piece of meat. Recipes - Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin - Salsa Verde - Broiled Asparagus Equipment Corner - Kitchen gadgets

There's a Hole in Your Cake
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#2 - There's a Hole in Your Cake

Season 5 - Episode 24 - Aired 6/11/2005

Cakes baked in Bundt pans and tube pans are popular for a variety of reasons. Recipes - Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake - Angel Food Cake Equipment Corner - Bundt Pans

Deep-Dish Apple Pie
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#3 - Deep-Dish Apple Pie

Season 6 - Episode 23 - Aired 6/10/2006

A demonstration of the absolute best recipe for deep dish apple pie. Creating a pie with a high filling-to-crust ratio poses challenges. Recipes: Deep-Dish Apple Pie Equipment Corner: Rolling Pins Tasting Lab: Premium Butters

Italian Classics
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#4 - Italian Classics

Season 6 - Episode 14 - Aired 4/8/2006

Flavorful recipes bring Italy into the test kitchen. Recipes: Fettuccine Alfredo; Beef Braided in Barolo Tasting Lab: Parmesan Cheese Science Desk: Braising vs. Roasting

Old-Fashioned Birthday Cake
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#5 - Old-Fashioned Birthday Cake

Season 6 - Episode 25 - Aired 6/24/2006

Perfect the ultimate birthday treat with this recipe for classic layer cake. Recipes: Classic White Layer Cake with Butter Frosting and Raspberry-Almond Filling Equipment Corner: Cake Pans Tasting: Raspberry Preserves

German Chocolate Cake
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#6 - German Chocolate Cake

Season 6 - Episode 26 - Aired 7/1/2006

The ATK team creates a German chocolate cake destined to impress. Our less sweet version has a more intense chocolate flavor than most. Recipes: German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Filling Science Corner: Butter Temperature and Baking Tasting: Cocoa Powders

Best Beef Stew
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#7 - Best Beef Stew

Season 7 - Episode 3 - Aired 1/20/2007

Join us as we uncover the secrets behind a favorite beef stew and streamline a hearty side dish. A basic beef stew can be altered in dozens of ways, usually by adding more ingredients to the pot. But can you go the other way and strip beef stew down to its bare bones (or, to be more precise, to its beef)? If you trade the carrots and potatoes for a mess of onions and add a good dose of beer (instead of red wine) as part of the braising liquid, you’ve created a simple Belgian beef stew called carbonnade à la flamande. Beef, beer, and onions have a natural affinity—think burger, onion rings, and a beer. In a carbonnade, the heartiness of beef melds with the soft sweetness of sliced onions in a lightly thickened broth that is rich, deep, and satisfying, with the malty flavor of beer. We aimed to create the very best version of this cold-weather favorite. Sweet acorn squash makes a worthy partner alongside carbonnade or with many other dishes during the cold weather season, but too often this squash turns out dry and stringy. We wanted to devise a method that ensured sweet, tender squash, without a lot of hassle. Recipes: Carbonnade a la Flamande—Belgian Beef, Beer, and Onion Stew Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar Acorn Squash with Rosemary-Dried Fig Compote Tasting Lab: Beer for Carbonnade Equipment Center: Paring Knives—Updated Science Desk: Are All Microwaves Created Equal?

Easy Apple Desserts
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#8 - Easy Apple Desserts

Season 7 - Episode 24 - Aired 6/16/2007

For a not-too-sweet apple dessert, pair a tart apple such as Granny Smith with a sweet apple like Golden Delicious or McIntosh, as we did in Skillet Apple Brown Betty and Easy Apple Strudel. When it comes to apple desserts, apple pie may be the most popular, but it’s also the most involved. When you don’t want to fuss with pie, but you still want that warm and comforting combination of apple and pastry, there are other options. Take apple brown betty—apples, sugar, and buttered bread crumbs. This baked fruit dish is decidedly humble, but delicious nonetheless—especially when served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But this often-overlooked dessert needs a serious makeover—too many versions are a soggy mess with muddied flavors. Classic apple strudel, a European specialty, consists of lightly sweetened apples, raisins, and nuts wrapped in paper-thin pastry. Traditional recipes involve hours of preparation, rolling and pulling the pastry dough until it is so thin you can read a newspaper through it. We reasoned that there must be an easier (and quicker) way. Determined to find out, we set about streamlining this sophisticated dessert, without compromising its flaky texture and sophisticated flavors. Join us as we resurrect one humble apple dessert and streamline another. Recipes: Skillet Apple Brown Betty Skillet Apple Brown Betty with Golden Raisins and Calvados Skillet Apple Brown Betty with Pecans and Dried Cranberries Easy Apple Strudel Tasting Lab: The Scoop on Vanilla Ice Cream—Updated Equipment Center: Pastry Brushes—Updated Science Desk: Overrun and Ice Cream

Lighter Cheesecake
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#9 - Lighter Cheesecake

Season 7 - Episode 26 - Aired 6/30/2007

Join us as we uncover the secrets to low-fat desserts that you'll really want to eat. While a crisp apple or bowl of juicy berries makes an admirable end to a meal, there’s an allure to baked desserts that is hard to resist. But many desserts carry a lot of fat and calories; for most of us, they should be more the occasional indulgence than regular weeknight fare. We wanted to come up with recipes for two classic desserts, carrot cake and cheesecake, that would make them both light enough and good enough to enjoy most any day of the week. Many light carrot cakes look like the real thing, but one bite quickly dispels the notion. Not only dry but also heavy and dense, these cakes may be "light" when it comes to fat and calories but not when it come to texture. We wanted tender cake, sweet and lightly spiced. And we wanted our cake to be slathered in a thick, creamy frosting. The recipes we tested for light cheesecake were no better than the carrot cakes — in fact, they were worse. Most were plagued by a rubbery texture and pasty, Spackle-like consistency. And in place of the lightly sweetened, tangy flavor of a full-fat cheesecake, these lightened cakes were tinged with off, artificial flavors. We would have to do some serious testing to come up with a lightened cheesecake that would pass muster among tasters. Recipes: Light Carrot Cake Light Cream Cheese Frosting Light New York Cheesecake Light Fresh Strawberry Topping Tasting Lab: Coffee--Tasting Supermarket Whole Bean Coffee

Meat and Potatoes for Company
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#10 - Meat and Potatoes for Company

Season 7 - Episode 10 - Aired 3/10/2007

We found a unique way to tame the bite on our pepper-crusted filet mignon. Few main courses are as impressive as filet mignon, but such cachet comes with a hefty price tag. The hallmark of this luxury cut is its buttery, tender texture, but some argue that the beefy flavor is too mild, lacking the oomph of fattier (albeit chewier) cuts like the rib eye. So we aimed to boost the meat’s flavor with a lively peppercorn crust and a rich pan sauce. Peppercorn crusts, however, have their issues. They can be overwhelmingly spicy, masking, rather than enhancing, the flavor of the meat. We’d need to strike just the right balance. Getting the crust to evenly adhere to the meat would be a challenge too. In looking for a potato dish to serve alongside our steak, we quickly settled on the simple, but elegant, potatoes Lyonnaise—sautéed slices of buttery potato sweetened with caramelized strands of onion. But getting this dish just right can be a challenge. Buttery potatoes can easily turn greasy. And caramelizing the onion alongside the potatoes is difficult to do without steaming them. We’d need to find a way to get these two ingredients in sync. When you’re aiming to impress and willing to splurge a bit, you can be confident that these dishes will deliver. Recipes: Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon Port Cherry Reduction Sauce Blue Cheese Chive Butter Potatoes Lyonnaise Tasting Lab: Filet Mignon Equipment Center: Cocktail Shakers Science Desk: Taming Peppercorn Heat

Staying in For Chinese Take-Out
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#11 - Staying in For Chinese Take-Out

Season 7 - Episode 11 - Aired 3/17/2007

Try serving a saucy stir-fry over an Asian-style noodle cake instead of the usual rice. We love a good stir-fry served with rice, but sometimes a change of pace is welcome. A noodle cake, a savory round of tender noodles sautéed in a skillet until the exterior is crisp, is the perfect base for a saucy stir-fry. We’ve enjoyed noodle cakes in restaurants, but never at home. We set out to find the best way to make one. While we were at it, we also aimed to develop a chicken stir-fry with really juicy chicken in a fresh-flavored sauce. Too often, chicken can turn dry and stringy in a stir-fry and no amount of sauce can rescue dry meat. Another Asian classic, also more familiar at the restaurant table than in the average American home kitchen, is hot and sour soup—a spicy, bracing broth filled with pork, tofu, and wisps of egg. But is visiting your local Chinese restaurant the only way to enjoy this soup? We wanted to enjoy this complex-flavored soup at home. But with a host of hard-to-find ingredients and a long simmering time, we had our work cut out for us. We’d need to strategically choose our ingredients and find reasonable substitutions for those that are just too difficult to find at the supermarket. At the same time, we’d need to take a hard look at streamlining the soup’s lengthy preparation. And, we wouldn’t settle for a pale imitation of this heady soup—it would need to stand up to the authentic versions we often crave. Recipes: Stir-Fried Chicken with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake Hot and Sour Soup Equipment Center: The Little Nonstick Saucepan That Could Science Desk: Mysterious Powers of Cornstarch

Strawberry Cream Cake
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#12 - Strawberry Cream Cake

Season 7 - Episode 21 - Aired 5/26/2007

For our Strawberry Cream Cake, we wanted lots of strawberry flavor, a buttery sturdy cake that could stand up to them, and a lush whipped cream filling that would stay put, so even when cut this cake would be a stunner. Looking for a drop-dead gorgeous summer dessert? Look no further than strawberry cream cake—a snazzier, more presentable version of strawberry shortcake. The components are almost identical—juicy strawberries, sweetened whipped cream, and layer cake (in place of biscuits). The cake, cream, and strawberries are layered, chilled, and served in tall wedges. It’s a terrific way to celebrate summer. We wanted to find the ultimate version of this dessert and solve the problems that often plague it. Because the cake, cream, and strawberries are all layered, cutting this cake can be tricky—the whipped cream can squirt out the sides or the strawberries will ooze out. The strawberries pose other problems too—their juices can soggy a cake that’s too delicate. Some recipes get around this pitfall, by using fewer strawberries, but this results in muted fruit flavor. We wanted those strawberries front and center. Recipes: Strawberry Cream Cake Equipment Center: Mix Masters—Standing Mixers—Updated Science Desk: Heavy Cream versus Whipping Cream

Summer Cooking
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#13 - Summer Cooking

Season 7 - Episode 17 - Aired 4/28/2007

We tackle the best way to grill delicate shrimp as well as chicken destined to be served cold for a picnic. Grilling imparts a smoky dimension to foods that is just about impossible to replicate indoors. So it’s no wonder that once the weather turns warm, we’re eager to get our favorites foods like steaks and burgers onto the grill. But delicate foods, such as shrimp, are trickier to cook over the grill’s intense, dry heat. We wanted to find the best way to grill shrimp so that it’s tender, moist, and flavorful, not dry and rubbery. And we wanted to do so without grilling shrimp in their shells. It’s true that the shells act as a protective barrier, but peeling shells at the table is cumbersome and messy, not to mention that with the discarded shells, the flavorful spice rub is also lost. Warm weather isn’t always about cooking outdoors—it’s about eating outdoors too. Cold barbecued chicken is a classic whether you’re planning a picnic or packing for a road trip. But once chilled, the meat can become very dry and the skin, once thin and crisp, can turn tough and flabby. We wanted to solve these problems and turn out moist chicken with spicy flavor and to boot, we wanted to make it easier to eat, so we didn’t have to use a knife and fork or rely on a wad of napkins to wipe our hands of sticky barbecue sauce. Recipes: Charcoal-Grilled Shrimp Skewers Gas-Grilled Shrimp Skewers Spicy Lemon-Garlic Sauce for Shrimp Skewers Fresh Tomato Sauce with Feta and Olives for Grilled Shrimp Skewers Charmoula Sauce for Shrimp Skewers Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken Broiled Shrimp Skewers Tasting Lab: Supermarket Veggie Burgers Lemonade—Updated Equipment Center: Skewers Science Desk: Salting: Better Than Brining?

Sunday Roast Chicken and Stuffing
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#14 - Sunday Roast Chicken and Stuffing

Season 7 - Episode 4 - Aired 1/27/2007

We wanted a streamlined version of roast chicken with plenty of stuffing to go around—and to solve the problem of cooking the stuffing to a safe temperature without drying out the delicate breast meat of the chicken. The idea of roast chicken and stuffing is very appealing—moist, well-seasoned meat and plenty of flavorful stuffing to satisfy everyone at the table. But in reality, a chicken, even one upwards of 5 pounds (serving 4 to 6 people), doesn’t contain a cavity large enough to accommodate the amount of stuffing you’d need to serve everyone at the table. Sure, you can bake the stuffing separately in a baking dish, but you miss out on all the flavorful juices imparted from the chicken. Our aim, therefore, would be to develop a recipe for roast chicken and stuffing where we could somehow still mimic the flavorful benefits of cooking the stuffing inside the bird. A quick sauté of spinach, especially one with garlic and lemon, goes well alongside roast chicken (in addition to many other dishes). But this simple approach can often go wrong—overcooked spinach, burnt garlic, too much oil—the list goes on. We would focus on avoiding these pitfalls to turn out a tasty side dish you can rely on again and again. Recipes: Stuffed Roast Butterflied Chicken Mushroom-Leek Bread Stuffing with Herbs Currant-Pecan Bread Stuffing with Shallots and Herbs Couscous Stuffing with Fennel, Dried Apricots, and Cashews Sauteed Garlic-Lemon Spinach Equipment Center: Kitchen Shears—Update

Indian Favorites, Simplified
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#15 - Indian Favorites, Simplified

Season 8 - Episode 20 - Aired 5/17/2008

We develop home-cook-friendly versions of two Indian favorites: vegetable curry and chicken tikka masala. Recipe: Indian-Style Curry with Potatoes, Cauliflower, Peas, and Chickpeas, Chicken Tikka Masala Taste test: Crushed Tomatoes

Lightening Up Chocolate Desserts
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#16 - Lightening Up Chocolate Desserts

Season 8 - Episode 18 - Aired 5/3/2008

Skipping dessert or eating a piece of fruit is an obvious way to cut calories, but where’s the fun in that? We set our sights on lowering the fat and calories in two favorite chocolate desserts—chocolate mousse and brownies. Recipe: Low-Fat Chocolate Mousse, Fudgy Low-Fat Brownies Taste test: Light Vanilla Ice Cream

Two Ways with Shrimp
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#17 - Two Ways with Shrimp

Season 8 - Episode 24 - Aired 6/14/2008

We explore two elegant approaches to shrimp—one hot dish and one cold—and find the best way to prepare each. Recipe: Garlicky Shrimp with Bread Crumbs, Shrimp Salad Equipment: Kitchen Timers Taste test: Tuna

Texas Chili
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#18 - Texas Chili

Season 3 - Episode 11 - Aired 3/15/2003

The best chili: hearty, heavy on the meat, and spicy.

Grill Roasted Pork Loin
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#19 - Grill Roasted Pork Loin

Season 6 - Episode 19 - Aired 5/13/2006

Lightly dressed French potato salad perfectly complements this smoky roast pork. Recipes: Grill-Roasted Pork; French Potato Salad Equipment Corner: Kitchen Twine Tasting Lab: Dijon Mustard

Summer Fruit Desserts
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#20 - Summer Fruit Desserts

Season 6 - Episode 22 - Aired 6/3/2006

Free-form fruit tart and blueberry cobbler, both easier than pie. Recipes: Free-Form Summer Fruit Tarts; Blueberry Cobbler Equipment Corner: Food Processors Science Desk: Science Behind Great Pie Crust

Grilled Rack of Lamb Dinner
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#21 - Grilled Rack of Lamb Dinner

Season 9 - Episode 21 - Aired 5/23/2009

At $20 a pound, rack of lamb had better be good. We show you how to make the most of this prime piece of meat, and reveal a foolproof version of the French casserole Vegetable Gratin. Recipes - Gas-Grilled Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Herbs Summer Vegetable Gratin - Charcoal-Grilled Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Herbs - Summer Vegetable Gratin with Roasted Peppers and Smoked Mozzarella Equipment Center - Broiler-Safe Gratin Dishes

French Country Cooking
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#22 - French Country Cooking

Season 9 - Episode 25 - Aired 6/20/2009

With our flavorful beef stew, we translate the bold, robust flavors of Provence to the home kitchen. And as a finale, we balance the richness of the stew with our light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth meringues. Recipes - Meringue Cookies - Daube Provencal - Orange Meringue Cookies - Chocolate Meringue Cookies - Toasted Almond Meringue Cookies Equipment Center - Pastry Bags Science Desk - Twin Stabilizers—Sugar and Cornstarch

Breakfast Baking
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#23 - Breakfast Baking

Season 22 - Episode 20 - Aired 6/25/2022

Hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison make foolproof Yeasted Doughnuts. Testing expert Jack Bishop challenges Bridget and Julia to a vegan chocolate ice-cream tasting. Test cook Becky Hays makes Bridget classic Banana Muffins with Coconut and Macadamia.

Summertime Supper Fare
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#24 - Summertime Supper Fare

Season 11 - Episode 24 - Aired 6/11/2011

We reveal the keys to two grilled dishes: Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Fontina, which has a stuffing that stays put inside moist and smoky chicken, and Grilled Tuna Steaks, which have hot exteriors and cool centers. Charcoal-Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Fontina Taking a stuffed chicken breast recipe and adding the smoky flavor of the grill sounds like a good idea—if you can get past the leathery exterior and oozing, flammable filling. Charcoal-Grilled Tuna Steaks with Red Wine Vinegar and Mustard Vinaigrette Ideally, grilled tuna should combine a hot, smoky, charred exterior with a cool, rare, sashimi-like center. So how do you make fish that’s both very hot and very cool? The Best Summer Gadgets Here are some of our favorite gadgets to keep you cool on hot summer days.

Summertime Supper
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#25 - Summertime Supper

Season 12 - Episode 25 - Aired 6/23/2012

A foolproof cooking method ensures that our Grilled Stuffed Pork Tenderloin stays tender and moist, while a rich-tasting filling gives the mild cut big flavor. Our Lighter Corn Chowder, which actually tastes like crisp, sweet corn, rounds out the meal.

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