In a turn of events no doubt shocking to the rabid fans of Amanda Hesser’s cooking community website Food52, Cook’s Illustrated has defeated Hesser and co. in their online battle for recipe-development superiority. The Slate-hosted showdown pitted each contestant’s best recipes for pork shoulder and sugar cookies against one another, and despite Cook’s flash tactics when it came to spicing and saucing, the tide of popular opinion ultimately went in their favor. Just barely, though: Food52 tweets that they were down by only five votes in the pork category, and a scant two for the cookies.
The official results haven’t been released (they’ll show up on Slate soon enough), but that’s a slim enough margin that we’re unwilling to call it a clear-cut victory — and it’s certainly not enough to prove Cook’s honcho Christopher Kimball’s contention that, all things being equal, "only a professional test kitchen with substantial resources, strict testing protocol, and lots of time can develop the very ‘best’ recipes." Maybe if the two contenders had in fact been developing the same exact recipe — rather than what wound up being variations on very broad themes — we could draw some kind of grand conclusions about rigorous experimentation versus the wisdom of crowds, or even print versus online food publications. But considering the methodological inconsistency of the whole endeavor, we’re just inclined to call it a little bit of democratically decided frenemy warfare.