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1960s Throwback: Words of Wisdom from the Test Kitchen

The smart tips and tricks and tasty recipes you find in the Better Homes & Gardens magazine are sure to please. That's because they've been tried and rigorously tested in the Test Kitchen. Today's Test Kitchen staff remains busier than ever, churning out delicious dining ideas and quick and simple kitchen hacks. While tastes have changed over the decades, many of the timeless tips and tasty treats from the Test Kitchen are chock-full of wisdom that's still valuable to today's cooks. We've sorted through the archives to bring you nothing but classic tips from the grooviest decade—the 1960s.

Reading Recipes Like a Pro

It's possible that some of the experts in the Test Kitchen circa 1967 may have donned currently outmoded miniskirts and love beads. But some things never change. Their common sense advice is still in fashion more than 50 years later. From the most basic tips, to the insider insight necessary to prepare a stunning spread for a dinner party, the Test Kitchen was (and is!) the go-to source for reliable guidance.

Let's begin with the basics. The April 1967 issue of Better Homes & Gardens featured a primer on how to read a recipe. Inquiring, "Ever find yourself perplexed by a recipe term?", the article assured readers that even the most experienced cooks are baffled at times. For instance, do you know the finer points of how finely you should cut ingredients?

Chop, dice, and mince are similar terms, yet there is a distinction. To chop, you'll cut food in pieces about the size of peas. Diced food is cut in small cubes of uniform shape and size. Minced means very finely chopped. (Better Homes & Gardens, "How Do You Read A Recipe?" April 1967)

What about grated and shredded? A grated lemon or orange peel means fine particles, while a shredded peel means small, long, narrow pieces. Pro tip: A grated peel gives more flavor to food, but a shredded peel makes a prettier garnish.

Mastering Smaller Batch Recipes

The Test Kitchen kept up with changing times by helping cooks adapt to new realities. With the Baby Boom in the rearview mirror, by the end of the decade families were getting smaller. Recipes that could feed a large crew weren't always practical—a situation that's even more relevant today.

"Cooking for 2 to 8," from the February 1969 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, broke down its scrumptious recipes into portions for two, four, six, and eight diners.

Unless you're one to batch cook and freeze the leftovers, you probably wouldn't want to make an entire pork roast for two. So the Cherry-Almond Glazed Pork recipe offered the flexibility to make pork chops for fewer diners and a pork roast for a larger number of guests.

For Roast Chicken with Tomato Rice Stuffing, the six-to-eight-person recipe called for stuffing and roasting two whole chickens. For the two-to-four version, the recipe simplified things by moving the stuffing to the outside and baking it in a casserole with chicken pieces on top.

Just one month later, the Test Kitchen offered still more relevant tips in "Cooking For Just Two?" Read some of their tips below:

—Acquire small-size cooking utensils like a 6- or 8-inch skillet and a 1- or 1.5-quart saucepan (Pro tip: Large cookware is almost always easier to work with. If you have the storage space, err on the larger side with a 10-inch skillet or 2-quart saucepan, even with households for two people.)

—Cut recipe ingredient amounts in half

—If measurements don't divide easily, make the full recipe and freeze half of the dish

—Stay creative and don't avoid special sauces and pretty garnishes just because you're only cooking for two

—Have fun!


The Best of the Best Recipes

Ultimately, the most important tips from the Test Kitchen come in the form of the recipes—those dishes special enough to appear in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens. The March 1968 issue went one better by featuring the absolute favorites that received the most enthusiastic approval at the Test Kitchen's Taste Table.

The dishes featured in "Fourteen of our own favorite recipes" are so extraordinary in taste, ease of preparation, and appearance that they will remain just as popular with the special people you cook for today.

Turn back the pages to this issue and you can host an authentic '60s-theme dinner party, or simply add some classic tastes to your current repertoire.

A few of our favorites among the favorites:

—The Crab Supper Pie puts a tasty twist on traditional Quiche Lorraine.

—Foreshadowing the explosion of coffee-flavored recipes, Coffee Ice Cream Éclairs stand out thanks to a bold-flavored, pecan-studded sauce.

Tri-level Brownies add layers of taste to the typical brownie recipe. While they sound elaborate to prepare, they are actually easy to make.

Grasshopper Cake takes a little more effort, but it's definitely worth it. "Richly chocolate, but cloud-light" layers of mint and chocolate made Grasshopper Cake a '60s favorite that definitely deserves a comeback.

—A dressing made with a host of savory flavors (beef-flavored gravy, mayonnaise, garlic, curry powder, Worcestershire sauce, and hot pepper sauce) makes for a memorable Curry Salad.

—One of the many popular beef dishes (Beef Burgundy, Beef Wellington, etc.) of the decade, Steak Diane was a sensation in fancy restaurants. You can enjoy this delicious entrée (the secret is dry mustard) in the comfort of your own home with help from the Test Kitchen. Pro tip: Serve this meal with blue cheese-bacon potatoes to jazz up the standard baked potato side dish.