Season 17, Episode 16 Recap: How to Make Better Oatmeal Cookies

Plus, Lisa McManus reviews pie carriers, Adam Ried talks mini prep bowls, and Elle Simone makes pecan bars.

Published Apr. 24, 2017.

This episode of America’s Test Kitchen opens with hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison talking about oatmeal cookies (and how they’re usually not all that great). “When most people make oatmeal cookies, they just use the recipe on the back of the cannister,” says Bridget. “That’s right, because if anyone should know how to make a great oatmeal cookie, it’s the folks who make the oats,” replies Julia. Unfortunately, both agree, most oatmeal cookie recipes yield cookies that are more cakey than chewy. So Julia and Bridget set out to change all that. Later in the episode, Adam Ried reviews prep bowls, our gadget expert Lisa McManus explains what makes for a good pie carrier, and Elle Simone makes a killer recipe for pecan bars.

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"Autumn Desserts"

Host Bridget Lancaster goes into the test kitchen with host Julia Collin Davison to learn how to make the ultimate Chewy Oatmeal Cookies. Then, equipment expert Adam Ried reviews mini prep bowls in the Equipment Corner. Finally, test cook Elle Simone reveals the secrets to Ultranutty Pecan Bars.  
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Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. When Making Oatmeal Cookies, Lose the Instant Oats: These kind of oats have been parcooked and then re-dried. They have almost no oat flavor—not a great quality when making oatmeal cookies—and they’re sticky. They’re better suited as wallpaper paste than they are the bedrock of your oatmeal cookie recipe.

2. Use Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats, But Cut Down on Flour: Just like the recipe on the back of the cannister, we preferred old-fashioned rolled oats in our oatmeal cookie recipe. However, we use less flour. Using less flour allows the oat flavor to really assert itself. (We also use a little less baking soda. Less leavener = less cakey cookies.)

3. Most Pie Carriers Aren’t Worth Your Money: They’re either equipped with lids that are too low or too flimsy—leading to crushed pies. Look for a pie carrier with a grippy interior base to anchor your pies in place so they don’t move around in transit, and an expandable dome so even your tallest pies don’t get crushed. [Buy Our Favorite Pie Carrier on Amazon]

4. Preparing Your Ingredients Before Cooking Is Key, and You’ll Need the Best Bowls for the Job: Prep work isn’t just for restaurant kitchens. In order to execute a recipe smoothly and efficiently, you’ll want to make sure you prepare all of your ingredients before you begin cooking. A good set of mise en place bowls—mise en place translates roughly from French to “everything in its place”—will help you do just that. When buying a set of small prep bowls, go with glass. They’re microwave-safe (and dishwasher-safe, and oven-safe), easy to fill, easy to empty, and resistant to stains and odors. [Buy Our Favorite Set on Amazon]

5. When Making Pecan Bars, Toasted Nuts Are Key: We tested recipes for pecan bars with nuts that had been toasted and nuts that hadn’t been toasted. The bar’s sweet glaze will cover and darken the pecans either way, but pecans that had been toasted were a darker shade of brown and had considerably more flavor than pecans that had not been toasted. Trust us: toasting the nuts makes for a more beautiful and more delicious pecan bar.

Quote of the Week: “I don’t even bake them, I just mix the dough . . . That’s why you mix it in a bowl—serves one.” —Bridget Lancaster, on eating cookie dough

What was your favorite part of this episode of America’s Test Kitchen? Let us know in the comments!

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