Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am pretty new to Cook’s Illustrated.  For the most part, every recipe I have tried has really been a winner.  They definitely do their research, and have different techniques to make sure that whatever you are making – ends up being the best.  They don’t just give you the recipe either – they go into depth about what you are making, and why their techniques work better than probably anything else you have ever tried.

I saw this recipe for Banana Bread – and they claimed it was the best recipe ever.  Ok, with a statement like that, how can I pass that up?  The problem is, I think I already have the best recipe ever – my mother’s recipe.  I really couldn’t imagine this recipe topping that, but I figured I had nothing to lose.   I looked at the ingredients – and there were two main differences – one was the number of bananas, and two was that this banana bread used butter instead of oil.  Then, I read the instructions – wow, you cook the bananas in the microwave and drain the liquid?  Are you serious?  And if that is not enough, then you reduce the liquid until it makes a sweet banana syrup – this was quite an extra big step in the process.  This better be good – and with 5 bananas, this has to be the most banana flavored bread in the world.  I made one slight change below – leaving off the step where they “shingled” another banana by slicing it up and layering it on each side of the bread before baking.

Ok – so it comes out of the oven – and looks very similar to my mother’s recipe.  Then comes the true test – the tasting.  I swear my mother’s is better.  It is moister – and I really didn’t see how these extra bananas did anything for the bread.  But – the biggest problem with this bread was how it stood up for the next few days…after one day, it already started to taste stale – I think that is the butter.  When you use oil, it somehow gives it some extra moistness so it stays fresh for a few days when wrapping it properly with plastic.  Sorry Cook’s Illustrated – this is one recipe that doesn’t beat mine.


  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 large very ripe bananas, peeled (almost 2 pounds)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife.  Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cups liquid).

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: 

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining.   Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 loaf.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

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23 thoughts on “Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

    1. I usually don’t put nuts in my banana bread, and I didn’t think the banana “shingles” looked appealing – so I adapted the recipe slightly when I published my post…did you “shingle” your bread? What did you think?

      1. I have done this recipe a few times (Banana bread is my husband’s favorite and this is his favorite recipe I have made so far). Personally, I like it without the shingles. I have done it twice with and twice without and I don’t like the mushy top when I use the shingles. If it were crunchy and followed the same texture as the sugary glaze, it would be great. But…I have added walnuts once and pecans once and really like them both! Without nuts, the bread is slightly more moist but the nuts just add texture. Either way, it will be good! Dawn, I also tried your mother’s recipe which is excellent! Keep the good recipes coming!

  1. I made this on Saturday and it was sooo good. I didn’t like the way the cooked banana juices smelled, so I left that out. My go-to recipe for banana bread is from Cooking Light, Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze. Thanks so much for posting the recipe, I shared your site on my blog.

  2. I stumbled upon your blog by searching for this recipe. I made it last week while on vacation in Maine and left the recipe there. The banana shingles do make for a nice presentation, but they tend to be mushy and then sticky after the cake has been wrapped. I wonder if you could use banana chips as the shingle? Would you need to give them a wash to keep them from drying out too much?

    1. I think they would dry out to much – and my opinion is that banana bread is so delicious by iteself, does it really need the shingles?

  3. I loved this recipe. We used two ripe bananas and three, just ripe bananas. Plus we added 1/2 cup chopped pecans in the batter and two tablespoons on top, along with the two teaspoons of sugar for decoration. What a beautiful loaf of banana bread! Thank you, Cooks Illustrated – I’ll pass this one along. Super moist, super banana-ee – delicious.
    Gratefully, M

  4. I have tried this recipe three times and it has come out like a pudding each time. I am pretty sure I boiled down the banana juice enough. What else could be going wrong. This isn’t a bread when I make it.

  5. I tried the CI version and I thought the same as you. It was incredibly dry. My other recipe uses oil, and I also tend to use more bananas than called for. Wrapping up the bread also makes it more moist, but that did absolutely nothing for the CI version either. Thanks for the review. I was starting to think I did something wrong :)

  6. Butter doesn’t make it go stale and oil doesn’t make it more moist. Don’t know what happened but just want to clarify that.

    1. Thank you. I’ll try it soon. I liked the CI version but thought the bananas on top was just an attempt to add one more banana. Just found you yesterday and I’m so glad; I like your style.

  7. I made the Cooks Illustrated recipe yesterday. YUM. But a labor of love, and made a mess of many bowls and pans. I probably didn’t cook down the “banana water” long enough, which is why the bread was so dense. I leave out the walnuts for calorie-control. I also used a European butter, which is better for baking, because of the more intense milk solids. Almost gave the bread a butterscotch flavor. I liked the banana decoration on top. The word “Shingle” makes my skin itch, thank you very much. I also thought it said to sprinkle the granulated sugar on top of the sliced bananas, (instead of the entire top of the loaf), so it really made the sliced bananas over the top. I’m still tasting that intense banana flavor in my mouth.

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