Photographs by Steve Klise/America's Test Kitchen

It’s Sunday morning and you’re making scrambled eggs. You don’t consult a recipe — you crack open some eggs, whisk in a little milk, and pour them in a pan.

But is there a better way? Souza has a few suggestions: Swap in half-and-half for more flavor. Add extra yolks for richness. Use a smaller skillet to get heartier curds. And try a combination of high and low heat to avoid a rubbery or custard-like texture.

But don’t take Souza’s word for it. As a senior editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and a cast member of America’s Test Kitchen, he sent his recipe through weeks of tweaking, testing by chefs, and surveying of thousands of home cooks. Souza’s kitchen is a lab where everything from temperatures and techniques to equipment and flavors are methodically scrutinized in search of the best recipes.

Terms like “scientific journals” and “double-blind testing” may suggest all creativity — and, well, fun — has been stripped away, but Souza argues the opposite.

Flavor profile

While working in Manhattan restaurants, Souza learned many tricks and techniques, but the fast pace didn’t leave time for asking why or getting nerdy about the history of a dish. At Cook’s Illustrated, he can consult fellow chefs, a science editor, and a historian.

“I have room to problem-solve and do research,” he says. “I can get a greater understanding that helps me as a cook.”

Souza’s challenge is to produce not only the best-tasting recipe but the most accessible. He has to be creative with equipment and processes. For example, can sous-vide cooking — a method in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags and cooked in low-temperature water for up to four days — be done with an oven, a pot, and a Ziploc bag?

That’s where those home cooks come in. No recipe is published without an 80 percent approval rating from them. Readers might ding a recipe for being too time-consuming or dirtying too many dishes. Some recipes challenge the chefs for years. One old-fashioned fudge recipe is infamous for never making the cut.

Even with extensive testing at every step, Souza says one criterion still matters most.

“Our most sensitive instrument is our tongues,” he says. “Science gives us tools to get there, but in the end, it’s all about our perception of food.”