Alton Brown's Worst Recipes

Some chefs specialize in the cuisine of a particular region, and others devote their career to perfecting a particular specialty, but Alton Brown's whole shtick is kind of a mad kitchen scientist thing. He's always experimenting, either with techniques or ingredients, and he frequently goes to great lengths to then explain the steps that led to his latest, greatest culinary innovation. He's had great success with this, needless to say, that a string of hit TV shows and best-selling cookbooks can attest to. Still, he's certainly made his share of missteps along the way.

If Brown were a baseball player, he'd be the kind who always swings for the fences. Many times, he will knock one out of the park, but there are plenty of other occasions on which he swings and he misses. The following is a list of times where he hit a foul ball, although some of these balls — er, recipes — are fouler than others.

Aunt Verna's Orange Cake

With all due apologies to Alton's Auntie Verna (who, according to the Good Eats Fan Page, is a fictional character, at any rate), this orange cake is a hot mess. One reviewer tried baking the Food Network recipe as per Brown's directions and said, "It was nothing less than HORRIBLE. Took 60 minutes to bake, not 30. By that time, the exterior of the "cake" was hardening, caramelizing, and tasted burned." Another said that they made the recipe twice, just to make sure the first fail wasn't a fluke, but on the second try, as with the first, "It came out raw in the middle and burned on the outside AGAIN!!!"

Basic Cooked Wheat Berries

This recipe for basic cooked wheat berries is, for Brown, a shockingly simple one, calling for nothing more than water, salt, and wheat berries (he doesn't even insist that you harvest your own wheat). You will, however, need a pressure cooker to make them, which is probably the kind of thing that should be indicated in the title, since not everyone owns such a gadget. What's even worse is the amount of salt called for — the 2 tablespoons, according to one reviewer, made the berries "WAY TOO SALTY." Another noted that they followed the oddly unspecific directions exactly as given and still found their berries burning.

Best Mustard Ever

Brown's not shy of using a bit of hyperbole here and there, but in this case, calling this condiment "the best mustard ever" is vastly overstating the case. It's typically Alton Brown in that it's fairly fussy, calling for both ground mustard and whole mustard seeds and incorporating both cider vinegar and sweet pickle juice. Many Food Network fans who tried it complain that the mustard comes out way too thin, with more of a sauce-like consistency, while a few complained of the flavor. One called it, "Hot and very bitter," while another found there to be, "Something unpalatable, even nasty about it."

Broiled Chokes

Guess you could say Brown really choked when it came to this recipe. While apparently, these broiled chokes can work with some tweaks made to the cooking method, should you instead prepare them as per Brown's directions, well, in the words of one reviewer, the recipe is, "Perfect for turning a perfectly good artichoke into a decorative giant pine cone!" Another notes that, "If you really enjoy eating artichokes this recipe is not for you," as it calls for discarding the leaves that can be the best part of the vegetable. All of the artichoke leaves, outer as well as inner, deserve to be dunked in a delicious sauce rather than unceremoniously tossed in the trash.


At first glance, this buttercream recipe is deceptively simple: just four ingredients, and not a single one requires you to shop at a specialty store. Also, there are only three steps in the directions! Ha, don't be fooled. As many reviewers point out, Alton Brown's buttercream is both time-consuming and tricky to make, and, even after you put in the effort, your frosting is likely to come out soupy. As one culinary student points out, the directions should say to bring the sugar up to a temperature of 240 F, not just to a boil as Brown says to do. Others note that the buttercream may also need to be chilled and then re-mixed in order to attain a proper frosting-like consistency.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

As the word "chia" in the title more than hints at, this dessert recipe leans far more towards healthy than indulgent. In fact, this chocolate chia pudding not only contains chia seeds but is also made with coconut oil and avocado. While there is some sweetener — maple syrup, in this case — it's not enough to offset the other "off" flavors. Most cooks who tried this recipe say the consistency is sufficiently pudding-like, but the taste is decidedly sub-par. One describes it as "far too grassy/soil-like," while another says the pudding is "way too salty" and still a third complains that it's "Extremely bitter... like I dumped the cocoa right in my mouth."

The Chewy

Alton Brown's chewy chocolate chip cookies (the ones made with bread flour) may be one of his most famous culinary creations, but the recipe is nevertheless a pretty divisive one. It seems the results are very hit-or-miss — while many reviewers rave about the cookies, others admit that they never turn out just right. Either the texture is off or, as one pull-no-punches home cook puts it, the cookies just turn out "bad and nasty." As we learned from a Reddit thread about these cookies, they may also not work too well in the UK due to slight differences in the flour, butter, and other staple ingredients sold there.

Cold Brew with Chicory

The problem with this coffee isn't with how it tastes — unless you don't care for chicory — but then you'd hardly be looking to follow a recipe that includes this ingredient right in the title. The reason why we count Alton Brown's cold brew with chicory in the "fail" column is that, as the sole Food Network reviewer points out, the recipe is "very messy and time-consuming." The multiple steps involved in straining it took them over 45 minutes, not to mention the time they had to spend cleaning up the mess, and all they got for their effort was two cups of coffee (albeit a very tasty brew). As they concluded, "Life's too short!!!... I doubt I'll use that method again."


At first glance, this coleslaw recipe contains everything but the kitchen sink: Not just mayonnaise, but also yogurt and even buttermilk are used to make it creamy, and, of course, it uses both red and green cabbage, as well as carrots. Brown's beloved sweet pickle juice also shows up here, as does dry mustard. The problem with this slaw lies not in its complexity, though (Brown's fans are used to that), but is due to his vagueness regarding the amount of salt needed to brine the cabbage, or perhaps the fact that he brines it at all. The directions say to salt the cabbage "generously," but a number of reviewers found their coleslaw way too salty. One also felt that the buttermilk made for an excessively watery dressing, while another thought the slaw was "bland and tasteless."

Crab Cakes or Fritters

Alton Brown's crab cakes (which he also styles as fritters for some reason) are pretty simple, but for once he may have erred on the side of excess simplicity. They're made from little more than crabmeat, breadcrumbs, and mayonnaise, with lemon juice and pepper for seasoning, but the mayonnaise doesn't really do the trick of binding them together as an egg might have done. Many bemoaned that their crab cakes fell apart in the fryer, with one reviewer calling the results "crab hash." Another noted that this dish was lacking in flavor, although they did suggest a remedy, "Try using a dash of Old Bay."

Eggnog Ice Cream

To celebrate the festive season, Alton Brown created a recipe for what should be a delicious, bourbon-spiked eggnog ice cream. Yes, of course, you need an ice cream maker, since Brown's not the kind of guy that could come up with an easy no-churn version — he's got a million gadgets, and he's going to show off every single one of them. That's not the real issue we have with this recipe, though. The main problem is that, as one reviewer puts it, "I've rarely tried a chef's recipe that contained alcohol that wasn't too heavy-handed," and Brown's is no exception. If you cut way back on the bourbon, it will help out a bit, but you may need to add both salt and vanilla, as well.

Eggplant Steaks

The concept of vegetable "steaks" is a cute one, but there's no way that any type of produce can ever really stand in for beef, so it's a mistake to treat it that way. In other words, there are many good ways to cook eggplant, but drowning it in steak sauce and parmesan a la Alton Brown isn't one of them. Reviewers seem to concur that these eggplant steaks are, in the words of one, "not an eggplant dish for eggplant lovers" due to the vegetable's flavor being completely submerged under all of the toppings. On a side note, this meat-free recipe is still not suitable for vegetarians since it calls for Worcestershire sauce, and this condiment includes anchovies.

Everyday Bread

If Alton Brown ever opens his own eating establishment, it probably shouldn't be a bakery, since some of his biggest failures are in this department. Take the "Everyday Bread" recipe from his cookbook "I'm Just Here for More Food." Please. Take it far, far away. One reviewer says they've tried to make it several times, but each time they wind up with a "bread dough abomination at the bottom of my mixer bowl," while another calls it "Under-salted, over-watered, zombie-bread" and says it, "has literally fallen apart in the proof stage or in the oven more times than not." Over on Reddit, there's been an entire thread devoted to why this recipe is such a failure.

Key Lime Sorbet

If you see a recipe for key lime sorbet, you'd probably expect it to be made with key limes, which are easy enough to obtain when they're in season. Alton Brown's recipe, however, calls for something you'll probably have a lot more trouble sourcing: key lime preserves. As one person says, "In the show he made it sound like you just pull them off the shelf of your local grocery store. So NOT true." Another feels that Brown's calling for this specialty ingredient, "Does not fit his philosophy of the average American being able to obtain the software and making this recipe." Apart from the issue with the preserves, there's also somewhat of a mystery surrounding the kosher salt listed among the ingredients since nowhere in the directions does Brown say what you actually do with the stuff.

Kyoto-Style Cold Brew Coffee

Apparently, Alton Brown seems to conflate coffee making with a science project, or at least that's the impression we get from this Kyoto-style cold brew. While those reviewers who describe the flavor say it tastes great, even the positive comments indicate what the issue is by calling it a "fun little project" and saying it's "worth it if you have the patience."

If the idea of building your own cold brew gizmo using a lengthy list of "hardware" including plastic soda bottles, a box cutter, rubber bands, and paint stirring sticks does not appeal. Nor does waiting for the approximately 24 hours it will take to get an actual cup of coffee out of the deal, the maker space guy from Midland County Public Library suggests that shaking your coffee grounds in a jar of cold water will likely work just as well.

Macerated Strawberries

How hard is it to macerate strawberries, anyway? Not very, since all you really need to do is cover them with sugar and they'll release their juices naturally. Not one to let any lily go ungilded, however, Alton Brown also adds honey (orange blossom, of course, none of your pedestrian plastic bear honey for him), lemon zest, and pepper to his macerated strawberries, along with way too much red wine. One reviewer said that half a bottle of wine "overwhelmed everything including the honey and sugar," while another agreed that it "completely dominated the strawberry flavor and canceled out the honey and sugar." One optimist, however, noted that all you need do is add club soda and you'll have yourself a decent wine cooler.

Old-School Muffins

Alton Brown has some very strong opinions about muffins, preferring what he considers to be the classic kind he describes as "coarser and less sweet than a cake." His Old-School Muffin recipe from "I'm Just Here for More Food" is an attempt to recreate such a thing, but not an entirely successful one. One Amazon reviewer found the use of both baking soda and baking powder to have unpleasant side effects, explaining "The chemical leavening causes an actual burning sensation on the tongue and left some of my family with headaches or sour stomachs." They did say, however, that if you leave the baking powder out, the muffins still rise just fine with soda alone.

Peanut Brittle

While classic peanut brittle is a very simple candy, Alton Brown, of course, puts his signature spin on it by adding cinnamon and cayenne and we're okay with that. What's not so okay, though, is what he leaves out — baking soda, the ingredient that gives the candy its distinctive slightly chewy texture (which you won't find here). As one reviewer notes, "If you want Peanut Hard Candy, fine, but call it by the right name." Not to mention, cooking peanut candy the Alton Brown way is a tricky, time-consuming process that's still not guaranteed to succeed. Several unhappy cooks wound up with "a sugar mess," while another said, "After 1 HOUR, all I had was beige foam."

Phase III Biscuits

The subtitle of Alton Brown's 2004 cookbook "I'm Just Here for More Food" is actually "Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking," but we'd like to propose an alternate: "Baking Bad." Both the Everyday Bread and his Old School Muffin recipes have already appeared on the list, and he's got another dud in his Phase III Biscuits (we'd hate to see Phases I and II). Several Amazon reviewers describe Brown's biscuit recipes as being "very wet" or having "far too much liquid," but one person really didn't hold back, calling the Phase III one a, "Frankenstein's Monster of a biscuit recipe" that has defied numerous attempts to bake, instead resulting each time in, "little rubbery piles of vomit sitting on a baking sheet where biscuits ought to be."

Pistachio Fruit Balls

Alton Brown's pistachio fruit balls are, again, on the simpler side of things for him: several different types of dried fruits combined with chopped nuts and bound with juice and liqueur. Of the Food Network fans who tried them, even the positive reviews were mostly from those who'd made significant tweaks to the formula. Others, though, abandoned the attempt to improve the recipe they found "too sweet," "too expensive," "a lot of work," "an awful sticky mess," and even, in one horrid case, "so gross it almost made me ill." Yep, sounds like a keeper — or not.

Praline Bacon

Bacon and brown sugar sounds like a slam-dunk, and adding chopped pecans couldn't help but make everything better, right? Well, praline bacon can certainly be a delightful thing, but only if you don't follow Alton Brown's recipe to the letter. As one Redditor who tried it found out, "the temp he gave and the time to cook in the oven totally burnt the bacon," and many of those leaving reviews on the Food Network site concurred. Others, however, found the recipe to have a few other issues. One said, "It came out very greasy and not crispy at all," while another found that the final product "tasted like bacon with something slightly sweet and gritty on top."

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

If you're looking for a fun new way to repurpose the seeds scooped out of your Halloween jack-o-lantern, you'd best look elsewhere. As many of the home cooks who have tried Alton Brown's pumpkin seed brittle recipe can attest, this one's a big old flopperoo. If you follow it as written, there's a good chance your candy will never crystallize. In the words of one disappointed would-be candy maker, "it was a mess... a huge block of sugar and the nuts didn't even taste good afterward." Those who found some success with the pumpkin seed brittle often made significant tweaks either to the directions or the ingredients, thus essentially creating their own (better) recipes.

Roasted Chickpeas

Most roasted chickpea recipes start out with canned peas or at least peas that have been pre-cooked, but not Alton Brown's. Instead, he merely soaks his chickpeas overnight (he's a fan of long prep times), then coats them with seasoned oil and vinegar before cooking them at too high a temperature (400 F) for too long a time (an hour or more). One person notes that just two-thirds of the way through the cooking time, "half the chickpeas were a darker shade of carbon," while another person remarks that the peas, when cooked, are "very hard and dense and almost inedible." Others describe the finished chickpeas as "very bland" and "tasteless," with one saying, "You really can't tell there is any flavor on them other than a little bit of salt."

Scallop Mousse

Scallops are usually pretty high-dollar, and they deserve a recipe that showcases their delicate flavor at its finest. Alton Brown's scallop mousse is not that recipe. As one person who tried it says, "It definitely needs something... it was just boring and a waste of good scallops." Another reviewer, irate at this waste of perfectly good scallops, declares, "This is without a doubt the wor[s]t recipe I have ever tried from Food Network... a complete disap[p]ointment." Yet another person says they were able to rescue the recipe by adding caramelized onions, but notes that Brown's version "needs some major twe[a]king," (a familiar refrain).

Slow Cooker Peach Cobbler

Slow cookers do many things well. Making cobblers is not one of them, and even Alton Brown doesn't have any magic tricks up his sleeve that can fix this. His slow cooker peach cobbler, in the words of one Food Network review, "just tasted like sweet, mushy oatmeal," while another called it "a waste of some really really good peaches ... gluey and wet, not good at all." Yet another review includes some invaluable advice received from the writer's mom, "The mark of a GOOD cook is to know when to use the garbage can." This cobbler, they feel, would be a good candidate for the compost bin, calling it "dreadful... ZERO stars."

Sparkling Gingered Face

Although there's no photo on the Food Network website, we assume that Alton Brown's Sparkling Gingered Face is a recipe from a Halloween episode of one of his cooking shows as he says to make it in a face-shaped mold. You could also make it in any other type of Jell-O mold or even a bowl, but the question is, should you? As we're including it on this list, you may correctly assume that the answer is no. The directions given on the website, it seems, differ from how Brown made the dish on his show and they result in gelatin that won't set up right. Someone who tried to follow this recipe admits "It turned out an awful failure" and laments "a bottle of champagne totally wasted. Ugh!"

Strawberry Pudding

This strawberry pudding is made with the macerated strawberries from that same Alton Brown recipe where he drowns the sugared berries in way too much red wine. Here, those berries are layered with rounds of buttered potato bread and molded into symmetrical stacks with the aid of a few soup cans. Sounds weird? Yeah, and as one person puts it, also, "Lots of work for a little eat." Others complain that the taste and texture just aren't good, with one saying, "I didn't care for the mushy bread and the wine...[that] overpowered the taste of the strawberries."

Tall and Tangy Tofu Thangy

We're not sure what Alton Brown was thinking when he got the idea to mix tofu with instant lemonade, cranberry juice, and fruit cocktail since his Tall and Tangy Tofy Thangy hits the not-so-sweet spot where it's really not all that healthy due to the sugar, but neither is it even remotely enjoyable. One reviewer describes it as, "Too meaty to be a spritzer or cooler and much too light in flavor to be very tasty or complex," and even the reviewers who did seem to like it made quite a few tweaks of their own (adding fruit, sweetener, different juices, etc.) in order to improve its flavor.

Umami Mayo

What does the word "umami" mean to you? Savory, meaty, rich? What about fishy? Apparently, this last definition is the one Alton Brown's going with. His umami mayo gets much of its flavor from bonito flakes, so if fishy is what you want, that's exactly what you're going to get. Apart from that little issue, this mayonnaise also has a few texture issues. One reviewer, a fish fan who says they quite enjoy the scent of the bonito flakes, complains nevertheless that their condiment never set up, so what they got was "mayonnaise soup." Another says this mayonnaise has a "unique depth of flavor" (which is kind of the recipe equivalent of saying you have an "interesting-looking" baby), but they had to make a few alterations to Brown's recipe to get it to work.

Whipped Potatoes

Alton Brown's whipped potatoes recipe is just wrong on so many levels. For one thing, why bother using a mandoline to slice potatoes that are just going to wind up mashed, anyway? For another, are you really supposed to pour nearly a gallon of milk down the drain once you're done using it as cooking liquid? (So much for trying to eliminate food waste). Assuming you do want to go to all this effort and expense, what do you get for your trouble? As one reviewer puts it, this recipe is, "a lot of extra work for mashed potatoes that tasted like scalded milk," while another feels it to be, "inferior to the 'old-fashioned' approach [with] less potato flavor and stickier consistency."

Whole Wheat Morning-After Bread

Surprise surprise, it's yet another bad bread recipe from Alton Brown's ill-conceived "I'm Just Here for More Food". One Amazon reviewer even wonders, "Was he making up these recipes up off the top of his head without trying them out?" They single out Brown's Whole Wheat Morning-After Bread as being particularly disappointing, with several attempts that all ended badly. "I've wasted several hours of my time and money reattempting [this bread] only to be met with failure," they complain, and go on to theorize that the excessive amounts of liquid called for in Brown's bread recipes (this one and others) is the reason why so many of them fail.

Pot Roast

If you're the observant type, you'll have noticed that we've been proceeding through this list in alphabetical order, but these last two recipes deserve a spot right at the very end since even Brown singles them out as his two biggest fails. In "Good Eats: The Final Years," he admits that his pot roast was one of "the most hated Good Eats recipe[s] of all time." What makes a simple pot roast so hateable? One word: raisins. Another word: olives. Sure, these two ingredients work well together in picadillo and empanada fillings, but stick them in a pot roast recipe and you're just asking for trouble. One reviewer said the dish tasted "like chili mixed with bad A1 steak sauce," while others called it "absolutely nasty," "an awful combination of flavor[s]," and "Bad, bad, bad."

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Alton Brown's slow cooker lasagna holds the premier spot on the TV chef's personal wall of shame. Even Brown says of his deservedly much-maligned recipe, "It's not a good dish," admitting, "Clever isn't always smart." While he did revamp his take on crockpot lasagna with a far more traditional version in "Good Eats: The Final Years," the original slow cooker lasagna recipe still stands on the Food Network website so you can see what all the fuss is about. Warning: It ain't pretty.

For some reason, Brown not only throws eggplant and zucchini (two pretty divisive vegetables) into his lasagna but also calls for goat's milk powder, which is hardly a staple in everyone's pantry. As a kicker, he even suggests browning the top with a propane torch. Was Brown actively trying to troll us with this recipe, or did he just dream it up?