Alton Brown Has an Easy Upgrade to Get the Perfect Mac and Cheese

When it comes to the meals featured on The Food Network, viewers often see an elevated fare that would likely not be found in their own home kitchens. The gourmet chefs are often tasked with using exotic ingredients, and shows like Chopped are even centered around finding some of the weirdest components possible to make challenges fun to watch. It can be refreshing when a celebrity chef takes the time to provide some more accessible insight, and that’s exactly what Alton Brown did when he shared his secrets about getting the perfect mac and cheese. 

Alton Brown smiling in front of a white backdrop
Alton Brown | Noam Galai/Getty Images

The Food Network started out with more DIY programming

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These days, most viewers associate The Food Network with its most popular programming — reality shows that tend to focus on either traveling to find the most delicious food or tough head-to-head competitions that pit chefs against one another while a panel of critical judges looks on. The start of The Food Network has more humble — and helpful — beginnings.

As WGBH explains, when the network debuted in the early 1990s, it faced a lot of skepticism. How would they possibly fill around-the-clock coverage about food, and what would make people tune in? Early efforts fell flat because the chefs were talented in their culinary skills, but they weren’t trained to look at the camera or perform for the audience watching along at home. 

As they tweaked the format and trained chefs to have a better stage presence, the shows became increasingly popular, and it looked like America was hungry for the chance to bring cooking lessons into their own homes. Interestingly, however, “the rise of The Food Network did not coincide with an increase in home cooking.”

People liked watching the cooking shows, but that didn’t necessarily translate into actually cooking for themselves. Over time, this information helped morph the network into what it is today, a home for shows centered on food but not necessarily aimed at home chefs wanting to put tips into action. 

Alton Brown is known for ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’

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Alton Brown is a staple on The Food Network, and he’s perhaps best known for his time hosting Cutthroat Kitchen. As the name suggests, this reality TV series exemplifies The Food Network’s tendency toward over-the-top and aggressive competitions. In it, chefs compete to make the best meal and bring it before expert guest judges, but they do so with the threat of sabotage hanging over their heads.

Eliminating a chef’s ingredients, making them work with ridiculous tools, or even removing the use of one of their hands are all possible twists to the challenges. On Cutthroat Kitchen, Brown gets to gleefully sew discord among the participants, and his job is more about keeping the fans entertained than it is about providing actual cooking tips.

When he got his start on The Food Network, it was a different story. His show Good Eats, which premiered in the 1990s and was one of the network’s early efforts, provided useful, applicable kitchen tips and focused on things like knife safety and technique. 

Alton Brown has an upgrade for mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and it serves as a kind of unifying force that is a staple of everyday kitchens and high-brow restaurants alike. Sure, the fancier places may dress it up a bit, but underneath it all, the foundational elements remain the same. 

Alton Brown has some tips for how to upgrade your macaroni and cheese game at home. As PopSugar explains, his baked mac and cheese recipe calls for an unusual — but easily available — ingredient: an egg. Brown suggests beating an egg into the cheese mixture to give the final dish a more custard-like texture. His recipe also punches up the flavor with ground mustard and paprika, and it uses a blend of both cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses.