The Secret to Alton Brown’s Chicken Parm Is Literally In the Sauce

Celebrity chef Alton Brown’s chicken parmesan may change the way you make this classic American dish. Traditionally made with pan-fried chicken cutlets draped in tomato sauce, seasonings, and of course cheese, the chef takes a different approach for a dish no less decadent and inviting.

The Iron Chef host adds another layer of flavor in his sauce that takes this recipe to a whole other level.

Chef Alton Brown wears a bow tie and suit in this photograph.
Alton Brown | Brad Barket/Getty Images

The magic of Alton Brown’s chicken parmesan is in its sauce

The chef’s red sauce calls for extra-virgin olive oil, minced large garlic cloves, anchovy fillets, red pepper flakes, peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, kosher salt, and the ingredient that makes this sauce sing, a rind of Parmesan cheese.

“There’s no actual Parm in this recipe,” the Good Eats star writes of his Chicken Parmesan recipe in his cookbook Good Eats4, “though we did use the rind in the sauce. If you’re really just dying for it, feel free to sprinkle some over the finished dish at the table. Honestly, though, I never bother.”

The garlic is sauteed until golden in the oil, followed by the anchovies and red pepper flakes. Brown notes to break up “the anchovies with the back of a wooden spoon, until they dissolve into the oil.”

The tomatoes are added, also broken up with the spoon, at which point the rind is nestled into the sauce. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour, stirring it more as it thickens. Once the rind is removed from the sauce, it’s ready to use.

“By the way,” Brown adds, “this makes more sauce than is needed for the chicken. You’re welcome.”

Get the complete Chicken Parmesan recipe in Alton Brown’s most recent cookbook Good Eats4: The Final Years or on Food Network’s site, where you’ll also find reviews.

The chef’s chicken parm features two cheeses (not including that rind)

Unlike most chicken parmesan recipes, Brown doesn’t simply settle for mozzarella cheese in this recipe. He uses two cheeses: mozz boosted by another cheese.

“Why two? Low-moisture mozzarella, aka pizza cheese, is a stretched-curd, low-acid cheese, which means it is composed of a lot of long proteins that stretch even when melted,” he explains. “Americans love that stretchy gooeyness and the fact that it easily browns.”

As Brown notes, there’s nothing wrong with mozzarella cheese, except he says, that “a big stretchy blob of mozz can become a chewy ball of glue and, let’s face it, it doesn’t taste like much.”

With that in mind, he brings “softer, fattier” Fontina cheese to the party, adding “a nutty, buttery flavor.”

Another delicious spin on Chicken Parm from Alton Brown.

Many reviewers call Brown’s chicken dish ‘the best’

Once you happen on a chicken parm recipe you love, you hold onto it, as quite a few home cooks stated on Food Network’s site.

“Holy buckets. This is the best chicken parm I’ve ever had. The tomatoes are a must, so don’t get any old canned tomatoes. … Amazing flavor. Super crispy,” one person wrote.

Another reviewer added, “The best chicken parm I’ve ever had! Well worth the time! This will definitely be in my dinner rotation!”

And others agreed, writing, “this is the best chicken parm recipe I have ever had,” “everyone said it was the best chicken Parm they’d ever had,” and “This is one of the best recipes I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, bar none.”

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