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Alton Brown- Cornier than Corn Bread?

post #1 of 57
Thread Starter 
I have just gotten into the forum thing - it's a new toy for me. Cooking has been my life for about 4 years, I've been in the industry for five. I didn't go to culinary school, but I have immersed myself in books, research and television shows that have taught me a great deal outside the kitchen. I love "Good Eats". It delves into the molecular detail that I never got in school that my fellow cooks don't have the patience or time to explain to me. My question is, who is this show geared to? It is a combination of Bill Nye and Pee Wee Herman for cooks. Who other than a serious cook would care what glycocene can do to a piece of fruit not available in most grocery stores? And what serious cook wants to see a grown man dressed like a cartoon octopus in the middle of an informative program? Should I just stick to my books?

Rambo
post #2 of 57
For the most part I like the Good Eats shows. They are entertaining, informative but certainly not aimed towards professionals Sure, there are some bad puns, Alton's sense of humor seems to be a lot like mine. And I don't always agree with some things he says, like 'Never anchovies in a ceasar salad'

While I do enjoy watching, I wonder what, if any, real benefit has been applied to my cooking?

mjb.
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post #3 of 57
Alton Brown Puts on a good show. He not only has good recipes, but he shows you WHY the recipes work. That is a very important thing to understand. Without knowing why the recipe works, it makes it hard to create new recipes or to adjust a old recipe. Its like making a flourless chocolate cake. "how does it rise without flour?" or a levening product like baking powder or soda, without understanding what ingredients do or are capable of doing its impossible to make one. So yes Alton Brown is cornier than corn bread, but he knows what he is talking about, and anyone aspireing to become a chef or the above average foodie should pay attention to his metheds, because no one else out there is doing it. Plus its alot cheaper listening to him than going to culinary school.
post #4 of 57
Alton's show is not aimed for professional chefs, but armatures wanting to expand a bit. His bits are a way of having some fun with it, and not turning it into a science lecture only.

**** even when I used to give science lectures to scientists I'd try to throw a few funny bits in there, it could get dull after a while.

Personally I really like the good eats show, and while I'd like a more 'professional' show at times when I'm in a seriously learning mode, that sort of show wouldn't have nearly the ratings.
post #5 of 57
we can pick apart where alton was "wrong" all day, but the above quote is what sets him apart from ANY other show/chef and why I like watching him. I'll take a little misinformation for the sake of getting MORE information than ingredients and cleavage boobies....ok maybe not cleavage boobies.
post #6 of 57
He is a great showman, and good cooking teacher. My only objection is don't make a dish that has been made for the last 100 years, change it and call it a classic, or say this is the only way when in fact it is his way.I believe BDL AND MYSELF FEEL THE SAME ABOUT THIS
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post #7 of 57
Alton's show is geared for everyone.

Perhaps those of you who are professional don't need it, but the science information is incredibly helpful.

Personally I don't mind the fact that periodically there are yeast sock puppets or he shows up in a lobster suit or something else. It puts a picture in my mind that helps me remember some very dry facts. The humor involved has captured my children & gotten them involved & interested in cooking beyond anything else. They want to try & see what happens to other foods. This is something that will serve them well later whether or not they end up in the food industry or just have enough interest & knowledge to be decent cooks at home. That is the real genius of the man's show. He makes something very dry, humorus & interesting & that benefits everyone, including your industry.
post #8 of 57
A picture is worth a thousand words. I tend to remember more of Alton Brown's demonstrations because of the entertaining and interesting ways they are presented. Sure, some of it is corny, but none of it is dull.
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post #9 of 57
He has a great sense of humor and puts on an entertaining show, yet his science is spot on too. It's a TV show -- it's geared to the non-professional, but anyone can learn from it.

Joy
post #10 of 57
Judging from how my electrical/software engineer-husband responds to it, I'd say it's the cooking show for computer geeks! There is a "cooking for engineers" website, I believe, but Alton is the only show my DH will sit still for at all.

Nicko has met him; I'm sure he'd agree. :D
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post #11 of 57
Mezzaluna, I just Googled "cooking for engineers." That sounds really interesting. Not that I'm an engineer, but I'm the kind of person who always wants to know why and how things work, even in cooking. That's one of the attractions with Good Eats and Alton Brown's books. Thanks for the tip.

Joy
post #12 of 57
My dad and brother love watching this show with me. Neither of them are serious cooks, though my dad does like to fool around with bbq techniques from time to time. My nephew even likes it, and he's 8hahaha

me :D
Alton Brown is my hero. he is hilarious, though really cheesy, but also has a lot to offer informational-wise.
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post #13 of 57
Some of us here , ARE SERIOUS COOKS we depend on it for a living. It is great to be informative as he is, however do not tell people it is the only way to do it. Who is he to change classical cuisine and bring it down a level? when IN FACT It has been done and enjoyed the way it has been for over a century or two.
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post #14 of 57
I'm curious of some examples where he has done this and not stated "traditionally its done this way" or what-have-you. Remember, his whole gig is the "science" of it all...sometimes he does things different than classical, but usually always says the reason for doing it....and it's usually justifiable either from a "get same results easier method" standpoint.

I've never seen him say "THIS is the only way to do it", in most cases, it's actually the contrary....and his whole gig is figuring out, science wise, why things are done the way they are in cooking.

I see that as no different for any chef who cooks things different, its what works for them, and Mr. Brown at least explains his reasoning for pretty much doing everything he does, rather than just saying "i did it this way, because that's the way I was taught and that's the way it is"....the WHY question, or rather answers, is what sells him.
post #15 of 57
respectfully, and curiously, I'd like to see where he has done that.
post #16 of 57
RP, have we been watching the same guy?

Virtually everything he does screams "my way or the highway."

One of the many things I dislike about him and his show.
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post #17 of 57
I've seen him back up his methods, for EVERYTHING he has done, and I've seen him make statements like "the best way to do this is" and back it up with an explanation over a "classic" way....

its different than "my way or the highway" ....my way or the highway sounds like my grandfather may he RIP who would do things simply because thats how he was taught, when asked why, the answer was "because thats the way it is". That can teach someone to be a robot and replicate....but doesn't help someone learn.

I've never, ever, seen Alton brown state that its his way or the highway WITHOUT giving an explanation on why "his way" is better over, say....traditional methods.

plus, again, you're taking his personality a little TOO literally...his exaggerations, are only get you to understand his "get" which is.....the answers to the question "why"


Again, I'm curious to see where he butchered a classic recipe, said its "traditional", said it was the only way to do it....without saying why he does it one way and traditionally its done another and a thorough explaination.

is he perfect? no.....but look on here, we have "serious" chefs arguing over "classic" dishes.....haha
post #18 of 57
During the late 1970's, my husband and I had our own German restaurant for 3 years, and I was the cook. Sauerbraten was featured on Wednesday and Saturday, prepared the 'traditional way'. DH and my brother absolutly love sauerbraten done right.

Here is an example of Alton Brown's departure from 'traditional':

One day about a year ago, Alton addressed the issue of searing meat, and whether or not searing does in fact lock in juices, and if it does, then is the converse also true? does searing meat prior to marinating prohibit the marinade from penetrating? One of his 'test cases' was sauerbraten. You can bet I was all eyes and ears as he prepared the sauerbraten marinade, which by the way was also done in a 'non-traditional' way (more on that in a little while)*, then seared the meat before adding it to the marinade. If I remember correctly, the meat was left to soak up the marinade for 3 days (typical), turning once or twice a day. Then he cooked the roast, I believe he did an oven braise (don't quite remember the detail there). When he cut into the perfectly done sauerbraten, it was clear that the marinade had indeed penetrated just as if the meat had marinated first, then seared.

His non-traditional method of preparing the marinade and the roast is simply a time/work-saver. Instead of boiling the marinde ingredients in all the liquid required, then waiting for it to cool, he used only half the water called for. Once the marinade had boiled for the necessary time, he added ice to quick cool it, and bring the liquid up to the proper amount.

Why does it matter that he quick-cooled the liquid, or that the meat was seared first? Anyone who has made sauerbraten is aware of the steps involved.

Traditional method: Once the marinade is boiled, it has to be cooled down to room temp before the meat is added. So, boil, then set aside and go do something else for an hour or so. Then put the roast into the marinade and refrigerate, and turn once or twice a day for 3 (or even 4) days. Then, remove the roast from the marinade and make sure it is thoroughly dry. If it isnt dry, much unpleasant splattering is produced when the marinade moisture meets the oil in the hot browning vessel. In addition, the moisture inhibits the maillard reaction and formation of fond (did I get that right, oh worthy terminology police? :rolleyes:).
Braise until done on stovetop or in oven, turning once.

Alton Brown's way: (which incidentally, he did not say it must be done like this):

While the marinade is boiling, sear the meat to very brown on all sides. Quick cool the marinade, add the seared meat, marinate the roast for 3 to 4 days, turning once or twice a day. Remove seared meat from the marinade, put it into the cooking vessel, strain marinade and add it to the pot, to half-way up the roast. Oven or stove-top braise until done, turning once about half-way through the cooking time.

Thinking to myself: I've watched the show, but I really will not believe it's that easy until I try it myself, I set about trying it. Now, for the the big test...will this pass muster with my family? They loved it, and could not tell that it wasn't done the 'traditional way'. I knew, but I couldn't tell the difference either.

There is no right or wrong with this one, only different and easy. I will probably never again prepare sauerbraten the old way again. Had I known about this when I was slaving over four roasts twice a week, it would have saved me hours of valuable time in the kitchen.
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post #19 of 57
You have your opinions, and have mine. This is what makes us individual. You may hear it one way and me another. I never said he was not a good teacher because he is. He injects humor which students need. Dont say this is the way to make an omelette, when what should be said is "This is my way to make an omelette" This I have seen an heard
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post #20 of 57
interesting thread.

I find AB to be informative - and no question about it, from time to time he goes over (the/my) edge. the coconut hut & shells episodes exceeded my corn tolerance and I didn't watch any of them.....

curiously in contrast to KY's impression, I've not gotten the impression he was presenting "my way or the highway" - but then again, never saw a lot of value in American Idol, so I reckon everyone percieves things differently.

with regard to "tradition" I also have no doubt that history, history lost, reasons lost, situation changes - all play a big part.

the old tradtion: make the marinate and let it cool
well, consider: traditionally nobody had a dial it up stove. so "make the marinade" was a hang the cast iron pot, put in the water, fetch some wood, get it hot . . . . .
modern life is a bit faster and more convenient than starting with: "find fire" of yore.

which brings up the "let it cool" - traditionally that may well have read:
let it cool while you butcher the cow.
oops, cow comes in plastic thingies nowadays..... time frame adjustment required......

bits get lost as ages produce "tradition"
the Sauerbraten recipe I use, from a 1437 cookbook, marinates for a week!
progress is good, we're down to 3-4 days!
post #21 of 57
again, respectfully, It's VERY hard to read this transcript, and get that tone....for me.

Egg Files VI: French Flop

and I don't think he ever says, nor conveys that his way is the only way to make an omelet. As a matter of fact there are a number of times throughout the show where he says "some people do it like this"

Let's take the transcript....the first scene I found humorous as he's basically mocking exactly what you are saying HE does.





I'm just really not sure where some people (and there are many, don't get me wrong, that agree with you) get that he come across like that. The reason I'm pretty responsive on this discussion, is the fact that whenever I'm making something basic....a "foundation" dish....simple things like omelets, eggs, pancakes, etc. I ALWAYS checkout what alton brown says about it first....before looking at ANY other recipes, as while looking at the other recipes, after alton explains each step and why (including going into what is classic and what can be done another way) I'll be able to assess any other recipe better. Do i use him as the bible? na....he's too goofy to be my saviour, however, in most cases, even though he might not make the dish in the end the classical way....after watching the show, you'll know whats involved in making the dish the classical way, and perhaps methods of making it another way with the same outcome, in a say...easier or dare I say....more up to date, way
post #22 of 57
RP -

so go over to the how to cook an omelet thread and explain french vs american style. I'm tired of getting my head beat in.
post #23 of 57
Some 'traditions' can certainly be hung out to dry simply because we do have the modern technology to override the need to do it the 'hard way'. If that weren't true, chef's wouldn't be embracing such tools as gas ranges, emersion blenders, convections ovens, ice cream machines...I could go on and on... but I'm sure you get it. How far back do we trace the resistence change? Perhaps to the first cave man that introduced the concept of cooking meat over fire, being told "this is heresy...we've always eaten our dinasaur raw" ... :look:
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post #24 of 57
AB: Hello?
FRENCH CHEF: Idiot! You must use a cured steel omelet pan! You must never cook anything else in it! You must never ever wash it!
AB: [in a French accent] Who is thez? [catching himself] I mean, this?
FC: Who do you think it is, you fuzzy-headed ninnyhammer?
I don't care what the voices tell you. You do not need a special omelet pan. But when purchasing the nonstick pan that every kitchen needs, you should keep an omelet's needs in mind. Now, fast heat absorption is key, so consider an aluminum pan rather than a steel or clad pan. Like a crepe, an omelet needs to slide, so look for the kind of smooth, non-stick surface usually found on less-expensive pans. You also want to steer clear of pans that have a distinct line between the bottom and the sides. You want to look for something that's got a very gentle slope, almost like a bowl.

He is right with shape of pan and what he says about teflon is fine. However at one time we did not have teflon and there were pans that were only used for eggs and they did not stick., and when the breakfast cook went home he locked up the pans.. They were never touched by water. The procedure was to either start with a new pan or one that was scrubbed with brillo( now illegal)
fill the pan with non iodized salt and proceed to burn the pan on the open fire till salt turned grey. Then you rubbed pan with oil and hid it. The eggs would never stick plus it was safer then teflon as from a health perspective. You guys have to remember I am old 66 we did not have teflon, or convection, or half the things kitchens have today microwave was a radar range and amana developed it when they were looking to make weapons using magnatrons.???
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post #25 of 57
proabably get hammered for this, I'm not a professional chef, but was following this thread because I really do like AB, & so do my kids. Like most, not all of his recipes & really learn alot from his shows reagarding the science of the cooking which helps me when I want to fiddle.

So let me ask you professionals this--

why all the fuss with tradition? I realize it's nice & all, love the hand made Christmas stocking from my greatgrandmother & everything, but when I'm eating all I really care about is the taste of the food. Personally I don't really care if you, the chef, spent 4 weeks picking the knuckle hairs off a rhino to make it or it came freeze dried out of a package if it actually tastes the same. I do actually appreciate the work & effort when it produces something different, but when I can't taste a difference, I don't much care about a technique difference, so why all the fuss?

(please realize the is an honest question from an outsider...)
post #26 of 57
:eek:


does a rhino have knuckles? if so, do the knuckles have hairs? aren't rhinos endangered/protected?

Just joking with you, rzn. Mostly what we have here is a difference of a pinion (oops...that's another joke)...a difference of opinion. Hard as it is for some to admit...opinions are like bellybuttons. Everybody has one, no two are alike, and there is no right or wrong.

However, all that having been said. If I were a professional chef, and if I had to present a respectable resume, I'd probably fare better if I could say I had been trained in traditional methods, than if I said 'I do everything my way, regardless of tradition'... (and that, too, is just an opinion)

This all makes me want to sing from Fiddler on the Roof :lol::lol:
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post #27 of 57
I understand that for job seeking, & for having traing in the basic underpinning in order to understand what you are doing, but when I eavesdrop it just seems like I hear a lot of fuss & bother about the right way to do something, when from strictly consumer view, if it ends up on the plate tasting the same, I'm just as happy. May no make you guys so happy to hear... but my tongue & stomach don't have to stand over that stove, so what do they care?
post #28 of 57
Right-ee-oo !! :lol:
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post #29 of 57
>...nonstick pan that every kitchen needs,... <

Well, I reckon my kitchen doens't fit into the rubric, "every," because it doesn't have a nonstick pan, doesn't want one, and would rebel if I even thought about bringing one in.

And that, in fact, is just a minor sample of his dogmatism.

Personally, I don't care whether its a classic dish, using classic techniques, or not. I don't like the man's approach. I don't find him the least bit amusing. And his dogmatism would be a little easier to take if he didn't constantly contradict himself.

The fact is, to achieve any culinary task there are numerous approaches. And every single one of them is right!

On the subject of cooking eggs in a non-non-stick pan, I would suggest that everybody who thinks this can't be done go visit a Waffle House. You'll see a long row of carbon-steel pans, each of which is used to cook eggs. Name yer poison: sunny side up or over easy; scrambled; omelet. And---be still my heart---nary a one of them sticks.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #30 of 57
Non-stick pans are a detriment to cooking great eggs ...
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