Main Dish | July 8, 2010

Alton Brown’s Baked Mac and Cheese

Alton Brown's Baked Mac and Cheese

Alton Brown. Like most FN stars, you either love or hate Alton Brown. I love his quirky show. He is kind of the Cooks Illustrated aka Test Kitchen of  the FN.  Does it bug you that I like to abbreviate? My friend KD likes it, I like it, it saves time, and causes you to think- “Why does she do this?” Or “What does FN stand for?”

Anyway. I usually make the Foster Family version of Mac and cheese, but thought the panko topping on this recipe looked yummy, and gave it a try. I learned something while reading the notes on this recipe. When you get a recipe off of the WWW, always look to see if there are any comments from cooks who have tried the recipe. Some of the comments need to be taken with a grain of salt  – you know, kind of like when you read reviews on Trip Advisor (love that site). Some comments are really helpful. If I read a recipe with multiple negative reviews, I steer clear. If you read over and over that a cube of butter can be left out with great results, prob true. So when I read a few pages of reviews on this recipe (there were over 1200), some readers stated the recipe was bland. Then I read a comment about salt in the water. This cook suggested that salting the water meant salting it to the point where it was like SEA water. Ok, well, I spent some time at the ocean recently, and got a little of that in my mouth. I can tell you this. I never salt my pasta water that much. So this time, I did. And it made a difference. Thanks commenter lady. You helped me become a better cook today.
Oh btw – you are going to love this dish. Creamy, cheesy (but not in a sick, processed cheese kind of way) and a little crunchy with the Panko topping. Alton Brown’s Mac and Cheese is a winner.
Alton Brown's Baked Mac and Cheese
4 from 1 vote

Alton Brown's Baked Mac and Cheese

Author abountifulkitchen


  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni about 2 cups
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion finely diced*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter.
  4. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes.
  5. Make sure it's free of lumps.
  6. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.
  7. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
  8. Temper in the egg.
  9. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese.
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.
  12. Top with remaining cheese.

For Topping:

  1. Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat.
  2. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Tips:- I minced the onion, bc I was making it for a family with younger kids, who I thought might not like onions, I could not detect the onions in the dish after baking.-To temper and egg: When egg yolks are added into a hot mixture, to help ensure that they do not suddenly cook or scramble, a technique called tampering is used. With a ladle, gradually add about 1 cup of the hot mixture into egg yolks, mixture constantly. Then, add egg yolk mixture to mixture in pan and continue cooking according to the recipe.

14 thoughts on “Alton Brown’s Baked Mac and Cheese

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  1. Here's what I know….you READ all 1200 comments about this recipe before making it. THis is your hobby. This is your joy. THis is what you do. That's why Iove you.
    I didn't know about the salt in the water either….now I do.

  2. Very funny Melinda. I actually only read 600 of the comments…
    Anon- Sorry about not explaining about "tempering the egg", I've added links to a BHG video tutorial.

  3. I personally LOVE how much you abbrev. You can abbrev like nobody's bizz!

    Oh, and I can't make this because I don't know what panko is.

    ~K Dawg (fave nickname ever–and I LOVE nicknames!)

  4. I made this for dinner tonight and loved it!
    Unfortunately, just as I was finishing the sauce, DH called, saying he needed another bit of lunch, as he was working a double shift. I got a bit rattled and forgot the egg. Dang it! Oh well, it was really great anyway, and will make it with the egg next time. Thanks for posting!

  5. Made this yesterday for Easter lunch. It was fantastic! Best baked mac n' cheese I've ever had. TIP: Did was AB said in the show for this recipe and mixed some melted butter with the Panko bread crumbs. That gave the topping a wonderful crunch and it browned perfectly.

    1. Adrienne, Yes, although when making a pasta dish such as mac and cheese, or baked Ziti, for example, the pasta tends to soak up a lot of the sauce and results in a dry dish. I would increase the amount of milk a bit (maybe 1/3 cup) to insure you will have enough sauce after baking the next day!

  6. I hate mustard – just the smell of it can make me vomit. LOL BUT…. I do use it in recipes if it’s called for… usually it’s 1 teaspoon. I’m not sure about the 1 Tablespoon in this recipe. Will it really make a difference if I only add 1 tsp? What does it actually “bring” to the recipe?

    1. Hi Aline, I’m sure a teaspoon would work fine. The mustard adds a nice bit of tartness, or acidity to the mac and cheese. It helps complement the rich cheesy flavor. Hope this helps and thanks for asking!