"Science. It tastes good, don't it?"Good Eats
— Episode #EA1H16: "A Taproot Orange"
was a truly original and groundbreaking approach to the Cooking Show
, and an example of what can happen when cable networks have narrow specialties.
Taking inspiration not only from its cooking show predecessors, but from gonzo kids' Science Shows
like Beakmans World
and Bill Nye the Science Guy
, Good Eats
blended informative lessons on cooking techniques and ingredients with comedy, chemistry lessons, field trips to factories and labs (a la Mister Rogers
), special guests, and Sitcom
The show's host, Alton Brown, was also its creator and executive producer. Brown holds degrees in the culinary arts and drama with a specialty in video production. Before becoming a TV chef, he worked as a cinematographer on music videos
, most notably the one for "The One I Love" by REM
was shot primarily in and around Brown's adopted hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, and lasted from July 1999 to 2011. The longest-running consecutive series on Food Network
(12 years), the show has now officially ended (with the exception of three hour-long specials). It's now being run on The Cooking Channel (and still somewhat on Food Network). A near-total compendium of episode guides and recipes have been compiled into three Good Eats
companion books subtitled The Early Years
, The Middle Years
and The Later Years
Because of the zany, "Edutainment
" nature of the show, you will find a lot
of tropes not otherwise found on cooking shows. A. Lot.
This show contains examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Sometimes called "AB-speak" on the show, Alton likes launching silly salvos of wacky wordplay whenever he's got the gumption. Alton lampshades this in the Season 7 episode "True Brew IV: Take Stock" and the Season 11 episode "Sub Standards" where he claims he doesn't do it while he's doing it.
- Adorkable: Both Alton and his "nephew" Elton.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: While the "holographic" sushi chef is not actually evil, he is a bit of a jerk.
- Animesque: The "history lesson" animations in the tempura episode, appropriately enough.
- Another Story for Another Time: "But that's another show."
- Animated Adaptation: Not of the show itself, but of Alton, who made an appearance in a DVD extra for season 3 of the FX series Archer, where he's supposed to help the titular character prepare the Eggs Benedict variation Eggs Woodhouse, but ends up in a massive brawl that destroys Archers newly renovated kitchen.
- Ascended Fanboy: The house of Mike Menninger, maintainer of the all-but-official Good Eats Fan Page (GEFP for short), including complete transcripts for every episode and links to all recipes found therein, has appeared on the show, and he himself is acknowledged at least once on Alton Brown's blog.
- Author Tract: The entire show is this. Brown began the series because he was frustrated with cooking shows that, while showing the audience what to do in a recipe, never explained why they should do it. This show is his way of fixing that... not that that's a bad thing.
- Bad Boss: Certainly not in real life, but some episodes portray Alton as this.
- The first ice cream episode has him making his nieces and nephews working an old-fashioned hand-cranked ice cream machine.
- "Down and Out in Paradise" has him get stranded on a desert island because his crew deliberately tries to leave him behind on a sinking ship.
- Another episode has his crew actively on-strike.
- Boring but Practical:
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Paul in "Mission: Poachable".
- Brand X: With few exceptions, episodes made after AB's own company took over production in 2001 have brand names obscured or replaced with a nonsense or joke name, even though the label designs can give away the stores where the products were purchased. Older episodes (Seasons 1-4) don't bother. Subverted in that whatever grocery store AB's shopping in (Kroger in the early episodes, Whole Foods and the Farmer's Market in the later ones; also Bed Bath & Beyond when he's buying kitchen gear) will always be named on-screen; for the last couple seasons, they built a grocery-store set to avoid this.
"Ha! 'Bob's,' only the best!"
- Brick Joke: These tend to crop up a lot. For instance: When talking about guacamole in a dip show, Alton tosses his food processor out the window stating that it's too powerful to make good guacamole. Later on in the same show, he needs to blend some livers and turns to his food processor... which he threw out earlier, and hence begins to look sad. Thing brings back the food processor and Alton gets happy.
- Butt Monkey:
- Alton's assistant Paul is usually on the rough side of things, however the actor playing him gets his own back as other characters... like LACTOSE MAN!
- Alton has his moments too; for example, quite a few episodes involve Alton being railroaded into the subject of the episode, and in others he often gets the food he made taken from him.
- Nearly every character gets a turn. Even LACTOSE MAN! has it happen to him, in the episode "Say Cheese"note .
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In the flounder episode, he says of cooking flat fish: "... Which isn't to say that I don't believe in oil or poaching. 'Matter of fact, I like oil poaching."
- Canis Latinicus: While he does use the actual scientific names for various plants and critters, Alton is not above making up a few such as Greenus Bottlus and Blackus Incanius when describing common olives found in supermarkets.
- Captain Ersatz: The character of Colonel Bob Boatwright (played by Alton) is an obvious take on Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
- Catch Phrase: Several.
- Alton's exasperated "Oh bother!" This also counts as a Shout-Out, as Alton explained in the commentary from the "A Tale of Two Roasts" DVD:
You know, "Oh, Bother," that's from Winnie-the-Pooh
, okay? Some of you don't remember... You wouldn't think that Winnie the Pooh would be a regular reference for me. But I find that Pooh sums up a lot of... He wasn't terribly bright. I'm not terribly bright either.
- "It couldn't get any easier than this" was one that popped up frequently in the first season.
- "Walk away. Just—just walk away." Often said when warning the audience not to fiddle with cooking steps that would seem to invite fiddling.
- "Your patience will be rewarded."
- "Golden-brown, and delicious."
- "I said it was good, I never said it was _______." ("Fast" or "low-fat" or "good for you", usually.)
- "But that's another show." Usually said when Alton mentions something off-topic better reserved for its own episode. Sometimes it's been addressed in a previous episode, but more often than not it wasn't made at the time. (The fans kept track.)
- Lampshaded in the bread pudding episode where he delivers the line, then tells Thing to write it down. The camera pans over to show Thing writing in a gigantic binder labeled "... That's Another Show". Alton remarks "Wow, that's a thick book." Ironically, this was in one of the last episodes to be aired, so unless there's a Spiritual Sequel...
- "By weight, please." This is to remind viewers that ingredients like flour and sugar must be measured by weight and not volume. It's also to avoid Unit Confusion, as the weight is often given in "ounces", which could be misconstrued as fluid ounces, a measure of volume.
- "Stuffing is evil." This was coined during the Thanksgiving episode and thrown back in his face repeatedly in future episodes. He eventually relents and has a stuffing episode where he shows his way to make turkey with stuffing.
- "Like the hat?" This one was popularized by a YouTube uploader adding a clip of Alton saying this from the first season episode The Egg-Files after a long obnoxious title card at the start of every episode uploaded.
- "I'm not a doctor, but that HAD to hurt!" comes up a few times, and not always from Alton; Lactose Man uses it after socking one of Alton's crew in the gut.
- "You know, I'm really sorry we haven't worked out that scratch-and-sniff TV yet." In later seasons, "Ahhh, just smell that _____. Oh, I'm sorry, you can't. That was mean."
- "Now go wash those ____y hands!" Used when working with raw meat and poultry, though in the episode about beets, he did admonish the viewer to go wash their "beety hands!"
- Especially toward the end: "Of course, I make my ___ from scratch, but I'm a freak, and we all know it."
- "...(and that's) not good eats." Used sometimes when describing the consequences of a potential cooking mistake.
- Cavemen Versus Astronauts Debate: Alluded to many times, for regional differences in clam chowder and toast, different cooking methods, etc.
- Characterization Marches On: Chuck was originally a quirky butcher. Over the course of the series he became more of a job-hopping Cloud Cuckoolander who knew so little about meat that he didn't know what pot roast is.
- Christmas Episode: There are at least three. One for fruitcake, one for cookies, and another about various Christmastime foods.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The characters played by Steve Rooney mostly disappeared after Brown left Means Street Productions (at which Rooney was employed as their executive chef) to start his own company, Be Square Productions, at the end of season four. Rooney's Mad French Chef, one of the most frequently recurring characters in the early seasons, only appeared once more after he left, in the form of a nightmare-induced puppet voiced by Brown.
- Cold Opening: Every episode starts with this. In the first few seasons, this led to a a Title Drop that preceded the title card. Nowadays, Alton stops just before the Title Drop, which then cues the title card.
- Courtroom Antics: Played off in "The Case For Butter", set at the mock trial case The People v. Butter. AB comes to the defense of the misunderstood dairy product.
- Cringe Comedy: Pretty much all of "Salad Daze II: The Long Arm of the Slaw."
- Crippling Overspecialization: Alton has a dim view of "unitaskers" (relatively expensive tools built specifically to perform one task, and only that task) for this very reason. He does not abide them in his kitchen, unless it's necessary for safety (i.e. the fire extinguisher). He'll generally show alternate methods of performing the same task, either with normal kitchen implements, or by MacGyvering a device using parts from the hardware store. If he does use an item that seems like a unitasker, chances are he'll find another use for it, even if it's another show.
- Cross Over: With MythBusters for a Thanksgiving episode in 2012. It was glorious.
- Cultural Translation: The "American Classics" episodes, where Alton looks at classic American variations of dishes that originated overseas (Spaghetti with meat sauce, tacos, and so on).
- Curse Cut Short:
- Dan Browned: Veteran homebrewers have accused Alton of this due to the Season 6 episode "True Brew III: Amber Waves". It got to the point that Alton issued a public apology, but what the veteran homebrewers often forget is that the episode was taking the perspective of a first-time homebrewer, and much of the advice Alton gives is also given by brewing shops to entry-level homebrewers, so at worst, Alton was guilty of Lies to Children.
- The Devil: Appears (and gets beaten up) in at least two episodes (pocket pies and tamales), and also in the devil's food cake episode (naturally, though in this one he takes the form of a shifty old man).
- Desert Island: Gets abandoned on one by his crew when they leave a sinking ship without him, so he spends the episode cooking the sorts of things you find on desert islands. Also, it's not really a desert island. It's one of the Hawaiian islands and he's less than a mile from a city, but he has no idea, because he lost his glasses.
- Disney Villain Death: The end of "Mission: Poachable" has the French Chef falling into his own lake of court bouillon in an attempt to prevent Alton from throwing a piece of liver into it. He lives.
- Don't Try This at Home: Parodied and played straight, often in the same episode. If Alton is talking about doing something potentially dangerous (such as consuming dishes containing raw meat or eggs, working with caustics, or using burning charcoal inside the house), the Food Police or his "lawyers" Itchy and Twitchy will often show up to stop him, forcing him to find a different (and safer) way to do the same thing.
- This becomes a Running Gag with raw eggs—while he can usually mention pasteurized eggs and avoid problems, sometimes the Food Police will confiscate the dish anyway...
- The Food Police also confronts AB in the episode Milk Made when he mentions raw milk.
- Subverted in one episode, where scrolling text at the bottom of the screen says "Do try this at home... but be careful, won't you?"
- In the Season 11 episode "Pretzel Logic", Alton's lawyers stopped him from using lye to brown his pretzels, because lye is poisonous and extremely caustic if handled improperly.
"Who would have thunk those guys
would have a problem with a little 'lye'
- Played straight with home distilling, which is both illegal and very dangerous.
- Doom Doors: The show uses both the door sound effect and the imp dying noise. Yeah, in a cooking show.
- Drop-In Character: Alton's annoying TV sister Marsha, as well as several real-life experts on food science, nutrition, and nutritional anthropology. The experts show up when needed; Marsha just drops in to force Alton to make her cookies, donuts, soup, etc. Alton also plays some of these characters, such as his Evil Twin.
- One Running Gag is that the nutritional anthropologist will appear out of nowhere whenever her title is mentioned, leading Alton to joke about how he's being stalked ("... she's back there, isn't she?..."). In later episodes, he'll have an obviously negative reaction to saying the title, and in one case hesitates to say it... but she shows up anyway and says it herself. After a while she started to just show up unannounced, and Alton will grumble that he doesn't even have to say it anymore.
- Alton actually found a very good-looking replacement N.A. for the "substitutions" episode whom he had no problems sharing the screen with, only for the incumbent to shuffle her off the show.
- Dutch Angle: Rare indeed is the episode that doesn't feature at least one such angle, usually from overhead and to one side. They became especially prevalent once the "Good Eats kitchen" set was built, allowing cameras to be placed just about anywhere one could conceivably go.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first 4 seasons (1999-2001) are quite a bit different from the later ones.
- All 4 of the early seasons were shot on a completely different set, the same kitchen where the pilots were shot in 1997 (the small kitchen with the white-on-white color scheme, which Alton reveals in a behind-the-scenes special is his actual kitchen/home). Also, the pilots (which became "Steak Your Claim" and "This Spud's For You") were shot on film, not video.
- The middle seasons were shot in a then-newly built producer's kitchen/home which had been specially constructed with filming the show in mind. However, neighbors kept complaining about the long train of cars and people used for production, so the back third of the show was shot with studio sets made to look like the home. It's easy to tell that the kitchen and living room are just a set and a matte-finish background if you know what to look for.
- Brand names were never greeked, and the grocery store segments were shot at a local Kroger instead of at the Whole Foods used later on.
- The first season was almost an entirely different show. BGM was used sparingly, if at all, and there was a lot more emphasis on object lessons and field trips than the zany skits of the later seasons. Also, glitches with location recording were common, leading to a lot of obviously looped dialogue. The on-screen text was also in a Totally Radical late-1990s display font, something that went away after that season.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet: Trope name-dropped in the Season 5 episode "The Trouble with Cheesecake".
- Evil Twin: Alton's "brother" B.A. (played by Alton in "tough guy" clothes and with an attitude). This was actually inverted in one episode, where it was revealed in the last few minutes that B.A. had played the entire episode as Alton. (Appropriately, that episode was about culinary substitutions.)
- Eye Scream: Yes, they manage to fit this in on a cooking show. Perhaps it's only natural if one were to draw eyebrows around the "eyes" of a coconut just before putting a drill to them.
- Food Porn: Mostly averted, and notable in being one of the only Food Network shows that does. This doesn't mean there aren't plenty of drool-worthy moments though. Alton specifically says that he prefers to focus on taste and convenience with serving his dishes. He even teased fellow network host Giada de Laurentiis in a Food Network special with "You're one of those people that eats with their eyes, aren't you?" when she insisted on making a nice pretty plate instead of just presenting something in the dish it was baked in.
- For Science!: In "Ginger: Rise of the Rhizome", Alton convinces his cameraman to try out the Vomitron by saying "Do it for science!"
- French Jerk / French Cuisine Is Haughty:
- The mad French chef from the early episodes.
- The chefs and waitresses from the bouillabaisse episode, who not only tell Alton he can't make the dish properly, but actively try to sabotage his efforts. When he finally does make it, they taste it and declare it crap (despite the fact that they finish the whole thing).
- Funny Background Event:
- In the opening for "Feeling Punchy", Alton discusses a bit of the history of punch while standing near a table with a punchbowl. Behind him, a little old lady pours a whole bottle of liquor into the bowl and starts handing out cups to everyone (including Alton, who nearly does a Spit Take when he tastes it).
- Throughout the entire nut episode, a squirrel constantly appears in the background and steals from whatever nuts AB was discussing or working with when he turned his back.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- "Milk Made" has an old-time milkman come to Alton's door with a bundle of flowers... which he quickly discards when he sees he's speaking to Mister Brown. Alton doesn't seem to understand.
- See the "yeast inflection" joke below.
- In one episode, as Colonel Bob Boatwright, he mentions that some flying flour reminds him of "a party from the 80's".
- In the episode "Switched On Baklava", during his explanation of the origins of the nuts used in the recipe, he comes to walnuts that have a name that comes from a phrase meaning "Mighty nut of Jupiter," which he points out is the Roman version of the Greek god Zeus "who I'm sure has some great nuts too."
- Oh My Meat Pie pretty much runs on this, which is understandable since the entire episode is a riff on Sweeney Todd, complete with Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett in the episode with AB's great-great grandfather (played by Alton himself, of course). Naturally, there is a lot of ambiguity about the meat used throughout the episode and it ends with Alton's great-great grandfather getting married to Mrs. Lovett and the two of them moving to America. Mr. Brown "disappears" under mysterious circumstances a few years later.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
- Alton throws in the occasional "Gosh darn it!" every now and then.
- More often, he resorts to "Oh, bother!"
- The Spin-Off show Feasting on Asphalt features a sprinkling of very mild profanity here and there, as well as a deeply heartfelt utterance of "GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY!"
- Slightly subverted during the final hour-long special, "Turn on the Dark;" you can hear AB shout a short "Ah, damn it!" through clenched teeth, after he put his hand on an ostensibly hot cacao bean grinder.
- Hand Puppet:
- Most microorganisms on the show are played by hand puppets, and the most common are the burping, farting yeast sock puppets.
- Dolls and puppets are also used to illustrate cooking concepts, such as the feuding "boxer" puppets Tender and Flaky who show up when Alton is discussing pastries or pie crusts.
- The chicken and dumpling revives the boxer puppets as representing Alton's mother and mother-in-law, as well as their conflicting views on how to prepare dumplings.
- In the Season 13 episode "Good Eats Turns 10", a puppet of Alton attempts a Hostile Show Takeover.
- Hair-Raising Hare: Alton uses a puppet one of these to convince people that rabbits deserve to be eaten.
- Henpecked Husband: The giant in the green-bean casserole episode.
- Heroic BSOD: W has one in the cole slaw show, after being told the morning show she's guesting on is live, and proceeds to stare blankly into the camera for the rest of the segment.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: At the beginning of "The Other Red Meat", Alton has a heart attack and dies. Cue a near-death experience where he learns about the benefits of fresh tuna.
- Hollywood Voodoo: In the Season 9 episode "Dis-Kabob-Ulated", Alton tests barbecue skewers on a voodoo doll of W, with painful results for her.
- Hypocrisy Nod: Multiple examples, though most notably with Alton's original rule that "By and large, stuffing is evil" in his first Thanksgiving episode. After that, members of his cast and staff were quick to jump onto Alton whenever he attempted stuffing or filling a food, which he then had to justify or insist that he only meant "stuffing turkeys was evil". Eventually, he recanted the evilness of stuffing altogether with an episode devoted to finding a safe and flavorful method to stuff turkey, although the phrase has reappeared in a Christmas Episode on a card. It also reappeared in an episode about crown roasts; Alton replied that they'd already proven that stuffing didn't have to be a bad thing, but that in this case, stuffing would be "evil".
- Identity Amnesia: The basis for the plot of the seventh season episode "Ill Gotten Grains".
- The Idiot from Osaka: Played with in the Japanese cuisine segment.
Japanese Store Owner: Konnichiwa! (unintelligible muttering)
Alton: I didn't catch that. (to camera) Must be from Osaka.
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- During the pizza special, Alton is insulted by the "Mad French Chef" for not blooming his yeast gently in warm sugar water. When Alton explains how instant yeast doesn't need to be pampered, the Mad French Chef crushes his paper hat on Alton's head and storms off muttering angrily to himself, leading Alton to look at the camera and say "I guess he didn't care for my yeast inflection."
- Pretty much every episode title, as well.
- Irishman And A Jew: A scene explaining how corned beef came (erroneously) to be associated with Irish cuisine employed a Jewish rabbi and and Irish priest sitting in a bar. After some dialogue and an explanationnote from Alton's nutritional anthropologist, we get the set-up to a corny old-fashioned joke: "A priest, a rabbi, and a nutritional anthropologist walk into a bar..." Then Alton, the priest, and the rabbi all roll their eyes and get up to leave.
- It's Been Done: One episode opens with Alton announcing he'll be testing common food urban legends, today, on "Culinary Mythbust—" Then the phone rings. One quick conversation involving "copyright infringement" and "fines" later, it's "Culinary Myth Smashers".
- It Came from the Fridge: Subverted. The Lady of the Refrigerator appears inside Alton's fridge to discuss the nutritional benefits of featured foods.
- Jump Cut: The show's earliest era was stuffed to the gills with them.
- Just Plane Wrong: In the Season 11 episode "The Wing and I", Alton starts off explaining how wings—aircraft wings, at least—generate lift, by invoking Bernoulli's Principle. This explanation is correct in some ways, but not in others. A more accurate description would have taken a lot more time to explain, which is why this one is forgivable, especially since this explanation is very commonly used—even in textbooks. Aircraft engineers still write paragraphs of rants on why Alton is wrong when they see this episode.
- Large Ham:
- (jumps in) "I'M LACTOSE MAN!" (punches someone in the gut) "I'm not a doctor, but that HAD to hurt! I'M LACTOSE MAN!" (jumps out)
- Alton himself is pretty hammy in front of and behind the camera; just watch Feasting on Asphalt.
- Larynx Dissonance: In the Season 1 episode "Romancing the Bird", Alton argues with his Aunt Verna about the temperature of the oven. Aunt Verna says in a deep masculine voice "I never liked you anyway!" and storms off.
Alton (wide-eyed): A lot of my childhood questions... just got answered.
- Leitmotif: Marsha has one, as does W (a Suspiciously Similar Song of Bond's theme song) and Alton's Evil Twin; Alton's show neighbors (Chuck and Mr. McGregor) share one as well.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the cracker episode, the inventor of the Graham cracker condemns the newfangled picture-box where "you can watch lascivious meals being prepared every hour of the day." Alton responds: "Well, I wouldn't know anything about that..."
- Left Hanging: Alton announced that episode 249, Use Your Noodle V, will be the last regular series episode, but he still dropped his "that's another show" catch phrase. In fact, four episodes earlier, he lampshaded the catch phrase by showing a big book of "another episode" topics. Barring any specials, we may never see those episodes. He's dropped hints on his Twitter feed that there may be something Good Eats-related in the future, but has also strongly implied that Food Network isn't interested in it coming back in any serious capacity.
- Long Runners: Premiered on Food Network in July 1999.
- Lying Finger Cross: In "Tender Is The Loin II", Alton is forced by his lawyers to declare that he would not eat the raw carpaccio that he was going to prepare. As they walk away, we see him lift his hand with the two fingers crossed. (Ultimately, it doesn't help.)
- MacGuffin: Lampshaded with the character Blair McGuffin in "Behind the Bird".
- MacGyvering: AB builds such devices as steamers, smokers, and yogurt makers from household items and hardware store purchases... and teaches the viewer how to do the same.
- Usually he does this not only because it's cheaper, but because every time he starts building one (or is forced to go buy more cookware) he brings up the fact that there's only one unitasker he'll abide in his kitchen, and if you're doing things right you shouldn't have to use it at all—a fire extinguisher. And in the 10th-Anniversary special, he uses that in a dish too. note
- Lampshaded in the gyro episode, in which he preceded a vision of him constructing an elaborate homemade rotisserie with several pieces of hardware including a small motor by saying "If you want rotisserie at home, we're gonna have to think like MacGyver." Amusingly, he then acknowledges that it's not worth the trouble and explains how to make a gyro loaf in the oven instead.
- In the smoked fish episode, Alton muses that MacGyver isn't his patron saint for nothing.
- In later episodes, the music that plays whenever he builds something is clearly influenced by MacGyver's theme. The theme also has a touch of the "build music" from The A-Team.
- The Men in Black: They usually show up in groups of three to give government standards on foods and food safety. Alton is almost always the leader, and talks in a stereotypical fast-paced, overly serious tone. He also shows up on his own in this role, such as in the episode about vanilla where he talks about govt. requirements for what can be legally called vanilla extracts. While they're usually wearing the typical black suits, in "Churn Baby Churn II", they're dressed as ice cream attendants.
- Mr. Fanservice: Jean-Claude (aka JC) from Feasting on Asphalt. Being French helps.
- Musical Pastiche / Theme Tune Cameo: The stings and bumpers are all variations on the Theme Tune, played in completely different (and frequently apropos) music styles. Even the 10-count tones for 10-second countdowns are the tones of the theme. He's even played the theme on a number pad for a security door.
- Nephewism: Alton's nieces and nephews, including his nephew Elton, are regular characters.
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The Dungeonmaster, who provides some of the kitchen implements that Alton uses. The Dungeonmaster uses them for torturing and killing small animals, while Alton uses them to apply pressure to food, either to flatten them (as in the tortillas episode) or to extract something from them (as in the oils and pomegranate episodes).
- Nonstandard Prescription:
- There are several episodes where Alton takes the role of a doctor when talking about previous medicinal uses for the topic of the episode.
- In the episode "Gills Gone Wild," a doctor writes Alton a prescription for an expensive statin-type drug, as well as a prescription for salmon. When Alton questions what kind of salmon the doctor wants him to eat, the doctor replies that it doesn't matter. Alton is angered, because the doctor won't let him take a generic version of the medication but doesn't think there's a difference between farmed Atlantic salmon and the many types of wild Pacific salmon.
- No OSHA Compliance: Alton opens up a thermos with a buzzsaw and sparks can be seen flying all over the place, yet nobody—not even the two construction workers—has any safety goggles on. This was one of the obviously goofier scenes and didn't take place at a real construction site, however.
- Not Actually The Ultimate Question: When Deb Duchon shows up after the umpteenth time after Alton says "Nutritional Anthropologist", he asks "How do you do this?" She replies with "Study. Write papers. Go to conferences. What do you mean?"
- Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: With the Food Police or his "lawyers" Itchy and Twitchy.
- Pac Man Fever: In "Soup's On", Alton performs a soap-box speech with Elton watching, and mentions tearing kids away from "that nasty Pac-Man"; Elton chuckles at this, reminding Alton that Pac-Man is older than Elton. Alton (naturally, compounding his mistake) continues: "Well, Frogger then".
- Patron Saint: Alton has claimed that MacGyver is his. (See MacGyvering above.)
- Product Displacement: Quite a few items have their brand names overlaid with stickers or tape ("Bob's" being one common "replacement" brand name), though quite a few items have enough of the original label showing for viewers to guess what brand (or even store brand) they are, or have it blocked in a manner that's suggestive of the original logo.note
- Product Placement: Almost completely averted; see You Wanna Get Sued? below for ways that the show gets around mentioning products by brand name (but see Product Displacement above). However, Alton has specifically mentioned Old Bay seasoning in at least one episode, and if you pay attention to the label designs it's easy to tell which stores ingredients are bought from, even with the names changed or blanked out.
- Prop Recycling: In the Orange Aid episode, a video used in Oat Cuisine is recycled to explain why sugar is added after the cooking is done. This is lampshaded by Brown. Lactose / Lever Man's outfit is also mentioned in that episode, as they're still trying to pay it off.
- Pun-Based Title: Nearly every episode title contains (or, more often, is) some sort of pun.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted. Alton often stutters and "um's" and "uh's" his way through many of his monologues because he often pre-records them ahead of time and has them fed to him via an earpiece. Other times (such as skits with W or other characters), he memorizes his lines like an actor. Still other times (usually when explaining technical aspects and merits of various cooking gadgets), he works from a basic outline and pretty much ad-libs until he hits the points he needs to make.
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- W's depiction in early episodes as a Virtual Ghost came about because Vicki Eng was out of the country trying to adopt a child, and had to film her appearances in advance.
- In The Early Years, Alton says we probably won't be seeing Elton anymore because his actor, John Herina, was in college, a football player, and taller than AB, which would undermine his role as The Watson. The Middle Years further elaborates that the college in question was West Point.
- Reconstruction: A lot of the dishes and ingredients featured on the show are things many people hated from their childhood (mussels, peas, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes just to name a few). Alton shows how to cook them properly in order to ensure that they're actually quite tasty, and often quite easier to prepare properly rather than improperly (which is often what leads to the nasty flavors and textures people dislike anyway).
- One episode is dedicated to finding the right way to stuff a turkey (as in a previous episode, he had stated that "stuffing is evil"). He starts the episode with a demonstration of why he'd said that before (a Deconstruction), and then shows how to avoid the various problems (the reconstruction).
- Recurring Riff: The show's theme, with different instruments and different musical styles.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The adorable, burping yeast sock puppets... 'nuff said.
- Running Gag:
- In an episode about sauces, Alton does this to himself while dressed up as a sunflower to show where starch comes from.
- In a later show, after being chastised for carrying miso that has MSG in it, a "Japanese" store owner threatens to do this.
- Sequel Hook: AB's Catch Phrase "... But that's another show."
- Self-Deprecation: Done to himself a few times, but "Behind The Bird" contains a playful jab at Alton's hometown of Atlanta, as a couple of inches of snow is enough to shut down the city (which, for the record, is Truth in Television).
- Shown Their Work: Alton goes over the chemical processes behind certain cooking maneuvers in the kitchen to help explain to viewers the rationale behind various recipes. Alton also commonly starts off an episode with a brief overview on the history or origins of the food he's covering, citing various works or historians in the process. This invites a lot of faultfinding from Negative Nellies.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis:
- "Cocoa Carl", a maker of awful processed foodstuffs.
- "The French Chef", a representative of the snooty, uptight traditional cooking establishment.
- Alton and W view each other like this, too; W often treats Alton like walking Snark Bait, while Alton tends to deliberately antagonize her in return. This is because he usually prefers his homebrew knockups, and W makes her living selling devices that have one function (of which Alton has a pronounced disdain).
- In the Season 1 episode "Pantry Raid I: Use Your Noodle", some scenes featured him side-by-side with "The Anti Alton", who went out of his way to do everything Alton wouldn't do when cooking pasta. (Anti-Alton would later be revealed to be "B.A." Brown, Alton's Evil Twin.)
- Lactose Man could also apply given that his only function is to sock Alton (and others) in the gut when they eat lactose-laden food, and shout "I'M LACTOSE MAN!" in overwrought fashion.
- Alton's "sister" Marsha
- Something Completely Different: Occasionally, an episode takes on the form of a completely different show.
- One episode was a combined parody of Junkyard Wars and Iron Chef
- The cole slaw episode was set up like a morning talk show on which AB appeared as a guest.
- AB did his entire chili show in-character as an Old West cowboy... then returned to his kitchen as himself and wondered who had been using it.
- There was also an episode titled "Mission: Poachable". It's not hard to figure that one out.
- The tropical food episode was a parody of Cast Away.
- "Water Works I" and "Water Works II" featured no actual cooking, and instead Alton talks about water sources and filtration.
- "This Spud's for You Too" and "Ill Gotten Grains" are Whole Plot References to Stephen King's Misery, with the Loony Fan even resembling Kathy Bates' portrayal of Annie Wilkes.
- Space Whale Aesop: In "Tortillas Again", the lesson learned is:
Alton: If you don't play wise with your leftovers, you'll end up with people picketing your house, your crew abandoning you, and of course, you'll be infested by some strange little fairy-type person.
- Speak of the Devil: At first, the culinary anthropologist was "summoned" this way. In later seasons, she started appearing without the use of the "magic words", to Alton's annoyance.
- Spin-Off: Feasting On Asphalt featured Alton and his camera crew crossing America by motorcycle and trying different foods from different places. Season 3, titled Feasting On Waves, moved to the Caribbean and switched out the bikes for boats.
- Start My Own: How the show came about. Alton was dissatisfied with other popular cooking programs mostly because they never tell you why you should do certain things and take certain steps when preparing food. His wife then challenged him to make his own show.
- The Stinger: A few episodes include an outtake from the episode after the production company's card, while a few others continue from a previous scene (or continue a theme from earlier in the show).
- Techno Wizard: "W", named in honor of James Bond's "Q", is the harried kitchen appliance retailer who supplies info about whatever new machine Alton needs that episode.
- She doesn't seem to appreciate the job, possibly because in her capacity as "W" Alton is her only customer; other characters, such as a dentist who employs her part-time as an assistant, refer to her as "Ms. Wong".
- W has had a bit of an interesting story arc—she started as something of a Virtual Ghost, appearing on giant screens behind Alton and on microwave doors and so forth. Then she becomes real, managing the Bed Bath & Beyond where he shops. Then, apparently, he hires her onto his organization, as she only shows up in a "lab" type of environment, testing and evaluating products.
- And of course, he points out in Behind the Eats that in real life, Vicki knows about zilch about cooking.
- Tempting Fate: The beginning of "Deep Purple" (an episode about eggplants) has Alton saying "You can never have enough eggplant." Cue his neighbor MacGregor showing up with more and more eggplants...
- Thanksgiving Episode: "Romancing the Bird - A Good Eats Thanksgiving". Aside from obviously featuring turkey, the episode also has a recipe for cornbread pudding.
- They Just Didn't Care: Invoked by "Thomas Jefferson" at the beginning of "American Classics IX: Pumpkin Pie".
- This Loser Is You: Literally. The show takes on a first-person perspective when Alton teaches the audience how to make breakfast in the Season 13 episode "Man Food II", with the Audience Surrogate being a 32-year-old loser whose mother comes over every morning to make him breakfast (and, as we see at the end of the episode, do his laundry).
- This Means War!: Versus the Mad French Chef in "Mission: Poachable" and against the snooty cupcake shop maître d' in "Honey, I Shrunk the Cake".
- Title Drop: Practically every episode. It gets lampshaded and played with quite a bit.
- Torture Technician: A "cackling Igor" Torture Technician supplies Alton with tortilla-making implements and a few other delightful terrors, like a device that uses blades for tenderizing meat. Alton addresses him as "Dungeon Master", which, given the nature of the show, may well be his actual name. He seems to be renting Alton's dungeon basement solely for the opportunity to do this particular job, because his lease favors the landlord heavily; Alton can evict him at a moment's notice if he's not happy with his tenant's job performance.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Kosher salt, because it's easier to pinch and dissolves better.
- Since Alton never had iodized salt as a kid, its usage just doesn't taste right to him. He will use table salt when / if the occasion calls for it, however.
- He's also said that cumin is his favorite spice, and that mangoes are his favorite fruit.
- He's carried a whole nutmeg around with him in his pocket, for years, so that he can make freshly-grated nutmeg whenever and wherever he needs it.
- Up to Eleven: Courtesy of Alton's toaster-fanboy assistant Paul in the episode "Behind the Bird":
Paul: I made this one. It goes to eleven!
Blair: Why not just make ten higher?
Paul: But it goes to eleven!
Alton: Okay, hey! You know what, Paul? Time out! Time out! (sends Paul to the corner)
- Verbal Tic: "Um" or "Uh".
- Viewers Are Morons: A rare case of this being a good thing, and in a way the point of the show. Alton almost never assumes the viewer knows anything, even things that have been demonstrated in previous episodes, and carefully explains how and why to do every step of a recipe.
- Visual Pun: Sometimes provided by Thing, generally by taking Alton Brown's request literally. In at least a couple episodes, AB mentioned using a mandoline to slice something; Thing promptly showed up holding a mandolin. (Both words are pronounced the same.)
- The Watson:
- Chuck, in many of his appearances.
- Alton will also use the non-existent Fourth Wall to use the audience as a Watson ("I know what you're thinking....")
- Or Alton himself whenever he's talking to a butcher, fishmonger, baker, or any other person with specialized food knowledge, whenever the viewer needs more details on buying the things they sell. He also uses this to show what type of questions the viewer should ask to ensure that they're getting the right stuff.
- Inverted in "The Fungal Gourmet", where the fourth-wall "character" makes suggestions to a clueless Alton.
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Exclaimed by Alton to Shirley Corriher (the food scientist), but he's got more than his fair share as well.
- Whole Plot Reference: Too many to list, but here are a few:
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Brett the Dutch Girl, who was first seen in the donut episode and has shown up as a German girl and a Colonial girl in later episodes.
- In one of the books based on the show, Alton says that the practice of putting a guy in a dress when an ugly woman is needed is another Monty Python influence.
- Window Pain: In the episode about cornmeal, Alton mentions that grits and polenta are essentially the same thing. He promptly gets a brick through the window with a message saying that he's a big fat liar. Then he gets a chunk of marble through the window, with the exact same message—in Italian—carved into the stone.
- Writer on Board: It's understandable, but Alton's rants and raves against anything that isn't scratch-made gets tedious after a while.
- X Meets Y:
- The very premise of the show: mixing a Cooking Show with a Science Show.
- In the 10th-Anniversary special, Alton explained his original idea for the show as Julia Child meets Mr. Wizard meets Monty Python.
- You Look Familiar:
- You Wanna Get Sued?:
- When referring to Ritz crackers, Alton explains he has to avoid using the trademark but instead holds up the cracker. Oddly enough, Ritz crackers were mentioned — by actual name — as an ingredient in a recipe on the "Beet It" episode.
- He performs a similar tactic for moon pies in the Season 11 episode "Puff The Magic Mallow".
Alton: Now, if you grew up in the South as I did, you'll know exactly what to call these. But since that name is copyrighted, I'll remain mum on the subject.
(two hands pop up in the background, one holding a picture of the moon, the other holding a pie)
- The MythBusters gag under It's Been Done.
- In the Halloween candy episode "Tricks for Treats", Alton references Tootsie Rolls without actually using the name by holding up one of the old-style, cigar-sized pieces.
- In the popcorn episode, Alton tapdances around the name "Cracker Jacks", referring to it as "the snack from that song, you know, Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and later as "Cracker... you know". He even packs his version in boxes bearing the name "Slacker Jacks".
- Alton says "I hope this helps" and has the Kool-Aid Man burst through a brick wall when a recipe called for Kool-Aid packets, although instead of a pitcher it was a glass. The glass cites budget reasons.
- "Three Chips for Sister Marsha" features him making variations on the original Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe and encourages the viewers to follow along with the recipe which is available on the back of any yellow bag of chocolate chips. (Read: Nestle Chocolate Chips)