In general, any time a chef gets a common, everyday convenience food they don't use in their line of work (like frozen pizza, cup ramen, or "Spiced Ham") to replace one of their ingredients, and analyzes the alien substance with an expression of amazement, confusion, and disgust (usually the last one).
A related phenomenon is when you find these experienced chefs reduced to reading the instructions on the package. It's like a mechanic having to read the instructions on a toy's packaging. Alton always finds it funny when a chef does this.
Also in general, any time a chef not only makes a good dish with a clearly inferior ingredient, like soggy bread, wasabi peas, or The Dreaded Canned Chicken (as opposed to an ingredient that simply wastes the chef's time), but when the the other contestants— or Alton— is clearly stunned that they managed to pull it off.
Giada's reactions on the Webisode of her episode. In fact, just the outtakes from her episode are quite damn funny. Hell, even her behind-the-scenes Webisode was funny just by the interaction between herself and Alton.
In "Cutthroat Kiddie Kitchen", the person who was sabotaged with a kid-sized "Easy-Bake Kitchen"... was the biggest chef out of the four. He won despite having to work in the mini kitchen.
In "Kiss My Grits", Chef Mae's introduction has a damn funny moment.
Chef Mae: In the kitchen, I'm a goofball, but when push comes to shove, I'm a badass. (beat, Chef Mae looks off-camera) Am I allowed to say that?
Alton Brown gave the most epic "What the fuck is that?" face when he saw the vertical egg cooker slowly pop the cooked egg mixture up from its top.
Then in a video in the Daily Dot, he starts to sympathize with the said egg cooker for being forced to... perform every morning at breakfast.
In "Well, Hot Clam," Alton delivers one of the funniest sabotage introductions ever.
Alton: This is not a backscratcher. It's my CLAW HAND!!
What completes this scene is the over-the-top superhero music in the background and him striking a pose at the end of his intro. Alton, never change.
In an Oysters Rockefeller round, one chef gets all her knives replaced by an ice skate and has to harvest her ingredients from a barrel of "crude oil" (actually food-grade syrup). She goes on to win the episode.
Pretty much the entire "Judging the Judges" episode, as Geoffrey Zakarian, Antonia Lofaso, Simon Majumdar and Jet Tila finally got to experience at first hand exactly what the contestants have to go through every time.
The deployment of the infamous mini-kitchen from "Cutthroat Kiddie Kitchen" and the follow-up where it gets swapped to another chef just a few minutes later is an especial high point.
Antonia has a case of Corpsing while Alton tries to use a Face Palm to cover up his case when Geoffrey said with a straight face that he really loves fruit strips during the "Fruit Tart" challenge. In the Webisode, Alton kids Geoffrey that he should get an endorsement deal out of it.
The second Judges episode one has a particularly glorious moment in the final round. Alton presents his most evil sabotage ever: go through the round... without knowing what you're supposed to cook. Antonia, who still had all her money, immediately bets more than what Simon has left, prompting him to throw down his basket in defeat and march over to the soundproof chamber sulking.
Simon: Antonia, and I mean this in the kindest way: curses!
From the Circus episode, Simon dressed as a clown. Even better is the first thing he says:
Simon: If I find out, Alton Brown, that you have anything to do with this, you better learn to sleep with one eye open. That's all I have to say.
During the "Ramen" challenge, one chef is forced to use two metal ramen bowls and a pair of metal chopsticks as her only mixing/cooking vessels. In the middle of the challenge, she notices that the other chefs are boiling eggs. Because both of her bowls are already in use, tries to boil an egg in a regular pot, in view of a camera. Alton immediately appears, goes nuts, lifts the egg out of the pot with a strainer, and unceremoniously flips it toward the far wall. He fines her $500 for not following the rules of the sabotage and gives her a Death Glare.
Two highlights from "Anything But a Cake Walk:"
In the Steak Dinner challenge, after sabotaging two chefs to be forced to sit at a table for two (and doing their prepwork and cooking there), Chef Jernard proceeds to pretend to be their waiter. Alton's Deadpan Snarker reaction was equally as funny.
"You got a lot of mileage from that, didn't you?"
In the Biscuits and Gravy challenge, Alton finds a pineapple at Chef Adam's station. His expression says it all.
Alton: Chef Adam, what does a pineapple have to do with biscuits and gravy?
Then later during the judge portion of the challenge, one chef (whose first language is Italian) admits to Simon (British) that he misheard the dish and thought it was brisket and gravy. Simon totally sympathizes with the chef and says it's because these Americans have accents. Cue Alton mouthing to the camera "I do not have an accent!"
The episode where the dessert is corn muffins. A pair of Confession Cam segments during the pantry phase end up eerily perfect.
Joel: Chef Dean is grabbing a lot of savory items. I don't think he's made a corn muffin in his entire life.
In "Gluttons for Punishment" Chef Pink has to cook pots and pans on a hot dog roller grill. Of course they keep threatening to fall off the far end, so she can't do anything else because she has to move the stuff "upstream" every few seconds. Alton suggests using butcher twine to make tethers to hold them in place. She is so happy that she hugs him and kisses his cheek, leaving him with a dumbfounded expression for a few seconds, looking around randomly.
In the episode "I Would Do Anything For Loaf", Chef Neal had to cook with a heat gun (which looks like and is often called a blow dryer on the show), and says the following lines before realizing what he actually said and then facepalming.
Ironic Echo Cut at the start of the final round of "I Would Do Anything For Loaf", when Alton announces that the dish is cupcakes:
Alton: Everybody loves cupcakes! Chef Neal:(on the Confession Cam) I hate cupcakes.
Episode 4 of the Evilicious Tournament, chefs Yaku and Tregeye are forced to dress up in outfits and walk a fashion runway as part of a sabotage. Except, it doesn't really end up hurting either of them too badly, simply because both of them are clearly having a blast doing the whole thing. Tregeye in particular refused to bid on it because she wanted to do it.
In the Macaroon challenge of the Evilicious Tournament finale, Chef Yaku is forced to pick coconuts from a tree in order to get the coconut he needs. Since he's about seven feet tall and built like a truck, he doesn't even bother with the blade-on-a-stick Alton gives him to knock the fruit loose. He just yanks them down, takes them back to his prep station, and starts breaking them open with his bare hands. Crosses into Moment of Awesome. He loses because Simon doesn't like the fried macaroon he offers up.
While Chef Yaku was frying some of his macarons, he decides to do things 'freestyle':
Chef Yaku: So Chef Sammy played me, with a coconut tree, but he didn't understand the G in me! So I'm over here fryin', chillin' and stuff, and I'mma make sure my macarons is tough! I'm bad. Chef Sammy: Who's bad? Chef Yaku:I'm bad. Chef Sammy: You're gonna lose! Alton:I hate to break up this culinary love story, but you have fifteen minutes!
In the Alton's After-show for the final episode of the Evilicious Tournament, Alton shows Simon the giant ball pit prep station that two of the chefs had to use for the spaghetti and meatball challenge. Alton jumps in first before this exchange:
Alton: Come on in! The balls are warm! Simon: Please don't ever tell me that your balls are warm again.
Second round of "Mo'lassas, Mo' Problems" has all three chefs caught in the pantry when Alton closes the door at the end of the 60-second shopping time. He gives them all a scolding look and takes one ingredient from each chef's basket before letting them out: first chickpea flour, then habanero peppers ("I'm saving you from yourself"), and finally a head of butter lettuce. They were making Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
Alton: Best day ever.
Season 3, Episode 6, "Tso Good". The final round is a carrot cake challenge. The following exchange occurs:
Alton: Bacon. Chef Matthew: Bacon, yes. Alton: A critical ingredient to all... carrot cake. Chef Matthew: Yes, it's so... trendy right now, adds a nice smokiness and with all the rich fattiness and the ice cream and the cake. I think that that... that little savory— Alton: *Walks away silently*
Season 10, Episode 1, "The Full Monte Cristo." First round. During the shopping time, Chef Jourdan completely zones out while getting ingredients and ends up being caught inside the pantry. Alton confiscates a bunch of broccoli before letting her out. The chefs are supposed to make a Monte Cristo sandwich, in which ham and cheese figure prominently - and broccoli absolutely does not. She spends half the round trash-talking the other chefs, reaches for what she thinks is a block of cheese, and has a massive Oh, Crap! moment when someone tells her it's actually butter. She has to get her bread and cheese from a bowl of French onion soup, resulting in a soggy, beef/onion-tasting sandwich that gets her sent home.
The second Halloween episode has Alton dressing up as Dr. Evilicious with his own stuffed toy cat, and he reallyhams it up. Highlights include his reaction to accidentally crushing his cat in the case.
Simon, the episode's judge dresses up differently for each round: first as Elvis, then as Uncle Fester, and finally Princess Leia. He uses the Leia costume for the after-show as well.
The Bobs even get in on the action, all dressed like Oompa-Loompas.
The Veteran's Day 2015 special, in which all four chefs are current/former military service members. Army chef Brad gets smacked with a sabotage in which he has to relay all cooking instructions to "Private Bob," without touching any food himself. He plays it up, shouting orders in an FCC-acceptable version of Drill Sergeant Nasty at the top of his lungs. Crosses into Moment of Awesome because his shouting proves to be a great distraction to his opponents, essentially clobbering them with his sabotage as well.
Later in this episode, Alton gets his wish to mix cooking with the Mythbusters (on whose show he had previously guest-starred) by introducing a sabotage in which one chef's ingredients are replaced with a box full of food that gets explosively redistributed. The contents go flying all over the kitchen, and Alton ends up wearing bits of food on his suit - even though he had taken cover in the pantry - without changing his expression.
The sabotaged chef already used sabotages in the last round, but this round she loses, so both of her opponents take the chance to work together for some sweet revenge on her. When she gets hit the blown-up ingredients sabotage, one of them proudly salutes literally to the well-served dish of revenge.
For a Barbecue Bacon Cheeseburger challenge, Chef Janine loses her good-quality bacon and has to spin a wheel to determine its replacement: fish bacon, burned bacon, or really burned bacon (as in, a breath away from being pure charcoal). The wheel heavily favors the last of these, and she gets stuck with it and ends up being sent home. Bonus points to Chef Michael, who says what we're all thinking:
Chef Michael: How could someone do that to poor, innocent, little bacon?
The firefighters special. How does Alton presents the sabotages for the second round? By pretending to be a fireman himself.
Then in the After Show, Alton just gives an "I quit" look when Antonia guesses correctly which contestant got which sabotage.
In "Two Chefs, One Toga," round two is gyros (Which Alton is quick to remind everyone is pronounced yee-roh), and as the judge arrives:
Simon's not much better in "We Don't Need Another Gyro" (in fact, he's worse):
Alton: Nice to have you back, Simon. Simon: Good to be back. Alton: Gyros. Simon (as he puts his hand on Alton's back): Did you ever know that you're my gyro? (Alton double-facepalms) Simon: Sorry, sorry.
The 50's themed episode of the "Time Warp Tournament" had a sabotage that was built for it. A chef gives up their basket and has to dance on the stage ala Elvis Presley (complete with wig!) in order to get the audience of Bobs to toss him ingredients. While Alton is explaining the sabotage, one of the Bobs tosses a pair ofboxer shortsup on the stage area and it catches on Alton's jacket.
Alton: Dude, this is your underwear! Go put that back on!
In "Melts in Your Pot, Not in Your Hand" Chef Jessica gets saddled with random ingredients to add to potato skins, including aerosol cheese. She sprays some into her mouth. Chef Josh next to her says "That's disgusting," and she responds "No, that's Good Eats." Cut to a zoom-in on Alton (theonce and future hostof that show), who looks at the camera with a surprised face and says "What?"
In "My So-Called Trifle", Chef Mike Minor ends up winning only $300. He was so happy to have even won anything, but his completely ecstatic reaction takes the cake.
Chef Mike: I won Chopped! (cut to wide-shot of the stage as the camera zooms in on the Cutthroat Kitchen sign)
In "I Can't Believe It's Not Udder," a sabotage in the pasta bolognese round is an Italian coffeepot (aka moka pot). The thing has barely appeared in the dumbwaiter and we cut to Chef Candice on the Confession Cam not only saying "Danger, Will Robinson, danger!" but doing the little arm motions that Robot would do when saying it.
In "Chip Off the Ol'Baklava," one of the sabotages involves a chef having to get all of their ingredients from a vending machine using change from Alton Brown's loose change jar. Among the coins in it - pennies, which no self-respecting vending machine will take, and Canadian quarters, which not only won't it take, but which can easily be confused for American quarters.
In "Duck, Duck, Gnocchi" a sabotage has left Chef Gentile with a potato masher duck-taped to his arm to replace one of his hands. He accidentally gets it hooked into his oven door handle, leaving him trapped. Alton tries to help him for a few seconds, then says "have a nice day" and leaves him to figure it out himself.
In "A Crepe-y Situation", a chef's lobster was replaced with fishsticks, smoked mussels, and blackened fish (for a sushi roll challenge). Alton pretends to pet the lobster as though it's his Right-Hand Cat and says "Eeeeexcellent" in a way that would make any Bond villain proud.
In the "Cowboy" special, one of the sabotages was having to lead a "horse" (two Bobs in a costume) around the kitchen, and the Bobs were instructed to kick the cook and try to break free and wander. The sabotaged chef (Kent Rollins, the runner-up of the first Chopped: Grill Masters tournament) got hip to the "horse's" antics and used kitchen twine to hobble the horse so that it could do neither. The look on Alton's face was a pure Didn't See That Coming.
In "Profiterollin' With The Homeys," Chef Ian, a heavy metal fan, is given the extremely metal sabotage of having to cook on a flaming flute.
In "Fast Times at Cutthroat High" one sabotaged chef complains to Alton, "Dude, I can't see!" Alton proceeds to dock him $100 for calling him "dude". When the same chef calls him "slick" not a moment later, Alton takes away another $100. And not a moment later after that, a different chef calls him "bro": cue another $100 fine. The kicker? The hashtag for this incident is "#Kids These Days".
In "Wing It" during the spaghetti and meatballs challenge Chef Davidi is so busy being smug about the fact that she's the only one allowed to taste her food that she stops paying attention to what she's doing. She turns on the blender with her sauce in it without putting the lid on first. Sploosh. Instant karma. She's so shocked that she lets go of the blender pitcher full of sauce, so it falls into the trash can next to her station for the second wave of karma.
Later in the same episode Chef Davidi must make doughnuts without yeast or any other traditional leavener because she forgot to get some from the pantry. She weakly attempts to rationalize to herself and Alton that she can use the yeast in the dairy products that she has (milk and ricotta cheese). Alton is incredulous upon hearing this notion, having to repeat it slowly to indicate this to her. When she looks away he shakes his head and mouths the word "no."
In "The Supper Bowl" Alton reveals the final challenge to be brownies. Chef Kevin is so stunned that he essentially turns into a statue. Alton tells him not to look so stunned, and we cut to the Confession Cam. Even here Kevin looks shocked and stonefaced. Then we cut back to Alton describing brownies to Chef Kevin until he smiles and nods.
In the fried food special, the first thing Alton does upon seeing Chef Amber? Give her special gloves so she wont cut her fingertip off again.
In the first round of "A Dingo Ate My Dutch Baby" - the three sabotages during a dutch baby pancake challenge are as follows: be stuck together with another chef working from the same tray and having to jump double dutch ever time the phrase "Double Dutch, baby!" is yelled, cooking with baby food ingredients, and finally in the middle of the round having to do all the cooking while holding on to a giant Dutch baby doll. The two guys end up double-dutching together, one of them working with baby food ingredients and the other stuck with the giant doll because he let it go to one of the women for a steal at $600. And both go on to the next round because one of the female chefs forgot to get eggs in the pantry.
At the end of the second "Superstar Sabotage" edition, Simon says that the winning dish is so good, he wants to spoonfeed it to Alton.
Alton: Resist that urge.
Anytime a chef is reduced to using that dreaded word "deconstructed" it's funny. "Rustic" is up there too, but "deconstructed" beats it hands down.
In Season Eight's "My Kitchen For A Horse", one of the chefs lost track of the bid in the final round. When she was handed the sabotage, she tried to hand it to her competitor, only to realize that Alton was giving it to her to use.