Recipe Review

Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits Are So Good, I’ve Been Making Them for More than 10 Years

updated Sep 29, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

We often think of Alton Brown for his scientific approach to cooking and baking, but we’d be remiss to ignore his Southern roots. Brown was raised in the South, and his infamous biscuit recipe is heavily influenced by his Maw Mae (longtime Good Eats fans will remember when she schooled him on from-scratch biscuits in an early episode of the show). Alton actually taught me everything I know about biscuit baking, and my own recipe is a culmination of tips I learned from working with him for over 10 years.

I vividly remember making Alton’s biscuit recipe my first week as a culinary intern on Good Eats, and it was a wild experience to pit it against other popular recipes so many years later. Here’s how Alton Brown’s beloved biscuit recipe stacks up.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits

Alton’s Southern Biscuits call for all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, butter, shortening, and chilled buttermilk — all standard stuff when it comes to biscuit baking. What’s interesting is that the butter and shortening are called for in equal parts, which makes for a biscuit that is both soft and tender, with all the buttery flavor you expect from a great biscuit.

You’ll start by working quickly to blend the shortening and butter into the flour and leavening. Stir the buttermilk into the flour mixture to make a wet dough. On a floured surface, fold the dough onto itself five to six times before patting it into a square and cutting petite 2-inch biscuits. Of the four recipes I tried, Alton’s is the only one that specifies transferring the biscuits from the baking sheet to a tea towel-lined bowl after baking.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuit Recipe

This is a biscuit recipe that I practically have memorized after 10 years of making it regularly, but I was still delighted by how tall and flaky these baked up. The exterior is crisp with a slightly speckled top, but peeling them open reveals a super-fluffy interior that stays soft even a day or two after baking. These biscuits are perfect with jam but also hold up well for breakfast sandwiches and biscuits and gravy.

While I still prefer my own recipe for ease (I skip the shortening and grate the butter), Alton’s recipe is very detailed and will guarantee success for beginners while still delighting seasoned bakers with the results. I’d highly recommend trying it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

If You Make Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits, a Few Tips

  1. Cube and chill the butter and shortening before you start. The version of Alton’s recipe on Food Network and on his site vary just slightly, and having made this recipe with him over the years, I know that chilling the fats helps with creating flaky layers — especially if you are hot-handed.
  2. Make these a little bigger than Brown specifies. The two-inch size is great for a side or serving with jam, but a slightly larger biscuit bakes up just as beautifully and makes a perfect surface for sandwiches and more.
  3. Heed Alton’s advice for cooling and serving. I’m not sure why this advice isn’t talked about more, because it helps keep the biscuits warm and soft. Directly after baking, transfer the biscuits to a clean kitchen towel, cover them, and plop them into a wide bowl for serving. The towel keeps the biscuits warm for serving but also creates a little bit of a steam effect that keeps the biscuits soft. Plus it looks great on the breakfast table.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

Have you ever tried Alton’s Southern Biscuit recipe? Tell us what you think in the comments.