I Tried Alton Brown’s Best Green Bean Casserole Ever

updated Oct 15, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

We all know that Alton Brown is a confident guy, right? So maybe it’s not that surprising to know that he has a recipe literally titled “Best Green Bean Casserole Ever.” And true to its name, that recipe has a ton of fans. Some even say you haven’t truly tasted green bean casserole until you’ve made Alton’s version.

So this month, as Kitchn is testing out some of the most popular Thanksgiving recipes on the internet, Alton Brown’s green bean casserole seemed like a sure bet to include. Going into this, I noticed that, of all the famous green bean recipes I made (here’s Ree Drummond’s and Ina Garten’s), Alton’s called for the most work. But was it worth it? Could it live up to its name? Here’s my full review.

How to Make Alton Brown’s Green Bean Casserole

The recipe is broken into two parts: making the crispy onions and making the green beans and sauce. To make the crispy onions, you slice them thinly, toss them into a breadcrumb mixture, and then bake for about 30 minutes.

While those onions cook, you start on making the green beans and sauce. You’ll blanch the beans, sauté mushrooms with garlic and a bit of nutmeg, then add chicken broth and half-and-half, and simmer until thickened. Top it off with some of the crispy onions, then bake everything off in the oven.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

What I Thought of the Results

Going into it, I knew this recipe had a lot of steps and ingredients. But was it all worth it? In short: nope!

To start, the crispy onions were … a complete disaster. There were a fair share of recipe reviewers who mentioned theirs had turned out badly, but I felt confident I wouldn’t have this problem. (I was totally wrong.)

Even though I tossed the onions as they cooked like the recipe instructed, they still burnt in some spots, were lifeless in others, and stuck together in others. I was honestly embarrassed by how badly they turned out, and had I actually been serving this on Thanksgiving, I would have trashed them and snuck out to buy the packaged ones instead.

The rest of the recipe went fine, but I was already feeling pretty defeated after I pulled the onions out. The recipe didn’t specify which kind of mushrooms to use so I went with cremini — my usual default. The recipe also noted total time from start to finish as one hour and 10 minutes, but mine took just over an hour and a half.

Also worth noting? My kitchen was an absolute mess by the end of this. I had dirtied three different pans, plus the bowl I used for the ice water bath. My first thought was this is definitely not a recipe I want to be making when I’m tied up with lots of other things on Thanksgiving day. I do think it could be possible if you prepped some of it in advance, but more on that below.

(Image credit: Sheela Prakash)

If You Make Alton Brown’s Green Bean Casserole …

1. The crispy onions need a lot of TLC.

Pay extra attention to the onions if you want them to work out. I’d reduce the heat to 425°F and toss them five or six times with tongs so they don’t stick together. Or save yourself the hassle and just substitute store-bought crispy onions.

2. The casserole can be (mostly) assembled ahead of time.

While the recipe doesn’t give direction to do so, you can make most of this casserole ahead of time. Prepare everything up until the point where you sprinkle the remaining crispy onions on top. Store the casserole wrapped in the fridge, and store the remaining onions separately at room temperature. On Thanksgiving day, let the casserole come to room temperature on the counter for 20 minutes or so, top with the onions, and bake until bubbly. You’ll lose a little crispiness in the onions, and the green beans might not be perfectly tender, but the time saved on Thanksgiving is worth it.

3. Use cremini or white button mushrooms.

The recipe doesn’t indicate which variety of mushrooms to use, but cremini or white button work well.

4. You can still make this casserole if you don’t have a cast iron skillet.

While the recipe specifically calls for a 12-inch cast iron skillet, any oven-safe skillet can be used — or transfer everything to a large casserole dish before baking.

One additional note: The recipe says it serves four to six, but if this is part of a Thanksgiving spread where you’ll have so much else on your plate, I’d say it serves six to eight.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 10

The defeat I felt with the crispy onions really ruined this recipe for me. It’s too much of a gamble to try on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the ultimate food holiday, and when it comes to stand-out dishes, everyone has their favorites. This year we decided to put some of the internet’s most popular Thanksgiving recipes — from Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Ree Drummond — to the test in our own kitchens.