Alton Brown's Favorite Mayonnaise And What Makes It So Good

While well-known celebrity chef and food science aficionado Alton Brown has his own recipe for mayonnaise that he promises is "the finest concoction you will ever eat," when it comes to a store-bought version, he has a definitive favorite — Duke's.

In 2020, on the French Onion Dip episode of his YouTube series, "Pantry Raid," Brown is forthright in his preference for Duke's, stating, "I like Duke's mayonnaise and I can say that because this is YouTube and not Food Network." But well before that, in 2016, Brown made his affinity for the southern-made mayo clear when he raided the refrigerator at the offices of Garden & Gun Magazine. Duke's Mayonnaise was the first food he sought out in the fridge.

"One of the things that I want to make sure that I always see in a southern refrigerator: Duke's Mayonnaise," Brown said. He then expressed his approval when he later found a second jar of the condiment that boasts a cult following.

Duke's has other devoted fans

The history regarding the origin of mayonnaise is marginally murky, with both Spain and France laying claim to its creation. However, the story behind Duke's is far more straightforward. In 1917, in Greenville, South Carolina, an enterprising woman named Eugenia Duke began to make sandwiches to sell to army canteens at Camp Sevier. Spread with her homemade mayonnaise, the sandwiches were a hit, with soldiers requesting her recipe for years to come. In 1923, Duke began bottling the condiment, and the brand has grown ever since.

What is also clear is how much people adore Duke's. Brown certainly isn't alone in his preference, and fans of the brand are vocal about their fondness for it. The creamy concoction has inspired fan art, and people in parts of the country where it's less commonly stocked in stores will have it shipped, sometimes by the case, like one devotee commented on a post made by Duke's on Facebook. Another commenter on the same post mentioned making the mayo a priority to pack when she temporarily moved out of the country.

In 2014, a North Carolina man proclaimed that when he is cremated, he wants his ashes to be stored in a Duke's Mayonnaise jar. In response, Duke's made it possible (for when the day comes) by sending glass jars along with labels that were customized with his name. Meanwhile, in 2022, people lined up at Yellow Bird Tattoo in Richmond, Virginia, for free tattoos to permanently and prominently display their devotion to Duke's.

What makes Duke's different?

Mayonnaise is, at its most basic, a combination of oil, egg yolk, an acid (commonly some form of vinegar), and salt. It can include other flavorings as well, and some brands incorporate sugar.

As Brown notes in his Pantry Raid video, Duke's Mayonnaise is made using apple cider vinegar in addition to distilled vinegar. This seemingly tiny tweak may be part of what gives Duke's its advantage (at least in some people's opinion) over other American brands, giving it its signature slight tanginess.

Upping the ability for the tartness of the vinegar to shine through is the fact that Duke's Mayonnaise does not contain sugar. Instead, any subtle sweetness can be attributed to the inclusion of paprika.

Some would also say Duke's takes the trophy regarding creaminess. The mayo sports a creamier and more velvety consistency than other brands, thanks to a larger amount of egg yolks incorporated in the recipe. The increased amount of yolks also helps the mayonnaise to remain emulsified at higher temperatures.

If you want to take another piece of Alton Brown's advice about mayo, try mixing it into eggs before scrambling for the creamiest results. You can also take his scientifically-based suggestion to spread it on your bottom burger bun to prevent the juices from the meat from seeping in and making it soggy. But whatever you make with store-bought mayo, for it to be Alton Brown-approved, you can only use Duke's.