Are you a foodie looking for some inspiration in the kitchen? Or perhaps you can’t get enough of watching culinary magicians whip up delicious dishes under totally unrealistic time constraints? Either way, cooking competition shows are a great way to indulge your culinary interests. However, with so many options available on popular streaming platforms, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones are worth your time.
In this article, we highlight a wide-range of competitive cooking shows that do a great job balancing four key criteria that discerning culinary viewers typically demand:
- Educational Value
Table of Contents
Best Cooking Competition Shows
If you’re a fan of cooking shows, you’re already familiar with several competitive cooking series. You also likely know that cooking competitions vary greatly in style and personality. When judging the merits of food competition shows, we evaluate them across these four aspects:
- Authenticity: How genuine or phony does the show feel?
- Uniqueness: Does the show have an original personality or is it simply trying to mimic other popular shows?
- Educational Value: Is the show good at sharing insightful cooking advice to both contestants and viewers?
- Likeability: Is the show naturally entertaining, or is it annoying with faux drama, silly game show antics, or irritating hosts?
With that said, we prioritized our favorite competitive food shows on those that deliver strong educational value without being too fake or annoying. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out, these shows will likely inspire, educate and entertain you. So grab some snacks and get ready to be amazed by some of the best cooking competition shows currently available on leading streaming service platforms and TV networks.
NOTE: This list is in alphabetical order.
- Alex vs. America
- Bake Squad
- Beat Bobby Flay
- Best Leftovers Ever!
- Britain’s Best Home Cook
- Cook at All Costs
- The Final Table
- The Great British Baking Show
- The Great Food Truck Race
- Guy’s Grocery Games
- Hell’s Kitchen
- Iron Chef
- Iron Chef America
- MasterChef Australia
- Morimoto’s Sushi Master
- School of Chocolate
- Snack vs. Chef
- Top Chef
Alex vs. America
Alex vs. America is a new competition show with an innovative premise that pits established chefs from across the country against Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, as well as each other. Each episode involves a competitive battle for culinary supremacy within a specific cuisine or culinary style (e.g. shellfish, beef, chocolate, noodles, spicy, etc.), as three contestant chefs with similar culinary expertise first try to eliminate Alex, before battling each one another.
A panel of discerning judges evaluate each dish and determine the winner of every challenge through blind taste tests, which means Alex can be “sent home” on her very own show.
Starring Alex Guarnaschelli (chef), Eric Adjepong (host)
Currently available to stream on Amazon Prime with a Discovery+ or Max add-on subscription.
The entire season 1 of Alex vs. America can also be streamed for free from the Food Network website.
Bake Squad is a Netflix original baking competition show that features over-the-top spectacular creativity, as four stellar bakers compete each episode to win the contract for a once-in-lifetime client event. Viewers like the low-key collaborative spirit of the show and watching the genuinely amazed reactions of both the clients and other competing pros. The show is hosted by Christina Tosi, the founder of Milk Bar and a two-time James Beard Award winner.
Starring: Christina Tosi (host & mentor), Maya-Camille Broussard (chef), Ashley Holt (chef), Gonzo Jimenez (chef), Christophe Rull (chef)
See Bake Squad on Netflix for episode details.
Bake Squad: Season 2 | Official Trailer | Netflix
Beat Bobby Flay
Beat Bobby Flay is a popular cooking show where two chefs battle it out in the kitchen to see who can create the best dish. The winner then gets to compete against renowned chef Bobby Flay in a final showdown. The show has gained a large following due to its intense competition, creative dishes, celebrity guest judges and the fact that Flay does not always win.
Starring: Bobby Flay (chef)
See Beat Bobby Flay on on Discovery+ for episode details.
Best Leftovers Ever!
Best Leftovers Ever! (AKA The Leftover Show) is a new cooking competition show that has quickly gained popularity among viewers. Unlike other cooking shows, Best Leftovers Ever! challenges contestants to create delicious and innovative dishes using only leftover ingredients. This unique concept not only promotes resourcefulness but also adds an element of surprise as viewers watch the contestants transform what could have been discarded into mouth-watering meals. Viewers enjoy the show for its creativity, entertainment value, and the practical tips it offers for minimizing food waste in their own kitchens. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just a beginner, you will not look at leftovers the same way after watching this series!
Starring: Jackie Tohn (host), David So (judge) and Rosemary Shrager (judge)
See Best Leftovers Ever! on Netflix for episode details.
Britain’s Best Home Cook
Britain’s Best Home Cook is a highly likeable and relatable British cooking competition show that focuses on home-cooked meals and the passion of amateur chefs. Contestants are ordinary people with a love for cooking that get the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills in a friendly and supportive environment, similar in spirit as The Great British Baking Show. Unlike many competitive cooking shows, Britain’s Best Home Cook emphasizes the importance of home-cooked meals and celebrates the heartwarming essence of family recipes.
Starring: Mary Berry (judge)
See Britain’s Best Home Cook on Hulu for episode details.
Chopped is a widely popular cooking competition show, hosted by Ted Allen, that has been on air for many years. What makes Chopped different from other cooking shows is its unique format. Four chefs compete in three rounds, each round requiring them to create a dish with a mystery basket of ingredients that they are given at the start of each round. The ingredients are often unusual or unexpected, which adds an element of surprise and challenge to the competition. Additionally, Chopped has a panel of judges who evaluate the dishes based on taste, presentation, and creativity. The combination of the mystery ingredients and the panel of judges has made Chopped a fan favorite for many years.
Starring: Ted Allen
Chopped Fails: When a Contestant Forgets an Ingredient | Chopped| Food Network
Cook at All Costs
Cook at All Costs is a new cooking competition show that has gained popularity among viewers. Unlike other cooking competition shows, Cook at All Costs has a unique twist where contestants are given a limited budget to purchase ingredients and must use all of the ingredients they purchased in their dishes. This adds an interesting element of strategy and resourcefulness to the competition.
Additionally, the show’s judges are well-known chefs who are known for their tough critiques. Viewers tend to enjoy Cook at All Costs for its fast-paced challenges, high-stakes competition, and innovative concept.
Starring: Jordan Andino (chef and restaurateur)
See Cook at all Costs on Netflix for episode details.
The Final Table
The Final Table was a unique cooking competition show produced by Netflix in 2018 that set itself apart from other cooking shows by featuring 12 international teams of chefs from various regions of the world. The contestants were divided into teams of two with each duo representing a different country. What made the show interesting to viewers was the fact that the chefs were already established in their own right, having already achieved success in their own countries. The show also featured an eclectic mix of guest judges, including food critics, Michelin-starred chefs, and celebrities. Season Two was never picked up, but loyal viewers who saw the potential in this unique series continue to hope that Netflix or another platform will resurrect it one day.
See The Final Table on Netflix for episode details.
The Great British Baking Show
The Great British Baking Show (AKA The Great British Bake Off or GBBO) is a consensus favorite among viewers of competitive cooking shows. If you wish to recruit a friend or family member to join your passion for cooking shows in general, or specifically culinary competitions, this is the show that will do the trick.
The magic of this show is that it effortlessly excels at what is most important to many loyal viewers of cooking shows. In the case of GBBO, viewers simply want to learn about baking and watch talented, passionate amateur chefs take creative risks while developing their skills. Each episode has contestants facing three challenges, encompassing 10 weeks per season, in hopes of being named the UK’s best amateur baker. Viewers universally love the easy-going, folksy, good-natured tone of the show.
“Collection 11” premiered on September 29, 2023, with Netflix releasing a new episode each subsequent Friday, with the season finale being available on Friday, December 1. The latest season also introduced a new co-host in Alison Hammond, who replaces Matt Lucas.
Starring: Paul Hollywood (judge), Prue Leith (judge), Noel Fielding (host), Alison Hammond (host)
See The Great British Baking Show on Netflix for episode details.
The Great Food Truck Race
The Great Food Truck Race is a popular reality TV show that features food trucks competing against each other in a series of challenges. The winning team is awarded a cash prize and the opportunity to continue operating their food truck business with invigorated enthusiasm and resources. The show has gained a loyal following due to its engaging format, creative challenges, and mouth-watering cuisine from diverse culinary backgrounds. The show’s also a great platform for aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs to showcase their talents and gain exposure in the competitive food truck industry.
Starring: Tyler Florence (host)
See The Great Food Truck Race on Discovery+ for episode details.
Guy’s Grocery Games
Guy’s Grocery Games is a popular cooking competition show hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri as a light-heartened alternative to more somber, stressful food competition shows. The contestants are challenged to cook tasty meals using ingredients found in the show’s private supermarket, often with unique twists and obstacles thrown in. The show has gained a loyal following due to its quick pace, unique challenges, and surprising recipes. The show can definitely serve as inspiration for home cooks to get creative with their cooking and experiment with new ingredients and techniques.
See Guy’s Grocery Games on Discovery+ for episode details.
Flavortown Replay: Competitors Make a Spicy Special | Guy’s Grocery Games | Food Network
Hell’s Kitchen, hosted by the combustible but caring Gordon Ramsay, has been a popular cooking competition show for many years, having premiered in 2005. The show follows a group of aspiring chefs as they compete in various challenges, with the ultimate goal of winning the head chef position at one of Ramsay’s prestigious restaurants. Chef participants are judged on food challenges, services and leadership, to determine their worthiness of being a head chef of a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.
What sets Hell’s Kitchen apart from other cooking competition shows is Ramsay’s tough love approach. He is well known for his harsh criticism and intense outbursts, which makes for entertaining reality TV. However, despite his tough exterior, Ramsay is ultimately invested in the success of his contestants and provides valuable mentorship throughout the competition, which is a key reason why this show has been a fan favorite for so many years.
See Hell’s Kitchen on Hulu for episode details. (Season 22 premiered September 29, 2023 on Hulu)
Iron Chef (AKA Iron Chef Japan) is the original version of the Iron Chef cooking competition franchise which originated in Japan, premiering in October 1993 and ending over 300 episodes later in 1999. The title of “Iron Chef” is bestowed upon a chef which is deemed the very best in every area of the culinary fields. Iron Chef raised the bar early by demanding a high level of culinary expertise from the show’s contestants and hosting the competition in a kitchen stadium. In each episode, a challenger chef was pitted against one of the Iron Chefs in a timed cooking competition featuring a secret ingredient. The judges evaluated each dish based on taste, presentation, and creativity, ultimately crowning a winner at the end of the battle. What set Iron Chef apart was the level of skill and creativity exhibited by the chefs, as well as intense pressure wrapped in eccentric pageantry.
Though always popular in Japan, Iron Chef surprisingly became popular in the US as well, after it was picked up by the Food Network in 1999 and dubbed into English. Part of the show’s appeal to the American audience was due to the audio dubbing, which gave the show a unique quirky charm. Audiences also found the many over-the-top culinary concoctions featured often on the show to be quite entertaining.
For those unfamiliar with the show’s cultish popularity, Adam Liaw, a Malaysian-born Australian cook and second season winner of MasterChef Australia, recently shared a poignant history of Iron Chef that explains how truly original and innovative the show was, and how its influence is still being felt today:
“[Iron Chef] earnestly delivered brilliant chefs, creativity and incredible food, while acknowledging that the very idea of chefs competing was all a bit ridiculous. Kaga’s little laugh showed that, no matter [how] absurd and over the top it got, Iron Chef was always, always in on the joke”
– Chef Adam Liaw
Starring: Takeshi Kaga (the Chairman), Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef), Kenji Fukui (host), Yukio Hattori (host) and Shinichiro Ohta (reporter)
See Iron Chef on Amazon’s Freevee ad-supported streaming platform.
Iron Chef – Season 1, Episode 26 – Salmon – Full Episode | FilmRise Television
Iron Chef America
Iron Chef America was the Americanized version of the original Iron Chef cooking competition show. The US-version ran for 13 seasons from 2005 to 2018, featuring a wide range of celebrity chefs as both competitors and judges. Hosted by Alton Brown, the show pitted culinary masters against each other in a high-pressure culinary showdown where chefs were tasked with creating innovative dishes using secret ingredients. Similar to the original version, Iron Chef America showcased a diverse array of culinary styles and techniques, which was popular with foodies and cooking enthusiasts alike.
In 2022, Netflix rebooted Iron Chef America as Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend, featuring Alton Brown, Kristen Kish and Mark Dacascos.
Starring: Alton Brown (host) and Mark Dacascos (the Chairman)
See Iron Chef America on the Food Network for episode details.
MasterChef is another popular long-running cooking competition show with a proven formula having premiered in 2010. Based on the British series of the same name, the series showcases amateur and home chefs competing to win the title of MasterChef. The judges consist of prominent chefs, offering valuable feedback and criticism to contestants. Viewers tend to enjoy the show’s emphasis on creativity and innovation, as well as the emotional journeys of the contestants as they pursue their culinary dreams. Overall, MasterChef is a must-watch for anyone who loves cooking, competition, and heartfelt stories.
See MasterChef on Hulu for episode details.
MasterChef Australia is a highly popular cooking competition show within the MasterChef franchise given the likeable Aussie flair of the contestants, hosts and judges. The show features amateur home cooks from all over Australia who compete in various culinary challenges to win the coveted title of MasterChef. Viewers tend to like the well-balanced engaging and educational viewing experience. It’s no surprise that MasterChef Australia has become an international fan favorite and must-watch for anyone interested in cooking competitions.
Starring: Andy Allen (judge), Melissa Leong (judge), and Jock Zonfrillo (judge)
See MasterChef Australia on Tubi for episode details.
— MasterChef Australia (@masterchefau) September 5, 2023
Morimoto’s Sushi Master
Morimoto’s Sushi Master, a Roku original show, is a unique cooking competition show where “raw talent” has a totally different meaning! Unlike other cooking shows that focus on a variety of cuisines, Morimoto’s Sushi Master is solely dedicated to the art of sushi-making. Hosted by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, this show brings together the world’s most talented sushi chefs to compete for the title of Sushi Master. What sets this competition apart is the level of skill and precision required to create perfect sushi dishes. Viewers will be impressed by the delicate balance of flavors and textures in each dish, as well as the speed and dexterity with which the chefs work. Morimoto’s Sushi Master is a must-watch for any sushi lover looking to learn more about the craft and witness some of the best sushi chefs in the world showcase their skills.
Starring: Masaharu Morimoto (judge), Dakota Weiss (judge), J. Kenji-Alt (judge)
See Morimoto’s Sushi Master on the Roku Channel for episode details.
School of Chocolate
School of Chocolate is an original Netflix baking show that features eight talented chocolate and pastry professionals that “attend” the School of Chocolate to advance their baking skills and careers. The show’s host and mentor is world-renowned chocolatier Amaury Guichon, known globally for creating amazing chocolate showpieces and incredible pastries. The goal of the competition is for a student to earn the title of ‘Best in Class’ which comes with a prize package and career-changing opportunity.
Viewers like that helpful instruction and mentoring are the primary focus of the show, with competitive elements playing a secondary role.
Starring: Amaury Guichon
See School of Chocolate on Netflix for episode details.
Snack vs. Chef
Snack vs. Chef is a new cooking competition show that pits amateur snack makers against each other. Unlike other cooking competition shows that focus on creating complex dishes, Snack vs. Chef challenges contestants to elevate everyday snacks to gourmet levels. The show is unique in that it showcases the creativity, innovation and food science that goes into transforming simple snacks like popcorn or chips into something truly extraordinary. With two judges that are food science experts, Snack vs. Chef is a unique addition to the world of cooking competition shows. Rest assured you will have a newly found respect for the snack industry after watching just one “recreation” challenge.
See Snack vs. Chef on Netflix for episode details.
Top Chef is an American reality television series that features chefs competing against each other in various culinary challenges. The show has been on the air since 2006 and has gained a massive following among food enthusiasts and reality TV fans alike. Over the years, it has helped launch the careers of several talented chefs and has become a major influence in the culinary world. With its high-stakes challenges and intense competition, Top Chef continues to entertain viewers across the globe.
See Top Chef on Peacock for episode details.
Top Chef Brings All-Stars From Across The Globe For Season 20
Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Competition Shows
Here are answers to often-asked questions about competitive cooking shows.
- What do viewers find most annoying about cooking competition shows?
- Can cooking competition shows help improve your cooking skills?
- What are the most popular cooking competition shows on TV?
- How do cooking competitions work and what are the rules?
- How do contestants prepare for cooking competition shows?
- Are cooking competition shows realistic portrayals of professional kitchens and chefs?
- How have cooking competition shows impacted the food industry and culinary culture?
- What are the best non-dramatic cooking competition shows?
- What qualities do judges look for in a winning dish on cooking competition shows?
- Where can you watch Masterchef Australia in the US?
What do viewers find most annoying about cooking competition shows?
While cooking competition shows can be entertaining, some aspects can be frustrating. Viewers often complain about the heavy reliance on fabricated drama and artificial conflict between contestants. Unrealistic time constraints and a focus on presentation over taste are also commonly disliked.
Many viewers also find non-chef hosts to be annoying as they often try too hard to be witty, while taking attention away from the contestants and cooking challenges. A common complaint found on various review sites for a wide range of competitive cooking shows is that producers often ruin a great formula by one or more of the following actions:
- Creating false drama and phony rivalries
- Hiring a polarizing or annoying host or judge
- Turning the competition element into a silly game show atmosphere
Can cooking competition shows help improve your cooking skills?
Watching cooking shows is a great way to enhance your culinary skills. From learning new techniques and recipes to getting inspired to experiment with different ingredients and cooking styles, these shows offer valuable insights. By observing contestants’ problem-solving and time-management skills, viewers can also improve their own abilities in the kitchen. Regularly watching cooking shows can deepen your understanding and appreciation of the art of cooking, especially when contestants take chances with difficult recipes or techniques.
What are the most popular cooking competition shows on TV?
Some of the most respected and loved cooking competition shows include MasterChef, Top Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen. In the baking show genre, The Great British Baking Show (AKA The Great British Bake Off) is another fan favorite, especially of avid home bakers, for its unique challenges, instructive judges, and friendly atmosphere. Iron Chef America and Chopped are intense competitions that showcase the skills of professional chefs. Ultimately, your favorite cooking competition show will depend on your personal preferences and interests.
How do cooking competitions work and what are the rules?
Cooking competitions operate through a series of challenges in which contestants must complete tasks within a specific time frame. Judges evaluate based on taste, presentation, and creativity. While some competitions have specific ingredient or technique rules, elimination rounds narrow down the contestants until one winner emerges, often receiving a grand prize, consisting of cash or other rewards.
How do contestants prepare for cooking competition shows?
Contestants meticulously prepare for cooking competition shows by honing their signature dishes, researching judges’ preferences, maintaining physical fitness, and mastering mental preparation techniques such as staying focused and managing time. Some series, such as The Great British Baking Show allows the competing amateur bakers to hone their skills or recipes between episodes for a specific upcoming challenge.
Are cooking competition shows realistic portrayals of professional kitchens and chefs?
Cooking competition shows often exaggerate the intense time constraints and pressure for entertainment. They may prioritize drama over accurate depictions of cooking techniques and restaurant operations. However, these shows still offer insight into the creativity, skill, and determination required in the culinary industry.
How have cooking competition shows impacted the food industry and culinary culture?
Cooking competition shows have had a significant impact on the food industry and culinary culture. These shows have increased viewers’ interest in cooking and food culture, giving a platform to new chefs and their innovative dishes. Additionally, they have popularized certain food trends and ingredients, leading to changes in the culinary industry. The exposure from these shows has also helped some chefs build successful careers and businesses.
What are the best non-dramatic cooking competition shows?
Discover the best cooking competition shows that focus on culinary skills rather than drama. The Great British Baking Show and MasterChef Australia are known for their wholesome atmosphere. Chopped offers a fast-paced challenge with less interpersonal drama. Top Chef: Just Desserts is a spinoff that focuses solely on desserts and has less drama than the original show.
What qualities do judges look for in a winning dish on cooking competition shows?
Judges on cooking competition shows seek well-executed and flavorful dishes that showcase creativity and presentation. Attention to detail and proper technique can set a dish apart. Ultimately, judges want something unique, delicious and impeccably presented that demonstrates a chef’s well-rounded skills.
Where can you watch Masterchef Australia in the US?
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