Top 10 Cooking Competition Shows

Script written by Michael Wynands Put on your apron, preheat the oven and sharpen your knives - this time we’re cooking to win. Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Cooking Competition Shows. For this list, we’re looking at TV shows that air regularly; not one-time specials. Special thanks to our user Dusto22 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at

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Top 10 Cooking Competition Shows

Put on your apron, preheat the oven and sharpen your knives - this time we’re cooking to win. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Cooking Competition Shows.

For this list, we’re looking at TV shows that air regularly; not one-time specials.

#10: “Cupcake Wars” (2009-13)

If you’re watching your waistline...maybe don’t watch this show. Each episode features four teams of bakers competing to create the tastiest, and most artfully decorated, cupcakes in three unique rounds based on a common theme. You wouldn’t think a show about this trendy dessert could be so stressful to watch, but we’re always on the edge of our seats as the timer winds down in each round. The baking itself isn’t exactly the highlight of the show (after all, how many different ways can you make a cupcake?) but the contestants always seem a little bit crazy which is, of course, endlessly entertaining. We’re usually left with insatiable sweets cravings, except when they make “savory” cupcakes... [yuck.]

#9: “The Next Food Network Star” (2005-)

The format of “The Next Food Network Star” has changed a lot over its multiple seasons, alternating between letting viewers at home choose the winner and having the judges do the dirty work. Actually, they even dropped the word “next” from the title, so now it’s simply known as “Food Network Star”. Do we actually watch the cooking shows that these winners end up making? The only one who’s actually been successful is Guy Fieri and… well, we all have our own opinions of him. But it sure is fun watching them struggle to get there.

#8: “Cutthroat Kitchen” (2013-)

We dare you to try changing the channel when “Cutthroat Kitchen” is on. This show is straight up mesmerizing, kind of like a car wreck that you can’t look away from...but with more knives. This extreme cooking show pits professional chefs against each other with the added intrigue of being able to dole out sabotages to their competitors. The focus here is not fine cuisine - it’s watching chefs try to make something vaguely resembling the assigned dish while dealing with the ridiculous challenges they’re given. Be it something simple like having to make their cooking utensils out of tin foil or something utterly absurd like cooking a meal in a ball pit, this show never stops being entertaining.

#7: “The Great British Bake Off” (2010-)

What makes this show so great is that it is SO British - there’s none of the backstabbing or harsh competitiveness you see on American cooking competition shows. The episodes take place in an tent located in an idyllic countryside setting (think the lawns of Downton Abbey) and the narration and background music are quiet and soothing. Everything seems to occur at a comfortable, slow pace and the contestants all seem like genuinely nice people - just there to make their traditional family recipes. Prizes are rarely mentioned and you sort of get the sense that it doesn’t actually matter who wins. So just make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy.

#6: “My Kitchen Rules” (2010-)

In this Australian show, the competition starts with multiple couples turning their homes (or the home of a friend or family member) into mini pop-up restaurants to serve dinner to the judges as well as their fellow competitors. The top teams then go on to compete in a series of challenges, culminating in the head to head grand finale. Unlike “The Great British Bake Off,” “My Kitchen Rules” is all about the drama. The food itself seems secondary to the contestants’ feuds and even romantic entanglements. This show may have seen its fair share of controversy due to accusations of manipulative editing and rigged results, but who cares, right? It’s not like we expect our reality TV to actually be realistic.

#5: “Hell’s Kitchen” (2005-)

Is it weird that it gives us so much satisfaction to watch Gordon Ramsay scream at people? Maybe. Will that make us stop watching “Hell’s Kitchen”? Absolutely not. It’s kind of hard to explain what it is that’s enjoyable about this show. The contestants all seem like unhappy human beings who spend more time bickering than cooking, Ramsay is mean and yell-y and no one even has the chance to make any impressive meals because they’re all under so much pressure. But let’s not overanalyze it; “Hell’s Kitchen” gives us the reality TV drama we crave, combined with the smug comfort of sitting on our couches and not being personally victimized by the profanity-hurling British chef.

#4: “Chopped” (2009-)

“Chopped” is one of those shows that you can watch 12 episodes of without even realizing it. Despite the fact that the format is the same every time, it never gets old. And with holiday episodes and tournaments of “Chopped Champions”, you could easily fill your DVR with hours of entertainment. After watching enough episodes, you’ll feel like an insider, yelling at the screen that there’s no way someone can make risotto in 30 minutes or to cool it with the raw onion if Scott’s judging. “Chopped” has inspired us to get inventive with our own kitchen creations, but we unfortunately speak from experience when we say that you should probably leave the Fruit Loop-crusted filet mignon to the professionals.

#3: “Iron Chef America” (2005-)

Modeled after the Japanese hit “Iron Chef” and following the same format, “Iron Chef America: The Series” pits a contestant against a resident “Iron Chef,” who is either a recognized Food Network host or a winner of “The Next Iron Chef.” They compete in a one-off competition focused around a single mystery ingredient or theme and the cooking here is about as elaborate as it gets. The food that gets made in Kitchen Stadium is typically not the type of thing you’re going to be able to recreate at home. The ingredients, techniques and theatrics ar

#2: “Top Chef” (2006-)

This Emmy Award-winning show features professional chefs on the cusp of making it in the culinary world. We love Bravo’s take on the cooking competition show because the focus here is one hundred per cent on the food rather than interpersonal dramas. Even though the contestants all live in a house together Big Brother-style throughout filming, it’s totally classy, we swear. Despite the typical reality TV set up, “Top Chef” manages to strike the perfect balance between character development and seriously good cooking. And if you like this, you’ll love “Top Chef Masters,” which features competitions between chefs that are famous for their cooking around the world.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Guy’s Grocery Games” (2013-)

“Next Great Baker” (2010-)

“Throwdown! with Bobby Flay” (2006-10)

“The Great Food Truck Race” (2010-)

#1: “MasterChef” (2010-)

Based on the UK versions of the cooking reality show, the U.S.’s “MasterChef” involves - what else - Gordon Ramsay yelling at people. This time though, it’s amateur and home cooks instead of professional chefs so you sympathize with them even more, especially when they cry. Which happens a lot. Some contend that “Master Chef Australia” is actually the best of the bunch, but Gordon Ramsay isn’t even in it and it seasons can feature up to 80 episodes. Who has time for that? And nothing will make you feel as incompetent as watching “Master Chef Junior,” which features 8 to 13 year old chefs making dishes you’ve never even heard of. People may disagree on which version of “MasterChef” is the best, but one thing’s for sure: this franchise has perfected the recipe for cooking competition shows.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite cooking competition show? For more delicious top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.

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