Skip to main content

Family cooking competition ideas: ready, set, cook!

If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a reality cooking show but aren’t exactly a seasoned chef, a family cooking competition is your answer. The best part about in-home cook-offs? They’re not televised, so it’s a totally pressure-free environment and a hundred times more fun. Let’s go over three of the most common cooking competition formats and find out which one your family might enjoy the most.

Close-up of a hand chopping vegatables
Alyson McPhee/Unsplash

Try the mystery ingredients basket challenge

This challenge pits two equally-divided teams against each other. It’s a great activity if you have equal numbers of adults and children on each team. Impartial judges are preferred, but if not available, each team can judge the other’s dish.

  • What you’ll need: two boxes of five easy-to-use ingredients and one “difficult” ingredient (total of 6), two competing teams

Take a cue from insanely popular (and competitive!) shows like Chopped Junior by hosting your own mystery ingredients box challenge at home. Fill a box with five common ingredients like your grocery store veggies and grains. 

  • Here’s the challenge: add an extra ingredient that requires a little more inventiveness and creativity. Think: animal liver, oysters, or vegetarian-friendly items like fermented beans, or fiddlehead ferns.

Give each team 10 to 15 minutes to plan their recipes and 45 minutes to prep, cook, and serve. Make sure each team has access to necessary cooking surfaces and basic tools like knives and spatulas. You can set ground rules about whether or not the spice rack is off the table, and whether or not cooking is limited to the stovetop.

Make it simple with a follow-the-recipe cook-off

To make things simpler for families with young children, you can prepare a recipe that each team must follow. Whoever cooks up the tastiest version wins.

  • What you’ll need: enough copies of the recipe for the number of teams, the ingredients box, the appropriate tools.

This type of competition relieves some pressure off the participants by giving them steps to follow instead of having to come up with their own. It also gives you an excuse to use up some soon-to-spoil ingredients in your fridge or pantry, saving you big bucks and less time composting.

  • Cooking and judging: Some classic recipes include a breakfast plate of pancakes, eggs, and fruit, salad and garlic bread, and loaded pasta with different veggies, proteins (or meat substitutes), and cheeses. One neutral judge evaluates each plate based on visual presentation, taste, and how true to the recipe it is. Tom’s of Maine likes the breakfast idea.

Print out a mock scorecard if you have young kids and award the winner(s) ribbons. For older kids, offer age-appropriate rewards like a gift card to their favorite store, a small cash prize, or a basket of yummy goodies.

Edgar Castrejon/Unsplash

For older kids and adults, tackle the three-course meal competition

100 Days of Real Food says cook-offs are a great way to get teens involved in the kitchen and out of their room. Go all out with a three-course meal tournament. We suggest dividing the family into just two teams to ensure enough room for cooking. Challenge each team to come up with an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert.

  • What you’ll need: All the ingredients laid out on the counter or on a dinner table, two teams, cooking tools, a timer, scorecard signs for fun
  • The rules: Give the teams 20 minutes to whip up an appetizer, 45 minutes to perfect their main dish, and 40 minutes to prepare a dessert. Between each round, have the judge or judges hold up a scorecard for each team’s dish. In the end, the team with the most points wins. Set the timer at the beginning of each round and count down in five-minute increments. This will light a fire under each team and make the atmosphere feel even more competitive. It also makes the cook-off more fair for everybody involved.

This well-paced competition makes for some fond memories and new go-to recipes for the whole family. Thus, we especially recommend this for large holidays. Alternatively, you can make it a once-a-month Sunday tradition to bring the family closer together. 

Now it’s your turn to plan, shop for ingredients, and prepare the kitchen for your family’s cooking competition. We’ve gone over three different cook-off ideas you can modify depending on your family’s size and your children’s ages. Whether you’re arranging a black box competition or a three-course meal series, you’ll enjoy watching family members work, battle, and laugh as they try to fix up the best-tasting plate.

In addition, check out our guide on how to get rid of cooking smells in your home or apartment.

Editors' Recommendations

Deb Goncalves
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Deb's work has appeared on Moms, Babygaga, and WorldAtlas. When she's not working (that's hard to say about a Capricorn), she…
25 stellar staircase ideas to freshen up the look of your home
Not ready for an entire remodel? Update your staircase with one of these ideas
Young woman on stairs in a loft caring for potted plants.

If you want to change the interior of your house, you can change out throw pillows and invest in new furniture, but your stairs are a set thing, right? Not quite. You may not be able to move stairs or rip them out entirely, but you can get creative about your stair design.

Changing up your staircase can be one way to upgrade the look of your home and it isn't as difficult as you may think. If you aren’t sure how to accomplish this, we’ve got 25 ideas ranging from subtle to dramatic to help you figure it out. Keep reading for inspiration on how to update your staircase.

Read more
Wet bars for mocktails? A new trend is here for 2023
These ideas will have your wet bar stocked and ready
Cocktails with shaker

Mocktails and alcohol-free spirits are very on trend today as health-conscious people who want to live more responsibly are demanding great-tasting drinks without the hangover. Most restaurants today have a mocktail section on their menus, but what if you're at home and want to treat yourself?

Whether you have a dedicated wet bar space in your kitchen or basement or have a section of the home you'd like to dedicate to such a space, there are a ton of ideas to get you started and stocked with an area that would make most bartenders jealous.
What to consider
There are tons of new nonalcoholic products that feel a bit more special than your standard seltzer lime wedge. In fact, there are many products popping up on the market to make you inspired to create new versions of drinks that have traditionally contained alcohol.

Read more
5 brilliant reading nook ideas for the whole family
Let these nook ideas from Pinterest inspire you and your family to create a dedicated reading space
Reading nook in a bedroom with cozy chair and ottoman

Every now and again, we can’t help but want to sit back and relax in a quiet space with a good book. But finding a secluded area to crack open your next read can be challenging, which is why having a dedicated reading nook is so beneficial. Whether you’re looking to create a quiet space for your kiddos or you want a nook the whole family can enjoy, here are some brilliant reading nook ideas for the whole family.
The classic window nook
The timeless window nook is a fantastic solution that offers a private reading space for any member of the family. This nook from Bored Panda on Pinterest features an under-the-window reading nook surrounded by lovely shelves. The classic window nook is also great for homes with bay windows or families wanting to include natural lighting in their reading spaces. Bedrooms are an especially good place for this nook idea, particularly kid and teen bedrooms, where the nook can be along the wall in a quieter space and secluded from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house.

The mature corner library
For older kids and adults, the mature corner library can be an easy and affordable way to have an at-home nook. As we can see from this pin on Pinterest, the mature corner reading nook doesn’t require too many pieces to create a lovely space. A comfy chair, a bookshelf, and a good lamp for ample night lighting are all you need. Additionally, by swapping out the furniture for something more kid-friendly, this can also be a great child’s reading nook idea. Instead of a chair, opt for a beanbag or a kid-sized armchair. You can also choose more colorful or child-friendly bookshelves as well.

Read more