How to Win a Recipe Contest
Hundreds, thousands, even MILLIONS of dollars are up for grabs through cooking and recipe contests every year. Not to mention great prizes like kitchen equipment or even luxury vacations!
Recipe contests can also be a great way to get your “foot in the door” in the food world. If you want to promote your food blog, are itching to write a cookbook, or even have dreams of someday hosting a TV show, you can build an impressive award-winning resume through cooking contests.
Anyone who has a passion for food, a bit of creative inspiration, and loves the trill of competition, you too can be part of the winners circle! All you need is a few inside tips and advice to get going.
I have assembled my Top 10 Tips for Winning a Recipe Contest. What are you waiting for? You can’t win if you don’t enter!
Keep reading to learn how YOU can win!
1) Read the Rules
There aren’t any rules or parameters when you are cooking at home, but there are rules to follow in recipe contests. Be sure to read and re-read the rules of the contest carefully to make sure you are eligible to enter and you understand the what they are looking for. Not following the instructions can eliminate your recipe from the start, no matter how good it is!
2) Follow Proper Recipe Writing Format
Many family recipes are jotted down memories with a dash of this and a handful of that. However, in order to enter a recipe contest, these will need to be re-written with precise measurements and in simple language. If you need a bit of guidance, look at recipes from reputable sources that are well written.
Need some tips? Check out my post “How to Write a Recipe.”
3) Do Your Homework
Most cooking and recipe contests are created by a company to showcase their products. Make sure they are the star of your dish! It can be helpful to get acquainted with the recipe style of the company or to find more than one way to incorporate their product into your contest submission.
If you are entering a contest not sponsored by a particular product (like the contests here on Better Recipes!) take a look at past winners to see the “kind” of recipes that tend to win. Are they simple family-friendly dishes or are they more gourmet creations?
Also, when you are reading (and re-reading!) the rules, check the judging criteria. What carries the most weight? Does it sound like the judges are looking for a highly creative recipe or are they leaning towards quick and easy? There are often clues in the judging criteria.
Any recipe entered in a cooking or recipe contest must be the entrant’s original work. A recipe cannot be copied from a cookbook, magazine or the Internet. Remember this also goes for photography! Using an image that is not your own work will also get you disqualified from a contest.
Judges want to see your original take on a dish and what you can do to make it special.
Also, try to enter more than one recipe. Some contests might be difficult to figure out what the judges might be looking for, especially if it is a new contest. Enter several different categories with different ideas. This will increase your chances of ending up in the winner’s circle!
A winning recipe stands out from the crowd! Capture the judge’s attention by highlighting current culinary trends, or giving a classic recipe a modern twist.
Many winning recipes are an updated version of a classic made to fit today’s lifestyle. Keep up with the food trends by checking magazines, watching culinary television programs, or reading blogs. An interesting twist is sometimes all you need to capture a judge’s attention and win a prize!
6) Get Inspired
There are many places to look for inspiration when it comes to developing a recipe for a contest. Start with traditional family favorites, they never go out of style and always have wide appeal. Think back to those wonderful foods from your childhood and dust off the “heirloom” recipes in your files. There’s probably one or more that you could update for today’s style of cooking and eating.
Ethnic and regional cooking is so popular these days, you might want to explore your own ethnic heritage or your home state for great recipe ideas.
Try adapting a recipe for a different serving occasion, such as turning a main dish into an appetizer. Why not create a new shape or appearance for a familiar food. (Take a look at the $1,000,000 “dessert ravioli” from the Pillsbury Bake-Off!)
Look for a way to add new interest to a familiar food, such as ingredients that were once considered unusual but are now readily available in the supermarket.
7) Use Accessible Ingredients
Winning recipes often use ingredients widely available in most grocery stores. Make sure your entry can be prepared by home cooks. Don’t try to impress the judges with wild ingredients and fancy techniques. Judges are looking for a winning recipe that will be enjoyed by families across the country.
Don’t forget, we eat with our eyes first! Think about the way your recipe looks on the plate, but also how well it will photograph. Many companies like to publish their winning contest recipes in print and online. Judges look for winning recipes that are photogenic and ready for their close up!
Some contests ask to see a photo of your dish when submitting your entry. Here are a few quick tips for taking great photos, even with your smart phone!
9) The Taste Test
In the end, a winning recipe must thrill the taste buds! Test your recipe entries on your friends and family for feedback. By the look on their faces, you will know when you have a show-stopping dish!
As you develop your recipe, test and re-test to make sure it is as good as you can make it. Ask yourself and your taste-testers questions like these:
-Does it taste good?
-Are the seasonings too hot, too bland or just right?
-What can be done to make it taste even better?
-Does it have a pleasant texture?
-Does it look attractive?
-Will it appeal to the whole family?
-Would it appeal to Americans nationwide?
-Is it a recipe most cooks would prepare often?
10) Get Support
Finally, it is always good to reach out to others when you need to ask questions, or are looking for advice. Joining a community of cooking and recipe contests enthusiasts can help! Check out the oldest and largest online community, CookingContestCentral.com.
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