Iron Chef Competition

Time Frame: 1.5 hours + Go over instructions a day or two before hand so the competition can start immediately

Class Size: 20 (enough room for everyone to cook independently which depends on how big your kitchens are)


  • Students will create a dish fitting to the Iron Chef theme using the secret ingredient in the allotted amount of time.


  • When students come in the door I have them put on an apron and a paper chef’s hat with their name on it (the names help the judges know who is who). I then ask them to wash their hands and stand in their kitchens until I am done with instruction.


  • Judging table: water, paper plates, forks, napkins, Large knife, serving spoons/spatulas, clipboards & score sheets, pencils, and calculators.
  • Your Camera
  • Trophy¬† Iron Chef Trophey

Background for Teachers

  • I always tell my students the Iron Chef theme way in advance so they can kind of prepare themselves. I encourage my students to come up with a plan ahead of time. I tell them that there will be foods available that fit the theme and I give a few examples. I do not tell them the secret ingredient until the competition.
  • The cooking part of the competition is 45 minutes long
  • Remind your students on how to keep their food warm in case they finish faster than others
  • Clean up can either be factored into the 45 minutes or be done at the end
  • Instruct the judges to call up students one at a time to explain how they made their dish and how much they would charge for it if they sold it in a restaurant.
  • The person giving the judges samples should make sure that the judge gets a piece of the food with the secret ingredient in/on it.
  • On the day of the competition I set up tables full of ingredients Ex. vegetable table, dairy table, meat table, etc. This seems to be easiest for twenty students to access it equally as quickly.
  • Always try to take pictures of each person’s finished plate so you have a picture of the winning dish. (This is why I don’t judge- I’m really busy during the competition)
  • Students love to see the previous semester’s winner and winning dish so if you have space display their pictures on a bulletin board or display case.
  • If you have more than one section of a course that is participating in the competition make sure you have different secret ingredients because word travels fast. Additionally, you can have the winners from each class compete against each other. I do this during lunch so other students can come in and watch.


  • Reveal the secret ingredient & pass out a pre-portioned amount to each student. If necessary have extra for students to sample if the ingredient is unusual.


  • Students create their dish for 45 minutes
  • Students explain their dish to the judges
  • Judges sample and score each dish
  • Judges tally totals and declare a winner & the winners in the other categories
  • Winner gets picture taken with trophy for display case

Strategies for Diverse Learners

  • Some times students with anxiety disorders or special ed students can really get nervous for this event. I always encourage these students to have a plan and memorize a recipe/method before the competition. Ex. For the Italian themed competition I would suggest to a struggling student that she/he practice cooking pasta at home and making¬† a simple sauce. The key here is helping enough in advance that these students feel like they have a chance to succeed.


  • If you had to do this competition over again what would you have done differently?


  • Ask three to four people to judge the competition. I typically do not judge. I always ask the previous semester’s Iron Chef winner to come back as one of the judges. Even if a graduating senior wins from the previous semester I hold the competition specifically at the end of the semester when college students are on their winter/summer breaks so they can come back a judge.
  • The score sheet is generic but can be altered to fit your theme.


Iron Chef Theme: Breakfast

Secret Ingredients: Fresh Apricots; Avocado; Dried Figs

Iron Chef Theme: Sandwiches

Secret Ingredients: Pineapple; Radishes; Bamboo Shoots

Iron Chef Theme: A Taste of Italy

Secret Ingredient: Molasses

Iron Chef Theme: Barbecue

Secret Ingredient: Jicama

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