It’s always gratifying when everyone at the dinner table showers you with praise after polishing off a meal you made from scratch. Imagine how great it would feel to win a cash prize for a recipe contest.
Enter The Old Mill’s first recipe contest, and you may just find out what winning a recipe contest feels like. To help you succeed, we’ve rounded up the most helpful tips for winning recipe contests from veteran food contest champs around the country.
1. Read the rules – and that means ALL the fine print. It’s crucial that you know what the judges are looking for before you begin developing a recipe. No matter how delicious your recipe sounds, you must comply with the contest’s guidelines to the letter or you risk being disqualified.
2. Highlight the sponsor’s products. In the Old Mill’s recipe contest, here is a list of products you can use. Often cooking competitions and recipe contests are sponsored by food companies. So be sure to not only showcase their product but to even consider using more than one product in a recipe, as this could help your chances of winning.
3. Think crowd-pleasing. Be creative but not too far out there. Do grown-ups and kids alike go for seconds? That’s a good sign. Popular flavors and ingredients are the first steps to create an award-winning recipe. But if you’re a creative cook, perhaps think of combining two popular flavors to make it doubly delicious!
4. Keep your recipe simple. Can it be made in the average home kitchen without special equipment or complicated techniques? A good, simple recipe is much more appealing to other home cooks and therefore has a better chance of winning a recipe or cooking contest.
5. Make it your own. Recipe contests require original recipes. So, by all means, look to magazines and cookbooks for inspiration, but don’t copy! Recipes that have been published elsewhere will be disqualified. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when creating a recipe — just write the instructions in your own words, change up an ingredient here and there, tweak the method a bit, and you’re good to go.
6. Entice with words. Our judges will read through all the entrees first to determine which ones will be prepared in our kitchens for tasting. So it should sound as appealing and intriguing as possible! If it’s a familiar dish like cornbread or fried chicken, tell us what makes it special and why you love it. Give it a descriptive, memorable name. Before someone prepares a recipe, it has to first catch their attention and not only sound delicious but like something they would enjoy preparing.
7. Will it be pleasing to the eye? Winning recipes will often be photographed for publication and other visual purposes, so a great-looking dish can help give you an edge on the competition. An attractive dish goes a long way to bringing home the gold. No need to get fussy here; a sprig of fresh herb may be all you need to dress up a tasty but drab-looking dish.
8. Write the instructions clearly so anyone can easily follow them. List the ingredients in the order they’re used. Study similar recipes for help explaining a step. Much of the art of creating recipes lies in the ease of replicating the process with a consistent result. One great suggestion is to double-check your oven temperature and accurately record cook times.
9. Practice does make perfect. Even if it’s a longtime favorite, make your recipe a few times before you submit it to get it in the best shape possible. Even better, try giving your recipe to a friend or two to prepare and see if they have the same results with your recipe.
10. Enjoy the process! Have fun trying out new dishes on your loved ones and watching their happy faces as they help you decide which one to enter. And if there’s no consensus? Enter them all! The more the merrier, and the better your odds of winning.
Now that you have the tips you need to develop recipes for contests, it’s time to get started. Entering as many recipe contests as you can find is a great way to really develop your recipe development skills.