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black box cooking challenge

Is there a budding chef in your family? Are you looking for a way to entertain the whole family while getting your kids to try new foods? If your family enjoys competitive cooking shows on television, they’ll love having their own black box-style cooking challenge with YOU. Let the games begin!

What is a black box cooking challenge?

Black Box cooking competitions can be very challenging, even for the best professional chefs. Essentially the challenge involves handing two teams a box of ingredients and giving them a limited time frame to use ALL of the ingredients provided to prepare an amazing, healthy dish.

There’s usually at least one ingredient that’s unusual or really doesn’t fit in well with the other things in the box, providing an extra challenge to the competitors. You may have seen them on popular television shows like Iron Chef. A black box cooking adventure is a great way for kids to develop their cooking skills and creativity, introduce them to new foods in a fun way all while having lots of family fun together.

How to host a black box cooking challenge:

1. In this activity, you’ll divide your family into teams and give each of them an assortment of foods, which they will use to create their own mouth-watering dish for you to taste and judge.

Each team will need:

  • 5 to 10 ingredients of your choice (including one “challenge” ingredient) from your refrigerator or pantry. Remember, when it’s all said and done, you will have to take at least one bite of the recipe creations to show your support and encouragement (and to pick a winning team!) so choose your ingredients wisely.
  • If you have very young children, consider providing them with some recipes to make using the ingredients they’ve been given. Very young children may need an adult’s assistance to cut and chop produce.
  • Aprons
  • Kitchen tools and serving dishes

2. Set a time limit for the cooking. This should be somewhere between 15 minutes and one hour, depending on the competitors’ ages and ingredients being used.

3. Tell your teams what you expect them to make. It might be one dish, or one complete meal (appetizer, dinner, dessert). Alternatively, you can leave it open for them to decide what they want to make. To ensure the meals are nutritious and delicious, let contestants know that points can be awarded to the dish if specific elements are included like a variety of food groups, the use of the challenge ingredients, a dark green or orange vegetable, one whole grain, a protein, etc.

4. Ready, Set, Go! Give the teams their time and space to create their delicious dishes. Let them know you’re available to help with any cutting or chopping if they’re worried about time constraints (just be sure to assist each team equally).

5. Judge the dishes! Ask the teams to describe in detail the meal or dish, just like in professional cooking competitions on TV. Make a big deal of analyzing the plating and the look of the creation. Use all of your senses to describe the way it looks, feels and smells. Take tastes in small bites and emphasize how you are savouring the flavour. Comment on the texture and combination of foods. Invite competitors to taste each other’s dishes. Highlight the positive points of each dish before declaring one to be the winner.

Bonus ideas for extending the length of the activity:

  • Insist the “chefs’ dress the part and have everyone make a personalized paper chef’s hat before the cooking commences.
  • Give each team a surprise mystery ingredient halfway through the cooking time that must be incorporated into the finished dish (you can also award extra time to accommodate this task, if desired).
  • Watch an episode of your favourite family-friendly chef competition show together after the kitchen has been cleaned up!

Play with friends who are far away:

This takes planning and changes the dynamic, but is still a lot of fun. Each household can challenge the other and send them a cooking list within an agreed budget to shop from in advance. Alternatively, each opposing team can order food to be picked up by, or delivered to the competing team. This does take away the element of surprise, but cooking from different households, following the same rules, and the same time limit is a delicious way to spend time together, when you are apart! The judging can be on looks and presentation to each other. Decide what video sharing app you want to use and let the games begin!

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