Watch Cooking Channel

How to Win a Cookoff

In 2009, Nick Suarez set out to win the Great Hot Dog Cookoff, an annual tradition in Brooklyn, NY. His dog was an all-beef frank topped with bacon, fried corn, cilantro, cotija cheese and hot sauce. After taking the top prize, Nick shared the winning recipe on Grill It with Bobby Flay, then was challenged by Bobby to a Hot Dog Throwdown, which Nick won. Two years later, Nick is back to compete in this weekend’s 6th Annual Hot Dog Cookoff with his newest creation, a riff on the classic chili cheese dog. Nick shares his secrets for winning.

Having competed in various cookoffs and hosted even more, I’ve tried to pinpoint a formula for winning. While preference is a subjective thing — I’ve noticed that audience members tend to vote for more homestyle, comfort dishes, while judging panels tend to prefer dishes with refined, nuanced flavors — I ultimately believe you can win any cookoff with any dish by keeping two things in mind. I always say that winning cookoffs is 50% logistics and 50% flavor balance.

The first question any competitor must ask themselves is, can you logistically pull off your dish within the parameters you’ve been given? Can you keep hot food hot and cold food cold? Is it humanly possible to serve your dish to hundreds of people in a timely manner, while maintaining your sanity? They key to winning is to create and shape your dish according to the competition parameters, instead of picking a recipe first and hoping you can pull it off on competition day.

Make sure your recipe isn't impossible to prepare on competition day.

The second thing to keep in mind is balance of flavor. At most cookoffs, people are only getting one small bite of your dish. Therefore, you must pack as much punch as you can by essentially creating the perfect bite. People can instantly taste if something is not balanced. Does your dish have enough salt? Nobody likes a bland dish. You’d be surprised what a few pinches of salt can do. Keep tasting your food and seasoning until you’ve found the right amount.

Also keep in mind the balancing act of sweetness, bitterness, sourness and acid. Veer too much in one direction, and you throw everything out of whack. Constantly adjust and trust your tongue. If you have to spend days refining your dish and tasting it multiple times to get it right, so be it.

Nick's winning entry -- "Brooklyn's Corniest Dog"

One of the most important aspects of cookoffs — and cooking in general — is the layering of flavors and complexity. If you are competing in a chili cookoff, you could take the easy route and just throw the meat, seasonings and other ingredients into a pot and call it a day. Or you could use basic techniques to heighten the flavor and complexity, like browning the meat to get caramelized flavors, slowly sweating the onions to develop their sweetness, and using homemade stock the give your chili the fullest possible flavor.

When planning a cookoff dish, try to utilize as many techniques as possible to push your culinary boundary. Cookoffs are a great way to experiment and try something you’ve never done before. Just make sure you perfect your recipe in advance, and nail down your cookoff-day plan of attack.

Keep reading for a preview of my hot dog recipe for this weekend’s 6th Annual Hot Dog Cookoff!

Taste Nick’s dog and 22 other competing hot dogs this weekend at the 6th Annual Great Hot Dog Cookoff in Brooklyn, NY. Proceeds benefit Food Bank of New York, a 28-year-old non-profit working to end food poverty throughout the five boroughs. 

More Hot Dogs: 

Learn more about Nick Suarez and his national cookoff series, Food Experiments, at thefoodexperiments.com.

Tags:

Comments (887)

  1. Why Not Try Here posted 04/22/2014

    Whispering Misty…

    So sorry you can pass up the workshop!…

  2. where to buy posted 04/22/2014

    Title…

    […]the time to read or stop by the content or web-sites we have linked to beneath the[…]…

  3. Best car insurance posted 04/23/2014

    Title…

    […]very handful of websites that transpire to be comprehensive below, from our point of view are undoubtedly properly worth checking out[…]…

  4. Frederick posted 04/23/2014

    Title…

    […]although internet sites we backlink to below are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they are in fact really worth a go through, so have a look[…]…

  5. Future Of Wealth 2.0 posted 04/23/2014

    Title…

    […]that is the end of this article. Here you will obtain some web pages that we believe you will value, just click the links over[…]…

  6. 32gb iphone posted 04/24/2014

    Title…

    […]here are some hyperlinks to web sites that we link to because we assume they may be really worth visiting[…]…

  7. option bot scam posted 04/24/2014

    Title…

    […]usually posts some very exciting stuff like this. If you are new to this site[…]…

  8. gm ignition switch rcall posted 04/24/2014

    Title…

    […]check beneath, are some entirely unrelated internet sites to ours, nonetheless, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[…]…

  9. Title…

    […]check below, are some entirely unrelated websites to ours, on the other hand, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]…

  10. info gm posted 04/24/2014

    Title…

    […]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they are essentially really worth a go via, so have a look[…]…

  11. dr erwin lo posted 04/24/2014

    Title…

    […]very handful of websites that transpire to become detailed beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly nicely worth checking out[…]…

  12. dr erwin lo posted 04/25/2014

    Title…

    […]Here are some of the web-sites we advise for our visitors[…]…

  13. magician in brisbane posted 04/25/2014

    Title…

    […]usually posts some extremely exciting stuff like this. If you are new to this site[…]…

  14. scar removal cream posted 04/25/2014

    Title…

    […]please stop by the web sites we comply with, like this one particular, because it represents our picks in the web[…]…

  15. infuse attorney posted 04/25/2014

    Title…

    […]although sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we feel they may be truly really worth a go by way of, so have a look[…]…

  16. phonerecyclers posted 04/26/2014

    Title…

    […]very handful of sites that come about to be in depth below, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well really worth checking out[…]…

  17. Title…

    […]The facts talked about inside the write-up are a number of the most beneficial accessible […]…

  18. fastest fat burner posted 04/27/2014

    Title…

    […]below you will discover the link to some web sites that we believe you need to visit[…]…

  19. oem china factory posted 04/28/2014

    oem china factory…

    […]the time to study or stop by the material or web-sites we’ve linked to below the[…]…

  20. 60 second options trading posted 04/28/2014

    Title…

    […]one of our visitors recently advised the following website[…]…

  21. Celebrity Images posted 04/28/2014

    Title…

    […]usually posts some extremely exciting stuff like this. If you are new to this site[…]…

  22. used cars for sale posted 04/29/2014

    Title…

    […]Here is an excellent Weblog You may Find Fascinating that we Encourage You[…]…

  23. Title…

    […]Here is a superb Weblog You may Find Exciting that we Encourage You[…]…

  24. InventHelp Inventions posted 04/29/2014

    Title…

    […]just beneath, are several entirely not related websites to ours, having said that, they’re certainly really worth going over[…]…

  25. what is an emerging market posted 04/29/2014

    Title…

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you may possibly take pleasure in. Take a look should you want[…]…

  26. Title…

    […]Every the moment inside a when we pick out blogs that we read. Listed beneath are the newest internet sites that we pick out […]…

  27. Title…

    […]always a major fan of linking to bloggers that I appreciate but do not get a good deal of link appreciate from[…]…

  28. Title…

    […]always a significant fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but really don’t get quite a bit of link appreciate from[…]…

  29. graphics package posted 05/01/2014

    Title…

    […]below you will discover the link to some websites that we consider you ought to visit[…]…

  30. mobile money code review posted 05/02/2014

    Title…

    […]although internet sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they are truly really worth a go as a result of, so possess a look[…]…

  31. Title…

    […]always a significant fan of linking to bloggers that I love but do not get a lot of link appreciate from[…]…

  32. legal advice posted 05/04/2014

    legal advice…

    […]Here are several of the internet sites we recommend for our visitors[…]…

  33. agence seo posted 05/08/2014

    Title…

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you could possibly take pleasure in. Take a search when you want[…]…

  34. Rc hobby posted 05/11/2014

    Rc hobby…

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]…

  35. carbunkle truckwhite posted 05/29/2014

    Whispering Misty…

    So sorry you are going to skip the workshop!…

  36. IvyEnt.Tv posted 05/31/2014

    IvyEnt.Tv…

    […]The info talked about inside the post are a few of the very best offered […]…

  37. masinute electrice posted 06/06/2014

    masinute electrice…

    […]here are some links to web pages that we link to since we believe they’re really worth visiting[…]…

Post a New Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

c