“If an architect makes a mistake, he grows ivy to cover it. If a doctor makes a mistake, he covers it with soil. If a cook makes a mistake, he covers it with some sauce and says it is a new recipe.” - Paul Bocuse

Since the 1950s, there’s been plenty of cooking shows. That said, modern cooking shows are far from what they were in the 1950s. For almost half a century, chefs on the small screen would just explain a recipe and you’d follow along at home. Recipes aren't really the focal point of cooking shows as they’ve shifted towards competitive cooking, reality TV, and celebrity.

This is why shows like MasterChef and the Great British Bake Off are so popular. Millions of people tune into each episode.

So which are the most popular cooking shows at the moment? Which are still going and which are finished?

In this article, we're going to look at some of the most popular cooking shows in the UK. While there's plenty of stuff in the US on the Food Network and shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef, and no lack of famous celebrity chefs, we're going to look at the UK's most popular TV cooking shows.

Dinner Date

The concept

As you can probably guess from the name, this show involves people going on a dinner date. The contestant, either a man or a woman, goes on dates at three people's houses on three different nights and at the end, has to choose which of them they will go on a date with at a restaurant.

What channel is Dinner Date on?
The winner of the dinner date gets to go on a proper date. (Source: Free-Photos)
  • First episode: 9 August 2010
  • Number of seasons: 10
  • Presenter: Charlotte Hudson (2010-2012), Natalie Casey (2014-)
  • Network: ITV, ITVBe

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Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

The concept

In this show, the chef Gordon Ramsay helped struggling restaurants. He doesn’t hesitate to bluntly state the errors being made by the chefs, waiters, and management.

The American version of the show, Kitchen Nightmares (Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA in the UK), started broadcasting in 2007 and helped turned Gordon Ramsay into a global superstar.

The show also led to international versions in 24 different countries (including the American version with Ramsay himself).

Interestingly, in the first ever episode, Ramsay failed to fix a failing restaurant in Yorkshire. In fact, by the end of the episode, the owner has decided to close the restaurant and focus on the upstairs bar.

  • First show: 27 April 2004.
  • Number of seasons: 7
  • Number of episodes: 36
  • Presenter: Gordon Ramsay
  • Network: Channel 4.

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Food Unwrapped

The concept

This show covers how food is produced and was first aired on 10 September 2012. It's based on the TV series Food CIA.

If you want to know about the ingredients that your cookbook calls for, this show could be an interesting one.

  • First show: 10 September 2012.
  • Presenters: Matt Tebbutt, Kate Quilton, Jimmy Doherty, Helen Lawal, Kiran Jethwa, James Watt, Martin Dickie.
  • Network: Channel 4.

The show is available to watch on Channel 4's All 4 streaming service.


The concept

MasterChef is a cooking competition. It’s for those who like to cook and has amateur chefs vying for the top prize.

When did Masterchef start?
On Masterchef, contestants are expected to master a variety of cooking techniques. (Source: Free-Photos)

After the auditions, the chosen competitors go through challenges with the hope of winning the MasterChef trophy.

There are multiple types of tests that contestants are faced with: the market test, the calling card, the invention test, the impression test, the ingredients test, the passion test, the choice test, the palate test.

  • Broadcast dates: 1990-2001 (original run), 2005-2007 (as MasterChef goes large), 2008-present (revived series).
  • Number of seasons: 11 (original), 14 (revived)
  • Presenter: Loyd Grossman (season 1-10), Gary Rhodes (season 11), Gregg Wallace and John Torode (revival).
  • Network: BBC1 and BBC2.
  • Related Shows:
    • Junior MasterChef
    • Celebrity MasterChef

The Great British Bake Off

The concept

This, as the name suggests, The Great British Bake Off (although it's called The Great British Baking Show in the US and Canada) is all about pastry, cakes, and baking. It’s a competition for amateur bakers to prove they’re the best at baking. There are various challenges that they’re subjected to.

Who has won the Great British Bake Off?
When it comes to the Bake Off, it's just you and the dough! (Source: Pexels)

In earlier seasons, there were 10 contestants but this was later changed to 12.

Funnily enough, the winner gets nothing but a cake stand and flowers.

Thanks to the show, there's been an increase in baking in the UK but it's also been subject to some controversy. The Smeg fridges used in the show came under criticism for product promotion, something which isn't allowed on BBC shows.

In the fifth series, Iain Watters' Baked Alaska was shown to have not set after having been removed from the freezer by another contestant, Diana Beard. This results in Watters throwing his Baked Alaska into the bin and many thought Beard had sabotaged the dessert. However, it was later revealed that the Baked Alaska had never set and Diana had only momentarily removed it from the freezer.

Mel and Sue, the show's original hosts on the BBC also received complaints for their use of innuendo and “smutty remarks”. That said, the presentation style was also very popular among many viewers.

If you love biscuits, tarts, pies, scones, buns, or shortbread, this show has the best British baking has to offer.

  • First show: 17 August 2010
  • Number of seasons: 9
  • Presenter: Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, Sandi Toksvig, Noel Fielding
  • Network: BBC Two (2010-2013), BBC One (2014-2016), Channel 4 (2017-)
  • Judges: Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith.


  • Season 1: Edd Kimber
  • Season 2: Joanne Wheatley
  • Season 3: John Whaite
  • Season 4: Frances Quinn
  • Season 5: Nancy Birtwhistle
  • Season 6: Nadiya Hussain
  • Season 7: Candice Brown. Season 8: Sophie Faldo. Season 9: Rahul Mandal.

Related Shows:

  • Junior Bake Off
  • The Big Family Cooking Showdown
  • Bake Off: The Professionals
  • The Great Pottery Throw Down
  • The Great British Sewing Bee

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Come Dine With Me

The concept

Come Dine With Me has 5 different contestants trying to host the perfect dinner party. The dinner, entertainment, and host will all be judged and given a score by their guests at the end of the evening.

What was the lowest ever score on Come Dine with Me?
On Come Dine With Me, you have to host the best dinner party. (Source: PublicDomainPictures)

Usually, the host will cook a meal with several courses with savoury starters and mains and some sweet pudding, desserts, or treats to finish. Once the meal is over, they tend to start the night's entertainment before judging the host on the taxi ride home.

The winner after 5 dinner parties will be given £1,000.

  • First show: 31 January 2005.
  • Number of seasons: 41
  • Narrated by: Dave Lamb.
  • Network: Channel 4.
  • Worst score: 7 out of 40.

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Saturday Kitchen

The concept

Saturday Kitchen is a show that mainly broadcasts on the BBC. The show has the main host chef, two guest chefs, and a celebrity guest.

The chefs will cook food and chat to one another and footage is used from the BBC archives to fill in the time between the dishes being prepared.

The show has a number of featured including the omelette challenge, where guests are challenged to cook an omelette as quickly as they can. In fact, Theo Randall, having completed an omelette in 14.76 seconds, holds the Guinness World Record for the feat.

  • First show: 14 April 2001
  • Presenters: Gregg Wallace (2002-2003), Antony Worrall Thompson (2003-2006), James Martin (2006-2016), Matt Tebbutt (2016-).
  • Network: BBC Two (2002-2006), BBC One (2006-)

In addition to these shows, there are also plenty of great cooking shows from across the pond and on Netflix. Whether you want to be a better baker, perfect your pastries, be crowned king of cheesecake, or just improve your food, watching cooking shows is probably a good idea.

So which is your favourite cooking show?

If you'd like to learn more about how to cook, you should consider enlisting the help of a private tutor on Superprof. You can get three different types of private tutorials: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.

Face-to-face tutorials are usually the most expensive per hour but are also the most cost-effective since you're employing a tutor to create tailored lessons to you and your learning style. Additionally, you'll have someone on hand to correct any mistakes and make sure you don't pick up bad cooking habits.

Online tutorials are usually cheaper since they don't have travel costs to worry about, allowing them to offer a more competitive rate for their lessons. As long as you both have a decent internet connection, webcams, and a programme such as Skype, you can enjoy online tutorials.

While you won't enjoy as much one-on-one time with your tutor in a group tutorial, you can save a lot of money by sharing the cost of the tutor's time with the other students in attendance.

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages so it's up to you to decide which works for your learning objectives and your budget!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.