There is no denying that reality TV cooking competitions are here to stay, for better or for worse. What started with "Iron Chef" in Japan has evolved and blossomed into something usually entertaining and sometimes infuriating. Some cooking competitions focus mostly on the food, others on the contestants themselves and some (the worst ones) focus on the proposed celebrity of the judges and hosts for most of the show. There are even cooking competition shows that have launched the careers of celebrity chefs -- some of whom we are probably stuck with forever now.

Like everything, there's a hierarchy at play. Some of these are just better conceived than others. Some are more perfectly executed. And some are such ridiculous ideas that they end up scoring some points, just for being so much idiotic fun. Below, you'll find my ranking of reality TV cooking competitions, ranked in order from absolute worst to undeniable best. Which one's your favorite?

  • 14
    Throwdown! With Bobby Flay
    Food Network
    This has got to be the single cruelest idea for a reality cooking competition of all time. "Let's send a successful professional chef, who also happens to be a millionaire and a producer at our television network into locally beloved businesses across America and have him try to beat them at their life's work on camera. Then let's broadcast it on basic cable." That is cold, Food Network.
  • 13
    Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off
    Food Network
    I am pretty sure that this photo speaks for itself. These two people host a show together with a bunch of celebrities (like Coolio and Lou Diamond Phillips -- celebrities), who have little to no cooking experience. Let the wacky donkey sauce yummo fun commence.
  • 12
    The Next Food Network Star
    Food Network
    In case you need a reminder, this show is why we have Guy Fieri.
  • 11
    The Worst Cooks In America
    Food Network
    In addition to possibly being the most ill-conceived branding campaign of all time (did you guys not understand that you are intimating that WHOEVER you lay this text over appears to be the worst cook in America?), this show features a lot of Anne Burrell stomping around yelling at people. I guess... if you're into that kind of thing.
  • 10
    The Taste
    You want to judge a dish on a single bite? GO NUTS. But not even letting these people tell you what you're eating? You are insane. What is the point? This show will never make sense. Also Brian Malarky? That's our guy?
  • 9
    MasterChef
    I've actually enjoyed the episodes of this show that I've caught. I have a big soft spot in my heart for both Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot-Bowles, and while I find Joe Bastianich's tough guy act to mostly be insufferable (come on, guy, we've all met your mom, we know you are actually nice), his presence doesn't disturb me too deeply. You know what's keeping me from watching this show? The bizarrely sweeping cinematography and set work that big network food shows insist on using time and time again.
  • 8
    Extreme Chef
    I know, I know. This show was categorically idiotic. But it was so much fun in an insane way.
  • 7
    Sweet Genius
    Ron Ben-Israel might be missing a few screws, which makes him really, really fun to watch. Add that to the fact that most pastry chefs act a little bit emotionally unstable on television, and I will watch an episode of this weirdness any day.
  • 6
    Hell's Kitchen
    You either love it when Gordon Ramsay yells at people or you hate it. I can't get enough. And the resulting internet jokes his expletive-spewing lunacy has caused deserve a medal.
  • 5
    The Next Iron Chef
    Food Network
    What I like about the show is that it separates the chefs from the TV personalities. For the most part, the chefs engaged at this level of competition can really cook, do so in professional kitchens often (if not every day) and you actually might get to learn something from them.
  • 4
    Chopped
    wtfchopped.tumblr.com
    This show is like televisual popcorn. I never mean to watch one, and then I've watched three. There is no friendlier TV host than Ted Allen, and the meltdowns are just spectacular.
  • 3
    Iron Chef America
    Like with "The Next Iron Chef," you are actually getting to watch chefs cook their hearts out. Sure, there's a heavy dose of editing for TV. There are beauty plates and service plates. They probably know the secret ingredient in advance. But the focus is, and will hopefully always be, on the food.
  • 2
    Iron Chef
    Same as above, only you learn stuff every time by watching people cook dishes that are totally foreign to you. They make so many custards in soup! I can't get enough!
  • 1
    Top Chef
    www.bravotv.com
    Although I am fully aware that they are manipulating me emotionally with creative editing week after week, and I am also fairly certain it's jumped the shark 40-100 times over, I still think Top Chef has totally set the bar for how cooking competitions on TV should work. The editing is quick, but gets the important stuff, the focus is usually on the food, the judges are forthright, tough and also good at being on TV. It's still one of the most fun ways to watch food get made on TV, and I'm not quite certain what will ever beat it.

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  • Eddie Huang

    New York City-based chef Eddie Huang has been controversial since he first gained acclaim for his bao eatery, BaoHaus. The marijuana-loving, fouth-mouthed chef has slagged fellow toques the likes of <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/06/25/eddie-huang-calls-marcus-samuelssons-new-memoir-an-embarrassing-exercise-in-condescension.php">Marcus Samuelsson</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/fashion/eddie-huang-defies-description.html?_r=0">David Chang</a>, and his recent book, "Fresh Off the Boat," is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/fashion/eddie-huang-defies-description.html">already turning heads</a>. On the positive side, at least Huang can <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/10/eddie_huang_res.php">take a bad review</a> from Sam Sifton, even if he did say reading it <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/10/eddie_huang_che.php">felt like being yelled at by his dad</a>.

  • Anthony Bourdain

    Everything we could say about Anthony Bourdain, you've likely heard already. The drug-addict-turned-executive-chef-turned-television-star has a sharp tongue when it comes to his likes and dislikes, the latter which often include <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/26/anthony-bourdain-paula-deen_n_937908.html">other celebrity chefs</a>. His antics have gained him a fervent following, but a good share of criticism, as well -- some people are <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/10/anthony-bourdain-food-too-macho.html">getting tired of his shtick</a>.

  • Gordon Ramsay

    Oh, Gordon Ramsay. These days, you're the chef everyone loves to hate. Ramsay's <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2173601/Gordon-Ramsay-screamed-f----black-b----claims-US-chef-Controversial-claim-racist-phone-rant-published-major-new-autobiography.html">in-your-face and often controversial personality</a> is the prime appeal of television programs in which he stars, "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," and has earned Ramsay a fearsome reputation worldwide.

  • Guy Fieri

    Need we remind you of New York Times critic <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/dining/reviews/restaurant-review-guys-american-kitchen-bar-in-times-square.html">Pete Wells's epic takedown of Guy Fieri's recently opened restaurant</a> in Times Square? We thought not. Fieri is a popular target of scorn for foodies, but his restaurant is still in business -- you do the math. He still landed on <a href="http://www.gq.com/entertainment/celebrities/201212/least-influential-people-2012#slide=11">GQ's list of least influential people for 2012</a>, though.

  • Rachael Ray

    Rachael Ray's cutesy catchphrases like "yum-o!" and "delish!" are ripe for mockery -- <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/anthony-bourdain-stirs-trouble-rachael-ray-article-1.368815">Anthony Bourdain knows what we're talking about</a> -- but the Food Network star remains one of the channel's most popular draws.

  • Paula Deen

    Paula Deen needs no introduction. The butter-loving Southern cook stirred up controversy when she announced her diagnosis of diabetes -- just as she revealed an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/paula-deen-diabetes_n_1210049.html#s617801&title=7_Ribs_Casserole">endorsement deal for a diabetes drug</a>. Throw in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/paula-deen-brother-sued-sexual-harassment_n_1321679.html">sexual harassment lawsuit</a>, and you've got one polarizing chef. Despite all, she still has a devoted fan base.

  • Marco Pierre White

    Marco Pierre White was once called the first <em>enfant terrible</em> of the food world -- in his first moments of celebrity chefdom, White developed a reputation for <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3334070/Marco-Pierre-White-I-will-never-speak-to-Gordon-Ramsay-again.html">ejecting customers from his restaurants when they asked for salt or pepper</a>. Granted, he's calmed down quite a bit in recent years -- he even shells for <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/knorr-stock-cube-is-secret-to-marcos-success-7220156.html">Knorr boullion</a> now.

  • Sandra Lee

    Sandra Lee may be the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/03/sandra-lee-food-network-s_n_778273.html">first girlfriend of New York state</a> and a Food Network star to boot, but not everyone is a fan of Lee's semi-homemade brand of cookery. Anthony Bourdain once called her Kwanzaa cake -- a frosted angel food cake with a can of apple-pie filling in the center garnished with corn nuts and pumpkin seeds -- a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/magazine/you-cant-ruffle-sandra-lee.html">“crime against humanity.”</a> We won't go that far, but one does have to wonder what she was thinking.

  • Nadia Giosia

    Nadia Giosia, the namesake and host of "Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen," takes a punk approach to cooking -- but not everyone is on board. Nadia boasts a rabid fan base, but some are <a href="http://foodnetworkhumor.com/2011/12/nadia-gs-christmas-video/">turned off by her pseudo hardcore shtick</a>.

  • Todd English

    Todd English has enjoyed celebrity chef status since arriving on the scene in the late 1980s. He's been lauded for several of his restaurants -- and named in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/todd-english-lawsuit_n_2101390.html">numerous lawsuits</a>. He's also landed in the tabloids thanks to his <a href="http://gawker.com/5379312/todd-englishs-cold-feet-wedding-scandal-prenups-press-plays-and-domestic-abuse">rocky personal life</a>, and he recently was accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/tully-wilson-chef-wanted-todd-english_n_2131917.html">failing to deliver on a promise to a reality show contestant on Food Network program "Chef Wanted."</a>

  • Jamie Oliver

    Jamie Oliver's bid for healthier school lunches has <a href="http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/01/07/2010/334134/jamie-oliver-regains-top-spot-in-the-caterersearch.com-100.htm">earned him praise</a> as well as <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/12/21/gordon-ramsay-slams-jamie-oliver-says-he-needs-a-fucking-good-wash.php">criticism</a>. At least he has a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/epic-meal-time-kidnaps-jamie-oliver_n_2528483.html">sense of humor</a> about it.