We all know and love Chopped. We can barely contain our excitement when Ted Allen makes his dramatic introduction or when he removes the cover of the dish on the Chopping Block in slow motion. However, for those who have not watched the thrilling Food Network contest, Chopped is a competition where four chefs compete for a prize of $10,000 dollars.

There are three rounds: appetizer, entree, and dessert. In each round there is a basket of mystery ingredients that the chefs must incorporate into their dishes. If you’re an avid Chopped follower, like myself, you probably cringe at certain decisions the contestants make on the show, like forgetting a basket ingredient, because it will inevitably end you up on the chopping block. 

1.  Bread Pudding never cooks in time

chicken, mushroom, sauce
Vinita Saggurti

During the dessert round, the competitors are given 30 minutes to prepare and plate their dessert dish. Many dessert baskets contain some sort of pre-made pastry or cake, and the contestants think it would be a great idea to cut it up and create a bread pudding. Pretty great idea, right? Not when it doesn’t cook all the way through and you serve the judges a soupy, egg logged disaster.

2. Don’t put all the basket ingredients in a blender and make a purée 

Christin Urso

Think about it: would you want to eat mush consisting of 7 different foods that do not go together? Contestants mostly do this to hide a difficult basket ingredient, which is not the goal of the competition.

3. Lentils never cook in time

cereal, buckwheat, legume, lentil, vegetable
Christin Urso

This is another food that usually makes it to the judging table inedible. Lentils require about 15-20 minutes of cooking time, but this does not include the time it takes to boil water in the pot. Undercooked lentils are hard and crunchy and very difficult to digest – not what the judges want to eat. Why don't they just stick to a pasta or beans?

4. Do not overcook meat

steak, beef, butter, meat, rib
Alex Vu

Overcooked meat is dry, leathery, and pretty disgusting. When cooking meat, you need to not only allow enough time for it to cook all the way through, but you also need to allot for time for the meat to set before cutting it. If you cut into meat before letting it set, it will lose all its juices and flavor, and definitely not taste great.

5. Do not undercook meat

Undercooked meat is dangerous to consume as it is one of the main causes of E. coli which leads to stomachaches and vomiting. The judges can’t eat the food they are served because of the health risks it poses. The best way to prevent this is time management and using a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature is high enough.

6. Do not forget a basket ingredient

That’s the whole purpose of the competition. Make sure you get all of your ingredients on the plate so I don't get a heart attack watching you.

7. Do not try to make ice cream if you never have before 

I never understand this. $10,000 is a lot of money and now isn’t the time to start experimenting with new techniques.

8. Do not make your plate sloppy

Not all plates can be as beautiful as this one, but presentation is the first impression the judges have on the dish. It is also a major component of the judging criteria. Even though it may be difficult to pull this off, make it pretty to avoid the chopping block.

9. If you cut your finger, don’t get blood in your food

Due to obvious reasons, the judges can’t eat food that is contaminated with blood. They can then only judge the plate on how it looks and compare that to all of the other competitors. So, as soon as you nick your finger slicing those potatoes, apply pressure and wrap it up.

10. Do not serve a dish that is super spicy 

beer, soda, juice, alcohol, liquor, hot sauce
Stephanie DeVaux

While I may adore spicy food and put chili pepper flakes on basically everything, many of the judges do not enjoy the heat. Many times, they won’t even eat the dish that is too spicy.

11. No raw red onions (If Scott is the judge) 

This will get you chopped faster than you can say chopping block. 

I could not imagine trying to cook a gourmet meal in 30 minutes, and forget trying to make something edible out of the disgusting basket ingredients the contestants are given.  That being said, I'm not competing for $10,000 when I'm putting together my dinner - so study up contestants if you want to avoid the Chopping Block.