The Stoves are Off, but Minds Still Burn Bright

The aprons have come off.  The speeches are done.  Winners have been announced.  The 2013 Cook This! 4-H Culinary Challenge may be over, but only until next year!  We wanted to congratulate all of you for your hard work and superb efforts this year!  Below is a gallery of all the pictures from the competition that are also on the Cook This! website.  You have accomplished so much this summer!  Keep your minds burning bright and we hope to see you back again next year!


Food Science: More than Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcanoes-Seniors

Everyone has seen the science fair volcanoes that bubble over from mixing baking soda and vinegar. But food science has so much more to offer than just a blue ribbon! Food science has grown into a new and exciting career field. Food careers have grown very quickly in recent years and have shown great promise. After all, food will always be there and there will always be people to eat it! Food itself is a science, involving chemistry, biology, and even anatomy. Food chemistry involves how foods interact with each other. Biology and anatomy are also important, especially with animal products. Food science is important when you want to understand why your breads rise and why your broccoli turns a gross green when you cook it too long. Knowing the reasons behind food science can improve not only your cooking, but your eating habits as well! If you know how your food functions in your body, you know what types of foods your body wants and needs.

Check out this link for some information on careers in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University:

Seniors! Look at this document for all your food science information you need for the food science challenge for Cook This!: Food Science Challenge Info-Seniors

The competition is close! Keep working hard!

Blades are Blazin’!-All Levels

One of the most important things you need to know, not only during Cook This!, but for cooking in general, is knife skills.  Knowing how to handle a knife makes cooking an enjoyable experience.  Plus, you can show off all your awesome skills!  There are several cuts required for the Cook This! Culinary Challenge.  Knife cuts are listed below (check the challenge packet to see which cuts are required for your specific age level).

Dice, small:  ¼ in. x ¼ in. x ¼ in.

Dice, large: ¾ in. x ¾ in. x ¾ in.

Julienne: 1/16 in. x 1/16 in. x 2 in long

Brunoise: 1/8 in. x 1/8 in. x 1/8 in.

Slice: a cut that comes from cutting through a product latitudinally (across, not lengthwise)

Mince:  an irregular cut that is smaller than 1/16 in.

Chiffonade:  a cut made by rolling up leaves (typically basil)and then slicing across the leaves to make thin strips.

Check out this link for an awesome article not only on knife cuts, but types of knives and the parts of a knife:

There are two reasons that knife skills enhance your culinary prowess.  First, it makes your food more visually appealing.  When you see a fresh salsa sold in the store, you would want to see nice little squares of diced onions and peppers.  Plus, who wants to bite into a big hunk of pepper in their salsa?  Second, and more importantly, it allows your food to cook at the same rate.  If your pieces of onion are all the same size, they will sauté at the same rate and finish cooking at nearly the same time.  This is especially important when cooking very tough vegetables, like potatoes or carrots, because they take longer to cook and become tender.

Keep working hard and get excited to Cook This!

Competition Outline and Ethnic Cuisines-All Levels

The three-day Cook This! Competition will take place on August 8th, 9th, and 10th at the 4-H Exhibits Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  Juniors will compete on August 8th, intermediates on August 9th, and seniors will compete on August 10th.  Each age level will prepare a different cuisine, present on a food-related topic, and compete in two additional challenges.  Juniors will prepare Creole cuisine and compete in a produce/equipment identification challenge and a vitamins and minerals challenge.  Intermediates will prepare Argentinean cuisine and compete in a food safety challenge and answer basic questions about culinary knowledge.  Senior-level contestants will prepare French cuisine and compete in an herb identification challenge and a food science challenge.

You might be asking, why do we prepare ethnic cuisines during Cook This?  Why not eggs and bacon?  Ethnic cuisines are a great way to not only practice your basic culinary skills, but to try new foods too!  You learn how to prepare new and interesting foods or recipes that may not familiar to you or your family.  It can also be a great way to learn new techniques that you have never tried before in your home kitchen.  By preparing ethnic cuisines, you can also learn about other cultures and why they use different methods of cooking and preparation than we do here in Iowa.  So, pack your bags and get ready to travel the world, right in your own kitchen!

Check out these links for some information on ethnic cuisines:

Creole cuisine:

Argentinian cuisine:

French cuisine:

Welcome to the Iowa 4-H Cook This! Blog

Hello 4-H culinary crafters!  Welcome to the blog for the 2013 Iowa 4-H Cook This! Culinary Competition!   This blog will house all the information you need to know for the contest.  Each post will be labeled with which age level the post is for, but even if it’s not specifically for you, read it!  Information posted on the blog is information that you should know for the contest.  Some posts may just be a feature story of a new or developing topic in the food world, and others will be necessary info for you.  In order to get notifications of new posts, follow these instructions to follow the page:

1. Go to (you should be there now)

2. Look in the lower right-hand corner of the window for a small black button that says “+Follow” and click it

3. Enter your email address and click sign me up!

You should now be able to receive notifications through your email.  If not, please email me at and I will help you get set up.  I will also email everyone each time I post something just in case! Be sure to watch for email notifications for new posts and like Iowa 4-H on Facebook to keep up to date with new posts and competition information.  Also, follow us on Twitter for updates and notifications at @4hcookthis.  Get ready to turn up heat and start cooking!