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When cooking becomes a chore, or simply lacks challenge, there’s no better way to reignite the spark than with a dose of light-hearted fun and a sprinkle of gamification.

It can be all too easy to lose your passion in the kitchen, or to feel that your skills have plateaued. Fatigue, boredom, lack of ideas — these can all contribute to an overall sense of demotivation. Before you know it, you’re eating the same bland food day-in and day-out.

Luckily, these five culinary challenges will put your skills to the test and expand your own recipe collection. You’ll be introduced to all new kinds of cuisine, and that alone will be sure to reinvigorate your outlook on cooking.

52 Weeks of Cooking

Cooking Challenge 1

Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking, now in it’s fourth year, is proving to be more popular than ever. Each Monday, a new challenge is set and all participants have to cook something within the parameters of that challenge. Once the meal is cooked, a photo of the end result must be posted, along with (ideally) a recipe or description of the dish.

The cycle started in January, but you can jump in right in the middle of it. Are you a newbie cook who’s struggling to overcome kitchen intimidation Intimidated by Cooking? 6 Simple Tips to Conquer Your Kitchen Fears Intimidated by Cooking? 6 Simple Tips to Conquer Your Kitchen Fears Eating out is awesome, but it doesn’t compare to the experience of cooking a meal from scratch. But it’s far too common for people to hold a phobia of the kitchen. Read More ? That’s fine! However, there are a couple of simple rules that need to be followed.

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First, you can’t join challenges that are over three weeks old. Second, post titles must be formatted as “Week XX: Theme – Dish Name”. The other terms are minor, so you can read about them on the Reddit page itself if you’re interested.

Back in May, coinciding with Mother’s Day, the challenge was to cook a meal that incorporated flowers. These could be used as a garnish for presentation or as part of the actual dish. In June, one theme was “One Bite” — any dish made had to be small enough to consume in a single mouthful, like in that one episode of The Taste.

The challenges all look pretty fun and are very broad, allowing you to run wild with your imagination and really push something special out of the bag.

30 Days of Raw Till 4

Cooking Challenge 2

When we’re used to eating cooked food so often, it can be easy to forget how delicious raw foods can be. At first, the options available will seem limited, but therein lies the challenge. With a little creative thinking, and some raw food inspiration from Pinterest, the breadth of options will surprise you.

30 Days of Raw Till 4 doesn’t have an official home on the Internet, but a quick Google search shows tons of people who’ve taken the challenge. The aim — for those who aren’t quite sure what it is — is to only eat raw foods from when you wake until 4pm for 30 consecutive days.

If you’re looking for an engaged community to join and probe for knowledge, the Raw Till 4 Facebook page has 52,000 members. Although this page isn’t focused on the challenge itself, it’s a great resource for finding ideas on what to cook and to learn about the supposed health benefits of raw foods.

If you’re sold and need some recipes to get you started, check out Raw Food Recipes, Raw Guru and Rawmazing.

A Meal From Every Country

Cooking Challenge 3

Over several years, Sasha Martin has cooked 650+ recipes from every country on the planet. Her blog, Global Table Adventure, shares the journey with a huge number of delicious recipes and amazing pictures. But most exciting of all is the interactive food map, which allows you to take on the challenge yourself.

There’s no doubt that this is one hell of a cooking challenge, but the recipes, spice combinations, and cooking techniques you’ll learn about are all mind-boggling.

To help get you started, Sasha has put together a free Global Table Adventure Starter Guide (email signup required). This includes everything you’ll need to get going, including tips to get everyone involved, country lists, and links to connect with other people who’ve done (or are doing) the challenge.

Meatless Monday

Cooking Challenge 4

If you’re a certified carnivore, challenging yourself to go vegetarian or vegan for just one day a week can be a real culinary journey. After all, when you can’t rely on meat to flavor and enhance a dish, that’s when your skills with herbs and spices is truly put to the test.

The official Meatless Monday website is, of course, geared towards reducing global meat consumption, and the movement has recruited a number of well-known bloggers. Many of them share their Meatless Monday recipes on their sites, but the Meatless Monday site also has plenty of vegetarian meal ideas to get you started.

Host a Come Dine With Me Competition

Cooking Challenge 5

If you’re not familiar with the TV show Come Dine With Me, here’s the premise: five contestants each host a dinner party for the other contestants. The guests rate the overall food and entertainment for each of the evenings on a scale of 1 to 10. The contestant with the highest overall score wins a prize.

Sounds simple enough. But when there’s a prize at stake, all reservations fall by the wayside as each contestant brandishes their most prized culinary delights. The tour de force of their lifetime of cooking is placed on the table, ready to be judged.

And the guests, competing for the title themselves, will do all they can to find fault with your food. If you aren’t confident enough to pull this off, there are some amazing cooking classes online Where to Find Free Online Cooking & Baking Classes Where to Find Free Online Cooking & Baking Classes Where do you go if you want to approach cooking and baking systematically? Most online cooking courses are paid, but these seven are both free and excellent. Read More that can help oil your gears.

Otherwise, why not organize your own Come Dine With Me competition with your friends? Maybe even take it a step further as an idea for a double/triple date. Whatever the circumstances, we’re positive that you’ll have a lot of fun and learn a lot from the experience.

Honing Your Culinary Skills

Cooking Challenge 6

Looking for even more inspiration? Not only are there are apps that help you to cook like an award winning chef Cook Like an Award Winning Chef With Free App Look&Cook Cook Like an Award Winning Chef With Free App Look&Cook Would you like to impress your guests with delicious meals, but lack fancy ingredients and clever ideas? Try free cooking app Look&Cook. Read More , but also some creative cooking shows Cook More Creative Meals With These 6 Cooking Shows Cook More Creative Meals With These 6 Cooking Shows Want to cook up something a little more creative in the kitchen? These TV shows will spark you with inspiration and push you in the right direction. Read More stuffed with delectable dishes and feisty characters. There are even YouTube channels where chefs share their secrets 6 YouTube Cooking Channels Where Professional Chefs Share Their Secrets 6 YouTube Cooking Channels Where Professional Chefs Share Their Secrets Interested in sharpening your kitchen skills? It's the pro chefs you should listen to. You'd be surprised to know that some of the best in the business run channels on YouTube. Read More .

So if your kitchen mojo is lacking, or you’re simply bored by what you’ve been serving, consider taking part in these challenges. You may be surprised by how much your skills grow through it all.

Have you tried these, or any other, cooking challenges? If so, how did they go? Which ones are your favorite? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Image Credits: Cooking by Moyan Brenn (Flickr),  Raw Vegan Sushi by Kari Sullivan (Flickr), Thai Spread by Miles Goodhew (Flickr), Chana Masala with Naan by Jennifer (Flickr),  Toasting the Entree by Didriks (Flickr), Chef by Eric McGregor (Flickr)

  1. Saikat Basu
    August 5, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    An excellent article Rob. I am inspired. Though, I am just reserving the weekends for it. "A Meal From Every Country" looks very good. In India, a few schools are spreading awareness about good eating habits with cooking challenges for kids. So, that's a positive trend.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 5, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks, Saikat! I noticed that while I was in India a few months ago... every time we turned on the TV, there were healthy eating programs and adverts revolving around healthy eating... t'is a good trend indeed!

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