The Best Hell's Kitchen Episodes Ranked

"Hell's Kitchen" first premiered on Fox in 2005 and has since built a loyal fan base. The series features a balance of impressive culinary talent and complex interactions between contestants, who compete to win a sought-after executive chef position. Typically, the prize involves working in a restaurant operated by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Still, some seasons offer jobs at other esteemed restaurants in the country's most famous culinary scenes. 

Week after week, viewers tune in to see which chefs will prevail and which will face elimination. Chef Ramsay tests the contestants' culinary skills through individual challenges and real-life dinner services at the show's namesake restaurant. The candidates enjoy one-in-a-lifetime rewards for wins at various stages, and on the flip side, suffer grueling punishments for poor performances. 

Although most episodes of the popular show are worth watching, some stand out from the crowd. The best episodes of "Hell's Kitchen" feature intense drama, refreshing humor, and unforgettable contestants. They also include heart-warming moments, stunning losses, and amusing controversy. Over the years, these episodes continue to entertain longtime fans and newcomers to the series.

15. 6 Chefs Compete (Season 10, Episode 16)

The chefs in Season 10 are a passionate and competitive bunch, which often leads to arguments. In the episode, "6 Chefs Compete," Robyn Almodovar faces elimination. Combative Almodovar makes very few friends across the season due to her quick temper, and her fellow chefs aren't the only ones who take issue with her attitude and performance. In a review of the episode, Britt Hayes for Screencrush perfectly captures how many fans feel about the intense chef: "With only six chefs remaining, we're getting down to the best of the best ... and Robyn."

In this episode, she performs poorly at the appetizer station during dinner service, and even delivers an unnecessary dish to Chef Ramsay. Afterward, the team nominates Almodovar and her partner, Clemenza Caserta, as the weakest performers of the evening. To the relief of contestants and fans alike, Chef Ramsay decides it's time for her to leave the competition. In a post-elimination interview with RealityWanted, Almodovar explains that she learned an important lesson from her time in the series. While she doesn't regret being true to herself, she now tries to consider her words more carefully during conversations.

14. Trimming Fat (Season 17, Episode 7)

"Hell's Kitchen" Season 17 is unique because it features some of the most controversial and talented chefs competing for a second chance at their dream job. The "All Stars" have a lot to prove, which makes this one of the most exciting seasons of the series. In a Fox clip on YouTube, Gordon Ramsay explains: "'Hell's Kitchen Season 17 was, for me, the most important series of the entire decade." Since the participants are all familiar with the competition, Chef Ramsay subjects them to several formidable challenges. One of the most entertaining moments occurs in the episode "Trimming Fat." 

In this episode, the chefs must complete a seemingly simple task: deliver perfectly cooked dishes from the restaurant's current menu. However, Chef Ramsay mandates that one member of each team leave the kitchen every three minutes. This caveat puts the contestants' cooking and time-management abilities to the ultimate test and requires harmonious teamwork. Unfortunately, the kitchen is full of big personalities this season, and the chefs spend too much time bickering and making careless mistakes. The explosive arguments during and after this complex challenge are dramatic and amusing, reminding fans exactly why they love (or hate) these returning contestants.

13. Day 1 (Season 2, Episode 1)

Season 2's "Day 1," features a new crop of chefs completing their first signature dish challenge. Although Chef Ramsay doesn't care for most of the chefs' offerings, viewers get to learn more about their personal stories. This season, the chefs compete for a more exciting prize than in the first season: an executive chef position at the Red Rock Resort, Spa, and Casino in Las Vegas. Since Vegas is a major culinary hotspot in the U.S., the chefs are naturally inspired to perform at their best. However, the prize isn't the only improvement from Season 1: The chefs are also far more compelling and talented. 

In a review of this episode, Staci Krause (via IGN) remarks: "The personalities are bigger this year and the level of efficiency in the kitchen at first glance is greater." Krause gives this episode an 8.8/10 rating and praises "Day 1" as an excellent kick-off for Season 2. This episode also marks the first time Ramsay divides the teams into men versus women, a tradition that continues today. Although the contestants' first dinner service isn't a success, many of them show an exciting amount of potential that makes fans eager to keep watching.

12. 16 Chefs Compete (Season 8, Episode 1)

Some "Hell's Kitchen" season premieres give fans hope for the action-packed episodes to come, while others leave them scratching their heads in disbelief. The Season 8 premiere, "16 Chefs Compete," includes one of the worst first dinner services in "Hell's Kitchen" history, making it an undeniably enjoyable and dramatic episode. During the signature dish challenge, Antonia Boregman serves Chef Ramsay a vomit-inducing gumbo so unbelievably horrible that he insists the other contestants try it. Before the first dinner service begins, Boregman passes out and makes a trip to the emergency room, permanently leaving the competition.

Annie Barrett of Entertainment Weekly highlights the funniest errors of the first dinner service, as well as Chef Ramsay's equally amusing responses. Barrett elaborates on contestant Trevor McGrath's failed salad attempt, which Ramsay lets crash to the floor. However, the aspiring chef takes Ramsay's response in stride and tries to bounce back. In a pre-season interview with The Beverly Review, McGrath explains that his spur-of-the-moment decision to join the popular series is something he'd happily repeat. His attempts to keep a positive attitude make McGrath a fan favorite throughout the season. 

11. Shrimply Spectacular (Season 19, Episode 2)

Very rarely, some "Hell's Kitchen" contestants face elimination before their first dinner service. In the Season 19 episode, "Shrimply Spectacular," the participants compete by cooking menu-worthy shrimp dishes. However, Ramsay surprises the chefs by announcing that he will eliminate one contestant after the challenge. This decision significantly raises the stakes and makes the episode more exciting for fans. After the chefs scramble to complete their dishes in thirty minutes, each team's sous chef nominates two contestants for elimination. Unfortunately, chefs Kenneth McDuffie and Elliot Sanchez land in the bottom two overall.

Although McDuffie has plenty of experience, Ramsay decides that his shrimp dish isn't up to par. The chef graciously surrenders his blue jacket and becomes the first contestant to exit the competition. In an interview for WACH, the Pennsylvania-based chef reveals that he struggled with his mental health during the series. He considers the show a significant turning point for his journey, explaining: "I can honestly say that Hell's Kitchen saved my life. If it wasn't for me being casted on this show, I believe I would not be here to tell my story at all."

10. 4 Chefs Compete (Season 14, Episode 15)

Individual challenges often force contestants to cook outside their comfort zone. In Season 14's "4 Chefs Compete," the "Hell's Kitchen" contestants struggle to succeed in a unique test. For the first time, the chefs have to create vegetarian dishes worthy of inclusion on the restaurant's menu. The challenge starts with a trip to the grocery store, where Ramsay lets the chefs loose to shop for their ingredients. Although each of the final four contestants agonizes over how to approach the task at hand, they still create inventive dishes that earn them praise.

As Jason Reich notes (via Observer), this episode features a looming double-elimination that keeps audiences anxiously waiting to see if their favorite chef will make it into the finale. During dinner service, each chef gets a chance to show Chef Ramsay how well they can run the pass, but almost all of them make mistakes with quality control. In the end, fan favorite Milly Medley is the first to leave the competition, with Michelle Tribble landing in third place. However, this isn't the last that fans will see of the two, since both contestants return to seek redemption in Season 17.

9. Hell Hath No Fury (Season 20, Episode 14)

Season 20 (also known as "Hell's Kitchen: Young Guns") features contestants who are all 24 years old or younger. This season marks the first time age plays a significant role in the series, giving audiences a chance to watch aspiring young chefs compete against their peers. In the episode "Hell Hath No Fury," the final four contestants face off in a beach-themed barbecue challenge. Of course, high-stakes competitions tend to cause tensions to flare. This action-packed episode is among the most dramatic of the season, with explosive confrontations between the final four chefs.

The grueling challenge ends in a photo finish, with Trenton Garvey winning by just three votes. Later when it's time for elimination, although none of the chefs execute the dinner service exceptionally well, each passionately argues in favor of their performance. The remaining female chefs gang up on Garvey, the only member of the red team still standing. However, Ramsay chooses to eliminate Brynn Gibson. In an interview with The Natural Aristocrat, Gibson explains that she regrets not having a stronger voice on the pass in "Hell Hath No Fury," and that she misses cooking under pressure throughout the competition.

8. 9 Chefs Compete (Season 6, Episode 8)

A blind taste test has been a "Hell's Kitchen" staple nearly as long as the series has been on the air. In this challenge, the contestants wear blindfolds and noise-canceling headphones while they attempt to identify ingredients based solely on taste. In the Season 6 episode, "Chefs Compete," the teams battle it out for the win. As John Young from Entertainment Weekly points out, this episode includes hilarious commentary from chefs Dave Levey and Tenille Middleton. Although the two have very opposite personalities, they both serve as comic relief for their teams. 

Levey's dry, sarcastic sense of humor comes to light during the blind taste test and again during the blue team's punishment as he delivers memorable one-liners. However, even Levey doesn't add as much wit to this episode as Middleton does. Early on, the Virginia-based chef quickly establishes herself as one of the most amusingly outspoken contestants of the season, and her bizarrely funny comments don't disappoint in this episode. As Young fittingly explains: "Regardless of who is crowned the champion this season, it'll be Tennille who stole the show."

7. 5 Chefs Compete (Season 9, Episode 13)

The Season 9 episode, "5 Chefs Compete," gives former contestants a second chance to shine. Chefs who previously earned black jackets team up to face the current chefs at dinner service. Although they aren't technically competing, the returning members want redemption and are motivated to outperform the final five. Their presence in the kitchen is a welcome surprise for fans and marks the first time a team of past contestants reappears in the series. One of the standouts is Jillian Flathers, who narrowly missed her chance to be in the Season 8 finale. Screen Rant notes that the Colorado chef's elimination was very unpopular among fans, so it is refreshing to see her back in the kitchen. 

Meanwhile, tensions are high on the current black jacket team as they struggle to reach a consensus about their menu. Elise Harris is argumentative as usual, and the planning process is anything but harmonious. However, despite this animosity, the chefs come together and complete one of their most impressive services. In the end, the returning contestants aren't the only ones who earn another chance to continue their "Hell's Kitchen" journey, as Ramsay decides to spare the final five from elimination.

6. 13 Chefs Compete (Season 5, Episode 4)

In Season 5, "13 Chefs Compete," the teams face a breakfast challenge with a twist. To the shock of many contestants, fifty child athletes loudly overtake the dining room and fill every seat in the restaurant. The contestants' bewilderment gets the challenge off to an entertaining start, and breakfast quickly turns into a hilarious disaster as orders roll into both kitchens. Several chefs burn pancakes and irritate Chef Ramsay with their sloppy plating. Audiences get to laugh at multiple signature insults from Ramsay, who is clearly fed up with both teams. 

However, the worst mistake comes from Seth Levine, who runs low on scrambled eggs and arguably costs the blue team their victory. Levine addresses the scrambled egg debacle in an interview with BuddyTV: "You know, I had 50 eggs on order, or whatever it was, and it just got to be that the eggs wouldn't cook fast enough. And there's no way you can tell an egg to cook faster." Nevertheless, the blue team blames him for their loss and holds a grudge for the rest of the episode. The men also lose dinner service, and Levine becomes the next chef eliminated from the competition.

5. More Than A Sticky Situation (Season 20, Episode 10)

Season 20's "More Than A Sticky Situation" adds a messy, amusing spin on the blind taste test. Chef Ramsay shows the teams a short documentary in the movie theater-themed dining room, and he clearly has high expectations for the talented group. As the challenge gets underway, sous chefs Christina Wilson and Jason Santos stand above a massive snack display ready to pour buckets of caramel, nacho cheese, chips, and popcorn on the contestants. Unfortunately for Sam Garman and Megan Gill, they finish the challenge covered in a hilariously gross combination of movie snacks. 

Gill takes the drenching in stride, but Garman's horrified expression is one of the funniest moments of the episode. He tells the Evening Sun that he wanted to participate in the competition to expand his culinary skills, but washing caramel and popcorn out of his hair wasn't quite what he had in mind. To make matters worse, he also finds himself cleaning up the dining room after his team loses the challenge. Then, as the blue team boards a party bus for a fun day of bowling, Garman spends his day annoying the other red team members with his complaints.

4. Let The Battle Begin (Season 21, Episode 1)

Season 21 is known as "Battle Of The Ages," introducing a fresh and intriguing concept to "Hell's Kitchen." This competition pits chefs in their 20s against those in their 40s to determine whether talent can triumph over experience. In an interview with FoodSided, chef Billy Trudsoe (40 at the time of production) explains that the contestants expected a more traditional season and were surprised by the final team lineups. In the pilot episode, "Let The Battle Begin," audiences can immediately spot the differences between the two teams: The 40-somethings (blue team) are confident in their abilities, while the 20-somethings (red team) are determined to prove themselves. 

During the signature dish challenge, the red team presents innovative dishes and makes a big impression on the audience and Chef Ramsay. According to Ramsay, Nicole Gomez's choice to use boxed pasta instead of fresh costs the blue team the win. Many of the participants in this group are executive chefs or restaurant owners who have clearly left line cooking behind. Due to their experience and high expectations for themselves, they take the loss very hard. By comparison, the younger chefs seem much more humble and willing to learn. After their narrow victory, they enjoy their first reward: an evening yacht ride with Chef Ramsay.

3. 2 Chefs Compete (Season 6, Episode 15)

Season 6 winner, Dave Levey, proves himself to be a truly dedicated chef from early on. Even while injured, he outperforms many talented chefs, and his team can always count on his solid work ethic. However, many fans were surprised by Levey's win because of his unassuming nature. During the Season 6 finale, "2 Chefs Compete," he goes head-to-head with Kevin Cottle, a chef who works hard to stand out from the crowd and delivers an excellent performance during most dinner services. Due to their intense determination and undeniable culinary skills, the pair make this one of the most exciting finales of the early seasons.

Donna Bowman of AV Club gave this finale an A and shared her thoughts on the surprising outcome: "As the season began, I wouldn't have given a plugged nickel for anybody's chances other than Kevin." Although the two chefs are neck and neck until the very end, Levey's talent, calm demeanor, and ability to make logical decisions under pressure ultimately secure him a victory. He may not seem like a strong, take-charge leader in every episode, but Levey proves that consistency and levelheadedness are the keys to success in "Hell's Kitchen."

2. Just Wingin' It (Season 21, Episode 2)

"Just Wingin' It" is the second half of the "Battle Of The Ages" season premiere and one of the best recent episodes in the series. After a disappointing performance in the signature dish challenge, the 40-somethings seek redemption by creating stellar chicken wing dishes. Alex Belew emerges as a top contender for the blue team, and his easy charm makes him a favorite among fans. However, Christine Struble from FoodSided points out that the best offerings came from the chefs who took chicken wings in a novel direction, especially Alejandro Najar on the red team. 

Although Belew and Najar shine, several other contestants reveal their weaknesses during dinner service. Billy Trudsoe lets his strong personality get the better of him and begins to make enemies with some of his teammates. Ileana D'Silva tries her best to recover from her terrible performance in the individual challenge, but it's clear that the red team has some growing pains to work through. After service, the blue team says goodbye to Zeus Gordiany, whose last-minute choice to nominate himself saves the rightful bottom two from elimination. Overall, the conclusion of the Season 21 premiere sets the stage for a dramatic, engaging season to come. 

1. Hitting The Jackpot (Season 19, Episode 16)

Season 19's Kori Sutton is a refreshingly down-to-earth contestant who stays true to her culinary roots throughout the season. In the finale episode, "Hitting The Jackpot," fans watch her take her final steps toward victory. She competes against Mary Lou Davis, an equally likable chef who won fans' hearts with her brightly colored hair and friendly nature. With two well-deserving fan favorites vying for the prize, this finale is one of the most intense but heartwarming of the series. The two women experience highs and lows during their final dinner service, and Chef Ramsay reports that customers on both sides of the dining room enjoyed their experience. 

Ultimately, Ramsay selects Sutton as the winner. Although Davis is unhappy with the decision, she isn't a sore loser. Instead, the two women embrace and both participate in the festivities. In an interview with Goldderby, Sutton explains the most emotional moment of her victory celebration: "The first people that I saw were my son and my father and I just lost my bananas." Watching Sutton celebrate with her family is one of the most moving moments in the season, and makes this episode genuinely memorable.