Here's How Much Chopped Contestants Are Shown Before Filming

Few shows will have you on the edge of your seat as much as "Chopped." Every episode of the Food Network's cooking competition is full of nail-biting "will they make it?" moments, as you watch the contestants scramble to get their dishes on the plate before the buzzer sounds. But it isn't just the race against the clock that has you as a viewer on edge — it's the fact that the chefs have to try to piece together a somewhat edible meal from a mystery basket of ingredients. And said ingredients aren't typically things that go well together naturally (like peanut butter and jelly or cheese and bread). Rather, there's always at least one ingredient included meant to throw off the chefs, from durian to sea cucumber to even goat brains (via Food Network).

While watching the show, you likely wonder how the heck the cooks are able to come up with a dish on the fly with such bizarre foods. Do they really find out the ingredients of the mystery basket the minute the timer starts? Or do they find out a few things ahead of time? Here's what you likely didn't know about the behind-the-scenes of "Chopped."

They only find out some of the ingredients ahead of time

In an interview with the A.V. Club, former Chopped contestant, Josh Lewis, opened up about how much the chefs are told beforehand. While they aren't shown what's inside the mystery baskets, they are shown what's inside the pantry. "They gave you about five or 10 minutes to walk around the pantry and familiarize yourself with everything," he explained. "Actually they do this before each round, because the pantry ingredients change periodically between segments." He adds that the production team also walks the contestants through how to use all of the machines and equipment in the kitchen before the timer starts.

Another former contestant, Michael Vignola, told a similar story to Tasting Table. In the interview, he confirmed that the contestants aren't told the mystery basket contents ahead of time, but they are shown around the pantry. However, he revealed that there's even a twist to that. "But when I was on the show, they removed or moved a few items each round to confuse you," he said, noting that the rules may have since changed.