The Reason Chopped Contestants Always Prepare An Extra Plate

If you've watched "Chopped" (or really any cooking competition on Food Network), you have likely noticed that the contestants always prepare four plates. And yet, there are only three judges. So who is that fourth plate for? Why do contestants have to go through the hassle of preparing a fourth plate if no one is going to eat it?

Fans have offered up several theories over the course of the show's lengthy run. One Reddit user suggested that the fourth plate was just there to tempt host Ted Allen, who does not typically sample the dishes. In a Food Network interview, Allen himself joked about the fourth plate being sent to his dressing room between rounds.

While shows like "Chopped" might keep a lot of secrets (if you thought contestants' reactions seemed staged, yeah, you're right), the fourth plate isn't quite as big a mystery. According to The Daily Meal, extra food does sometimes get shared with the crew, but no, not the infamous fourth plate.

Who gets that fourth plate?

All that close-up footage of the contestants' finished dishes takes hours to film, Insider says. Yes, hours. Nobody wants to eat a plate of food that's been sitting out that long, especially at room temperature. (Not to mention that can pose a serious health risk.)

According to BuzzFeed, the fourth plate is used solely for photography purposes, as well as for when a contestant gets chopped. Couldn't the show use a judge's plate for the reveal? As Allen pointed out in an interview with Food Network, "If someone gets chopped I have to have a plate underneath the cloche when I lift it, and you don't want a plate that's already been half-eaten."

So technically, that fourth plate is for the audience's viewing pleasure — or displeasure. We're still squirming at the memory of the raw eel. Sorry, Ted, but maybe it's not always such a bad thing that the fourth plate isn't for you.