The Best Food Network Shows Of All Time

The Food Network is a juggernaut in our modern television landscape. Years before "Ratatouille" taught the world that "anyone can cook," the Food Network was preaching that ethos to the world, igniting a cultural reconsideration of the culinary arts — including the very idea that cooking is, indeed, an art form.

But the concept of a television channel dedicated exclusively to food and cooking was largely inconceivable when it first launched way back in 1993. "How are they going to fill 24 hours, and who's going to do it," celebrity chef, Sara Moulton, recalled thinking at the time (via WGBH). Yet the public demand for all things food-related was greater than anyone realized, and as of 2021, the network was broadcast to roughly 100 million U.S. households (via Discovery).

The impact of the Food Network is undeniable — we at Mashed owe a debt of gratitude to the channel, quite frankly — and with more than 100 shows having appeared on the channel since its arrival, it's no surprise that some have endured more than others. With that in mind, let's review the shows that stand above the rest — the best Food Network shows of all time.


Attention spans are in short supply in our modern culture. It's hard to keep a person engaged in a world where bite-sized clips reign supreme, and information is often only tolerated when it's parceled out in no more than 280 characters at a time. Given this undeniable reality, it's no surprise that a show like "Chopped" has become, and stayed, so popular since its debut in 2009.

After all, aside from the occasional themed tournament, "Chopped" is a one-and-done endeavor — with an episodic structure fairly unique to the televised-cooking competition genre. A beautiful combination of the simple and complex, the show's setup is as straightforward as it gets. Four chefs compete for $10,000, with three rounds that usually mirror a typical three-course meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert), and one chef eliminated after each round. Of course, the signature aspect, and what makes it such a legendary show, is the mystery basket. As host Ted Allen has explained (via Food Network), "we give you four difficult ingredients that don't necessarily go together well. And it all comes down to: Can you cook that into something beautiful in 20 or 30 minutes or can't you?"

Additionally, since "the judges are the stars of the show," as Allen told Vice in 2017, the rotation of likable regulars — including Marcus Samuelsson, Chris Santos, and Scott Conant, among others — makes it clear why "Chopped" has become a staple of the Food Network.

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

There's just something about Guy Fieri. Perhaps it's his high-energy geniality, but the wild man of the culinary world has been an endearing force since winning the second season of "The Next Food Network Star" in 2006. In hindsight, his ascension feels almost inevitable. But it's hard to imagine him reaching the heights he has — earning an astounding $50 million raise from the Food Network in 2021 (via Forbes) — without his signature series: "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."

The show finds the frosted-tip-rocking, backward-sunglasses-wearing chef visiting small restaurants throughout the U.S., showcasing countless offbeat, under-the-radar locales. While there's no doubt the various restaurants featured contribute to the show's success, it's the trademark mannerisms and witticisms of Fieri that puts Triple D "out of bounds."

It's clear that "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" has made Fieri a star, just as it's clear he deserves the lion's share of the credit for its longevity and popularity. But it hasn't just had a massive impact on his career — it's helped boost the sales and profile of virtually every restaurant the show's ever visited. After the Georgia-based restaurant, Southern Soul Barbeque, was featured in the episode, "Old Time Attitude" (Season 9, Episode 13), for example, owner, Griffin Bufkin, told Thrillist that sales tripled (as Fieri predicted) — and, as of 2016, hadn't "really stopped."

Iron Chef America

There's a case to be made that the entire genre of competitive cooking shows wouldn't exist without the original "Iron Chef." An English-dubbed import of the Japanese version, "Iron Chef" was a rarity at the time: a showcase for the world's best chefs to demonstrate their artistic credentials, in a competition testing their cooking skills and knowledge. But while it was the network's highest-rated show in 2000 (via The Atlantic), it wasn't an original creation of the Food Network, which is why the network's subsequent "Iron Chef America" takes the franchise's spot on this list.

With a dramatic flair and sporting-event aesthetic, "Iron Chef America" was, to its credit, nothing more than an Americanized version of the classic show: presented by the Chairman (Mark Dacascos), from the so-called Kitchen Stadium (a studio set), with running commentary provided by Alton Brown. The show pitted one of its roster of Iron Chefs — which included Michael Symon, Cat Cora, and Jose Garces – in a culinary battle against an acclaimed competitor. After revealing an unknown featured ingredient, each chef was tasked with cooking the best meal possible — battling each other, and a ticking clock.

The high-pressure environment of "Iron Chef America" made it a hit with viewers, though not enough to ward off its cancellation in 2018. However, fans of the show can rejoice, as Netflix plans to reboot the show in June 2022 (via USA Today).

Next Food Network Star

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 110,000 chefs and cooks worked in the U.S. as of 2020. Part of the Food Network's appeal is likely that many of them — plus a fair number of viewers — believe they, too, could host a successful show if the opportunity came along. Luckily, for those eager to test their mettle, there was "The Next Food Network Star," which offered contestants the chance to become (you guessed it!) a television star on the Food Network.

"The Next Food Network Star" was simple: It gathered culinary professionals who felt they belonged among the rotation of celebrity chefs employed by the network, and gave them the chance to put their money where their mouth was. Whether contestants were akin to those folks who believe they could have been a professional athlete if they'd gotten that one break,  it was clear that the chance to enter that upper echelon of the culinary world was too much for some to resist.

Buoyed by that chance to grasp the elusive brass ring, and endearing judges including Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay, "The Next Food Network Star" entertained audiences for 14 seasons. While it hasn't aired since 2018, the show's legacy endures, with past winners Guy Fieri and Jeff Mauro still mainstays on the network as of 2022.

The Pioneer Woman

As any tall person who's been bestowed the title "Shorty" can attest, a nickname isn't always an accurate depiction of the person. Sometimes, the best nicknames are those ironic, tongue-in-cheek monikers that imply a person is in on the joke — as is the case with celebrity chef, Ree Drummond, aka "The Pioneer Woman" of the titular Food Network show.

The upbeat host, who shares "her special brand of home cooking" on her show (as noted in the official synopsis), offers a warm, wholesome viewing experience for the audience at home. Her own life — and feeling like "a fish out of water" after marrying her cowboy husband and moving to a ranch — forms the basis of the show, and has clearly struck a chord with fans since its debut in 2011.

With an "incredible following and popularity," as Food Network president, Courtney White, stated in 2019 (via The Wrap), it's not hard to understand why "The Pioneer Woman" belongs on any list of the best Food Network shows.

Beat Bobby Flay

It's not exactly groundbreaking to say many people have fairly heightened opinions of themselves. There's no shortage of exorbitantly confident individuals living in the world, and no lack of folks who think they could outperform a world-class performer in a competitive format — which explains both the existence, and appeal, of "Beat Bobby Flay."

Look, we're not here to deny we love Bobby Flay, or imply we're disappointed that he signed a three-year contract extension with the Food Network in 2021 (via People). But that being said ... there's just something about the culinary legend's boyish charm that seems to ignite our competitive fires. Plus, while some may speculate that the show is rigged in favor of Flay, the fact that, as of June 2019, he'd actually lost 77 times out of 224 total contests (via Cheat Sheet) proves anyone can, indeed, beat Bobby Flay.

Not that Flay minds if he loses. After all, as he said on "The Drew Barrymore Show" in October 2021 (via Good Housekeeping), the show allows him to "hangout with friends and to cook ... the two things I love to do most." With the show remaining on air nearly a decade after its premiere as of 2022, it's clear that his fun-loving, it's-only-a-game mentality has resonated with audiences.

Worst Cooks in America

It's sort of cruel to consider, but there's something inherently entertaining about watching someone attempt a task they are ill-prepared for. Whether we're laughing with a person or at them — as is often the case, unfortunately — there's always a cultural thirst for entertainment that allows us to foster a feeling of superiority. Hence, both the existence of "Worst Cooks in America," and why it's become one of the best Food Network shows of all time.

Of course, it's not exactly mean-spirited to enjoy the foibles of the "Worst Cooks in America" contestants. After all, we're not talking about some Joe Six Pack trying to make a living who happens to be inept in the kitchen. These are individuals who willingly volunteered to compete in a contest geared around their poor cooking skills — and encourage audiences to enjoy the ride of their misfortune.

Whether they're unknown contestants, or famous-in-the-1990s actors, like the "Celebrity Edition" that premiered in 2022, there's clearly an appetite to devour cooking shows where chefs aren't chefs at all — as evidenced by the two-season renewal announced in 2021 (via The Wrap).

The Great Food Truck Race

It's hard to say why or how the U.S. became a nation obsessed with food trucks, though some evidence suggests it roots go back to the 1960s with the rise of taco trucks in Los Angeles (via Smithsonian). Yet another, far more straightforward explanation likely exists for food trucks' immense popularity: the ongoing adoration for "The Great Food Truck Race," which debuted in 2010.

"The Great Food Truck Race" may not have single-handedly created the concept of a food truck, or be solely responsible for the prevalence of mobile restaurants. But the show almost certainly played a hand in introducing them to a mainstream audience, and, as host, Tyler Florence, told The Daily Meal in 2015, the show "helped invent an entirely new genre of restaurants."

The show wouldn't have thrived, or led to any sort of food truck revolution, though, if it weren't also good. And with a simple concept — where food truck owners compete in various challenges, with the highest-selling truck winning — it's easy to see why the show remains prominent, still going as of June 2022 (via The Wrap).

Cupcake Wars

The proliferation of cupcake-focused bakeries in the 2000s may have been the result of a "Sex and the City" episode (via Business Insider). But regardless of the origin, it's clear that the definite craze for all-things-cupcake during the first decade or so of this century led to the creation of "Cupcake Wars."

While it may not have lasted as long as some of the other entries on this list, "Cupcake Wars" left its mark on the world. The competition, which pitted bakeries against each other, challenging them to create the best batch of cupcakes based on varying themes, was a hit with viewers who were eager to consume cupcakes in more ways than one. With famed bakers and bakery owners such as Candace Nelson and Natalie Slater acting as judges (via Bake and Destroy), the show had credibility, as well.

As the world moved away from a cupcake frenzy, so, too, did the Food Network, with the show no longer airing after 2018. And though "Cupcake Wars" was thrown away — like most of the cupcakes made on each episode (via Marketplace) — no one will ever forget the legacy it left behind.

The Kitchen

Daytime talk shows, particularly those with a panel of hosts, have been a standard component of the television world for decades. There's an inviting quality to a group-based talk show, where the co-hosts' breezy banter can make viewers feel like they're casually hanging with friends. This fact wasn't lost on the Food Network, and, in 2014, it jumped on board with the debut of the food-centric talk show, "The Kitchen."

What could be described as "The View" meets the cooking segments on "Today," "The Kitchen" succeeds because it caters to those who want to watch experts engage in easygoing culinary conversations. The show — with co-hosts including Sunny Anderson, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Jeff Mauro, as of 2022 — includes general food-based discussions, as well as cooking demonstrations with the acclaimed chefs, who provide tips and techniques for viewers.

The show was undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, adapting to the circumstances by having each host film remotely from their home (via Chicago Tribune). Not only did this approach help "The Kitchen" stay in production, but it resulted in an increase in ratings, according to Discovery, showing why it can call itself one of the best Food Network shows of all time.

Barefoot Contessa

Some of the entries on this list may not have seemed like a slam dunk when they first premiered. But "Barefoot Contessa," the long-running Food Network show hosted by Ina Garten, is not one of them. Garten was already a best-selling cookbook author by the time of the show's debut in 2002, with her book, released in 1999 — also titled "Barefoot Contessa" — selling more than 100,000 copies in its first year (via Epicurious). 

It's easy to see why people enjoy the endearing, unfussy approach to cooking offered by Garten — as well as the picturesque setting of her Hamptons home, where the show is filmed (via Slate). Frankly, it may be more interesting to consider her amazing journey to the top of the culinary industry. Garten actually once worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget, which she quit at age 30 to open a specialty food store in Westhampton Beach, New York, according to the New York Times.

After opening the store — appropriately named "The Barefoot Contessa" — Garten never looked back. And several decades, countless cookbooks, and a number of television shows later, it's hard to argue with her impact, or the legacy of her signature series.

Trisha's Southern Kitchen

Our culture has a bit of an unhealthy fascination with celebrities. While there's definitely something voyeuristic about the desire to peek in a window of the lives of the rich and famous — well, it's hard to deny the fact that it is intriguing to discover celebrities who are normal, regular people. So it's no wonder that "Trisha's Southern Kitchen," where country music superstar, Trisha Yearwood, cooks Southern dishes for her friends and family, has been such a huge hit for the Food Network.

Celebrities ... they're just like us after all, right? At least, that's how it seems to viewers who enjoy the Emmy-award winning show (via LA Times). And "Trisha's Southern Kitchen" doubles down on that fun, as it frequently features guest appearances from Yearwood's country music legend husband, Garth Brooks.

With years in the spotlight before the show's premiere in 2012, the Grammy award-winning Yearwood may have been destined to create a top-tier product one way or another. But that doesn't diminish the show's accomplishments — or its status as one of the Food Network's all-time great series.


If there are two things we know in life, it's that human beings are inquisitive by nature, and millennials and Gen-Xers love Marc Sommers. The former host of "Double Dare," "What Would You Do?", and the show we're here to discuss, "Unwrapped," Sommers was a television personality like no other. And while "Emeril (Lagasse) deserves all the applause and accolades," as Sommers told in 2019, he's sure to note his show also helped "put (Food Network) on the map."

Despite being off the air since 2011 — not including a short-lived reboot in 2015 — "Unwrapped" remains one of the most iconic Food Network shows. Whether it was the fascinating peek behind the curtain of some of our favorite foods and drinks, or the amiable, welcoming energy offered by Sommers, the show was undoubtedly a key component in the Food Network's burgeoning popularity at the turn of the 21st century (via Thrillist).

While we haven't been blessed with new episodes of "Unwrapped" for quite some time, as of 2021, full episodes were available to watch on Discovery Plus (via Business Insider).

Guy's Grocery Games

A man once described by fellow celebrity chef, Alex Guarnaschelli, as "a human air conditioner for good feelings" (via The Hollywood Reporter), Guy Fieri's beloved, over-the-top shenanigans have been all over the Food Network since his first appearance in 2006. There's no doubt the success of his signature series, "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," has earned him plenty of cache with his employer. But it's hard to imagine he'd have earned such a massive contract extension in 2021 without the additional hit of his unique cooking competition show, "Guy's Grocery Games."

Of course, the appeal of "Guy's Grocery Games" resonates beyond the jovial goofiness of its host. Evoking memories of the classic game show, "Supermarket Sweep," contestants are tasked with crafting a meal out of ingredients they select from an on-set grocery store, Flavortown Market. Yet "Triple G" doesn't just give chefs free rein. It derives entertainment from the numerous "Chopped"-esque obstacles and twists thrown at contestants. After all, where's the fun in simply watching chefs cook whatever they want, without any rigid restrictions or guidelines?

Clearly, the world can't get enough of Fieri — just as the man himself can't get enough of alliteration. And, just as clearly, there's no holding back the fact that "Guy's Grocery Games" is one of the best Food Network shows of all time.