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It's Go Time: Enter Your Best Hands-Off Recipe

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PSST! Submissions close TODAY (January 31st) at 6:00 PM EST, enter your recipe ASAP!

Let's get right to it: It's a new year and as we mentioned earlier this month, we're thrilled to announce that recipe contests are back!

There will be 6 recipe contests this year—a new one kicking off every other month—and we're starting with Your Best Hands-Off Recipe. With winter weather reaching new levels of blustery cold, many of us are ready to stay curled up indoors—buried in a bomb cyclone of blankets—and let dinner take care of itself.

Will you enter a hearty stew?
Will you enter a hearty stew? Photo by Bobbi Lin

We know you've got the perfect recipe for warming up from the inside out. Here's a bit more about what we're looking for:

  • Great recipes. (You know that—we're just easing into this list.)
  • New recipes. While you will be able to enter existing recipes on the site, we’re really interested in seeing all the new creations you come up with.
  • Recipes that cook without too much effort on your part (this is the Hands-Off part)—there can be some amount of prep, but this particular contest is really about set-it-and-forget-it cooking. Get creative; we're excited to see how you interpret our theme.
  • The dish can cook in an appliance (like a slow or multi-cooker), but it doesn't have to. Perhaps your dish braises all day in the oven, bubbles away on the stovetop, or roasts on a sheet pan. We're into that, too.
  • We're primarily looking for main dish recipes, but substantial sides are also fair game.
  • And while slow cooking often first conjures up meaty braises, vegetarian and vegan recipes count, too.

Entries are open from now through the end of the month—submissions close January 31st at 6:00 PM EST.

Sheet pan suppers definitely qualify as hands-off.
Sheet pan suppers definitely qualify as hands-off. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Before you rush off to start dreaming up the recipe you're going to enter, stick with us for a few more minutes. We want to make sure everyone knows how the contests work—from those of you who are brand new to our process to those of you who have been participating since the very beginning. We've updated the rules to streamline steps—and make sure each recipe gets the attention it deserves.

Read on for the nitty-gritty of what's going to happen, from the time we announce the contest theme to the time we announce the contest's winner, and everything that happens in between.

First things first—we decide on a contest theme.

This time, it's about Your Best Hands-Off Recipe. In the past, we've decided on themes because we wanted your help making the site's collection of recipes more well-rounded (themes have included Your Best Cheap Feast, Your Best Open House Dish, or Your Favorite Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner). Sometimes we've focused on a seasonally relevant theme (this can be challenging with participants from around the globe!) or, alternatively an aseasonal one, like "Your Best Mash-Up." Our goal: to think up a wide variety of themes that'll give everyone a chance to participate.

This year, there will be 6 contests—we'll be announcing new ones every two months on the 15th at noon in both a post on the site and on our contest page. You can start submitting your recipes right away! (And if you're at all confused about dates, there's a handy-dandy visual guide to the schedule for the year at the bottom of this page).

Next, you get to submit your recipe. Here's how:

Head to your profile page (make sure you're signed into the site), select "Recipes," click the "Add a Recipe" button, and upload your recipe. (You can always feel free to enter existing recipes on the site if they fit the theme, though as discussed, we’re especially interested in new ones.) Once you've added or picked out the recipe you want to submit, hit "Edit Recipe" and scroll down to the drop-down menu called "Submit my recipe to a contest." Click the menu, select the current contest, and then save your recipe. That's it! (See the example below.)

Select "Your Best Hands-Off Recipe" and you're all set!
Select "Your Best Hands-Off Recipe" and you're all set!

You have until the last day of the month to submit. While you wait, you can see what other community members are submitting on the contest page.

Got a meaty main you'd like to enter? We're standing by.
Got a meaty main you'd like to enter? We're standing by. Photo by Julia Gartland

Next, we read all the recipes submitted and narrow them down—with your help.

Yep, every single one. Our Food Writer & Recipe Developer Emma Laperruque, along with other members of the editorial team, will take 2 weeks to read through every submission, looking for recipes to test that really jump out at us—ones that are new, fit with the season, or that use interesting techniques or ingredients in unusual ways. And, of course, ones that sound really, really good.

To help us narrow down, we’ll be depending on your input—we'll take into consideration which recipes you favorite and your comments on each submission. Between your feedback and our own review and testing, we’ll announce a list of the top 5 contenders on the 15th of the following month.

Then, it's test kitchen time.

Our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen and Test Kitchen Cook Allison Bruns Buford test all 5 contenders, making any additional notes. And then, members of the Food52 team (the ones lucky enough to be in the office that day, anyway) will taste and review all five dishes's a tough job, we know.

You can start testing some of the contenders' recipes at home, too—that way, you’ll be one step ahead of schedule when we get to the final voting round.

Meanwhile, we polish up the recipes.

Emma will review each of the 5 contenders again, editing for style (e.g. making sure the right words are capitalized), grammar, spelling, and clarity (e.g. making sure the ingredients are listed in the order used, and that the steps make sense). She'll add in any testing notes from our test kitchen and staff reviews.

Dinner is served—now it's time to go from hands-off to (very) hands-on.
Dinner is served—now it's time to go from hands-off to (very) hands-on. Photo by Rocky Luten

We blow the trumpets and announce the 2 finalists! (And ask for your vote.)

At long last, we’ll whittle it down to the final two. We’ll announce them on the 1st of the third month at noon. We'll photograph them here in the office, with our stylists and photographers working to make each recipe look its most beautiful. We'll upload the photos to the recipes after Liz Andrew, our Senior Retoucher & Digital Asset Manager, puts the final touches on them. Then we need our community to determine the winner!

You’ll have about a week (until the 8th of the month) to check out the finalists, cook the recipes, and document the results. You can vote on the contest page—you can only vote once, but it's completely acceptable to vote for your own recipe. We also want you to keep us in the loop as you're cooking these recipes on Instagram using the hashtag #f52recipecontest. So get ready to share your feedback.

We announce the winner!

After we announce our finalists, Emma will email them both a Q&A. At noon on the 9th, we'll tally up the votes and announce the winner. The winner gets to do a happy dance, and we'll share their answers to the Q&A in a post on the site that week so that the community can get to know them. Then on the 15th, the whole cycle begins again with a new contest!

So what does the winner get?

The two big Fs! No, not fame and fortune: fame and FUN. We're mostly in this for the fun of the community coming together around a new theme every couple of months and inspiring each other to create new recipes—based on your feedback, that's what's it about for many of you, too. We'll also do our best to make winners famous (Food52 famous, anyway) by promoting the winning recipe on our site, on social media, and in at least one of our email newsletters. Plus, all contest finalists get prime placement in our recipe search, so other people are more likely to find and cook your recipe and it's more likely to be featured in future articles.

We know that's a lot of dates to try and remember, so here's the aforementioned handy-dandy visual guide to the schedule for this year's contests:

Who's ready to rummmmble?! Or, you know, create some recipes?
Who's ready to rummmmble?! Or, you know, create some recipes?

You can read the very official, super-serious contest rules here. Have any questions? Ask us in the comments.

Tags: Food52 Life, Contest