The Pillsbury Bake-Off is a cooking contest, first run by the Pillsbury Company from 1949-1976, and 2013 to 2014 as an annual contest. From 1978 to 2012 and from 2017, the contest is held biennially. There was no contest in 2015 nor 2016.
The first contest was held in 1949 as the Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest and hosted in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Until 1994, the grand prize was $50,000. Since 1996, the grand prize has been $1,000,000.
The only required ingredient in the early contests was Pillsbury's BEST Flour. There was no contest in 1965 because the contest was moved from October to February.
Occasionally, there has been a male category winner (1978, 1990, 1992, and 2002). The only male champion was Kurt Wait of Redwood City, California, who won in 1996; that year, 14 of the 100 finalists were men.
The contest had reverted to an annual contest in 2013 and 2014, after the previous 18 contests were held on the even-numbered years.
In 2014, the contest added eight additional "Sponsor Awards" for a prize of $5,000 each. Categories and winners included:
GE Imagination At Work Award: won by MaryJo Watkins of Scottsdale, Arizona - Muffuletta Mini Pies
Jif® Peanut Butter Award: won by Brenda Watts of Gaffney, South Carolina - Macaroon-Peanut Butter-Chocolate Tartlets
Crisco is Cooking™ Award: won by Greg Fontenot of The Woodlands, Texas - Grilled Potato and Roasted Salsa Verde Pizza
Eagle Brand® Signature Recipe Award: won by Barbara Estabrook of Rhinelander, Wisconsin - Peanut and Pretzel-Peanut Butter Thumbprints
Pillsbury® Gluten Free Award: won by Merry Graham of Newhall, California - Herbs and Seeds Parmesan Crackers
Pillsbury® Clever Twist Award: won by Marie Valdes of Brandon, Florida - Spinach Dip-Stuffed Garlic Rolls
Watkins™ Vanilla Award: won by Antoinette Leal of Ridgefield, Connecticut - Very Vanilla Lemon Tarts
Reynolds® Baking Magic Award: won by Elizabeth Bennett of Seattle, Washington - Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Filled Pretzels