Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Ready Steady Cook

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Cooking show

Original language(s)

Country of origin
United Kingdom

Ready Steady Cook

Presented by
Fern Britton (1994–2000) Ainsley Harriott (2000–2010)

No. of series
21 (Original series) 9 (Celebrity series)

No. of episodes
1735 (Original series) 102 (Celebrity series) 22 (specials) 1859 (total)

Ready Steady Cook was a BBC daytime TV cooking programme; it debuted on 24 October 1994 and the last edition was broadcast on 2 February 2010. The programme was hosted by Fern Britton from 1994 until 2000 when celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott became the new host. In August 2000, when Harriott took over, the duration of the programme was extended from 30 to 45 minutes.


The programme was originally recorded in the small (and now closed) Fountain TV studios in New Malden; it then moved to the Capital Studios in Wandsworth. After Capital Studios closed down in mid-2008, recording was moved to Studio TC2 in the BBC Television Centre, London.

In the CBBC show Horrible Histories, during Series 1 and 2, a parody of the show called Ready Steady Feast was one of the sketches. It featured different historical characters bringing in aids from their historical era.


Two members of the public provided two celebrity chefs with a bag of ingredients they had bought, usually to a set budget of £5. The two teams were designated "red tomato" and "green pepper" (referred to as "red kitchen" and "green kitchen" after the August 2007 revamp, though the tomato and pepper motifs still featured on the guests' aprons and in the show's logo). Occasionally, the permitted budget was increased: a so-called Bistro Bag allowed for ingredients of up to £7.50, while the Gourmet Bag could have a value of up to £10. On some occasions, they used a £3.50 Budget Bag. Also on a few shows, a Lucky Dip Bag was used, which contained ten items. The chef closed his or her eyes and picked out half of the items at the beginning. At the halfway mark, the chef randomly picked a sixth item, which might have helped or hindered the chef. The chefs had no prior knowledge of the ingredients they had to prepare. Another format was used on occasion in which both kitchens were given the same ingredients, and the toss of a red and green die determined who had first pick.

The Main Course

The chefs had to make several dishes out of the said ingredients (and a generously stocked kitchen containing basic ingredients and aids) in 20 minutes, with the help of the contestants and the programme host. As the contestants taste the prepared dishes, the host asks the chef some questions about the aids. Prior to the September 2006 programme season it was customary for the chefs to name their dishes, which usually included a pun.

The preparations were voted on by the studio audience, who each held up a card showing either a red tomato or green pepper. In the newer episodes, the audience members pushed a button on their seat keypad to indicate who they would like to win. The winner received a cash prize of £100, which celebrity guests donated to charity (an example the regular guests sometimes followed) but this was changed to a plate towards the end of the series. The runner-up used to receive a hamper which included a variety of items, such as a set of knives, pasta and sauces, olive oil and balsamic vinegar but later received a Ready Steady Cook mug due to budget restraints.

Quickie bag

The quickie bag section of the show then followed. This was introduced in 2000, the same year Ainsley Harriott became presenter, extending the programme from 30 to 45 minutes. The contents of the quickie bag used to be decided on by the series producer and a home economist. Their decision was based on produce that was currently in season or unusual ingredients that had not featured on the show recently. In late August 2007, the quickie bag changed format with the bag being brought in by George Edward Mcauliffe, who challenged the chefs to prepare the dish.

The two chefs each had a chance to describe what they would cook using the bag of ingredients and the audience members voted to choose which dish they would like to see prepared. The winner then had 10 minutes to complete the described dishes, with the help of the other chef and the host. The hectic preparation of the chosen chef's suggested dishes often includes a slight element of chaos and ad-libbing along the way. A viewer's question relating to a cooking problem is usually put to the chefs, further adding to the pressure upon them to complete their dishes in the time allowed.

Celebrity Ready Steady Cook

Originally as a spin-off that ran alongside the original, Celebrity Ready Steady Cook had celebrities, often competing against a family member or friend, provide the bag of ingredients to the same budget of £5. Later series would see the public completely replaced with celebrity guests.

Celebrity appearances include: David Tennant, Wendy Richard, Kate Winslet, Honor Blackman, James May, Richard Hammond, Paul O'Grady as alter-ego Lily Savage, Cliff Richard, Twiggy, Fiona Bruce, Gail Porter, Midge Ure, Edd China, Amanda Redman, Ade Edmonson and Alan Davies.

Variations on the format

  • Classic Bag – The original format where the contestant brought in a bag of ingredients costing up to £5.
  • Budget Bag – Similar to the 'Classic Bag' but the ingredients could only cost up to £3.50.
  • Bistro Bag – Ingredients worth £7.50.
  • Gourmet Bag – Worth £10.
  • Doubling Up Bag – Both contestants bring in the same ingredients. The host used a coin or dice with a Green Pepper and Red Tomato on to decide which chef would decide what to do with the ingredients first. The other chef must do something different.
  • Forfeit Bag – The chefs had to choose a card at random with a forfeit which prohibited their use of a certain store cupboard ingredient such as No Fresh Herbs, No Spices, No Citrus or No Wine.
  • Gamble Bag – The chefs were presented with three mystery ingredients and are given the opportunity to swap one of their ingredients with one of these mystery ingredients. They do not have to swap but if they do, they cannot change their minds once the new ingredient is revealed.
  • Lucky Dip – The Chefs were presented with a bag of ten items from which they had to pick five at random. After 10 minutes had passed, they then chose a sixth ingredient, which depending on what the chef has started cooking, can help or hinder them.
  • Specials

  • Children in Need: 20 November 1998
  • Happy Birthday!: 2 editions: 12 & 13 February 2002
  • Daytime Celebrity Christmas Specials: 7 editions: 27 December 2002 – 3 January 2003
  • Daytime Celebrity Christmas Specials: 5 editions: 26 December 2003 – 31 December 2003
  • 10th Birthday Specials: 5 editions: 25–29 October 2004
  • Christmas Special: 23 December 2004
  • Sports Relief Special: 12 July 2006
  • Books

  • Ready Steady Cook: The 10 Minute Cookbook. BBC Books. 28 September 2006. ISBN 978-0-563-49389-1. 
  • Ready Steady Cook 365. BBC Books. 3 September 2009. ISBN 978-1-84607-801-9. 
  • References

    Ready Steady Cook Wikipedia

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