Bake-Off contest taste testing
Sep 12, 2013 • By

Taste testing for the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I was recently given a chance to watch part of the taste testing to determine the semifinalist recipes for the final category in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

But it was clear that I was seeing a time-honored tradition at General Mills, that the people vying for a chance to be a Bake-Off finalist were likely losing sleep about and would have given anything to see for themselves.

Bake-Off taste testing

I could feel the tension for them, as I watched five taste testers do their work in the Kitchens of General Mills.

As the recipe samples were passed around, they were quick to try them … and spit them out – a necessary part of the job.

You wouldn’t want to eat everything you taste, when you’re sampling a few dozen recipes a day for several days.

And that’s just for one category.

The testers went through the same schedule for the first two categories in the contest, earlier this year.

The carefully planned process – conducted by a group of food professionals, including experienced recipe developers, cookbook writers, food editors and more – is what it takes in order to narrow the field from thousands of recipes down to 60 for the online voting for each of the categories.

Their job comes after the Kitchens staff has prepared the samples, carefully following the instructions in the recipes from the contest submissions.

After the testing, I talked with Jann Atkins, the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Kitchens Manager. She says the group of testers makes up their mind about each recipe they try promptly, for the most part.

“Typically when we see a recipe that we really like, or we think that it’s one that our consumers won’t like, we come to a decision pretty fast. Because most of us have done this for a long time,” she says.

In this clip from my interview with Jann, she talks about what the team looks for when they are testing the submitted recipes.

With this year’s rules, calling for no more than seven ingredients and 30-minutes or less of active preparation time, Jann says it was probably more challenging than before for the people who submitted recipes.

“But we were really surprised with the creative, tasty, recipes our consumers came up with,” says Jann.


This year’s contest marks the first time that consumers helped determine all 100 finalists. Online voting for the Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts category opened today at Noon Central and goes through Sept. 26. The 33 finalists in that category will be named Oct. 3.

The first 67 finalists, from the Amazing Doable Dinners and Simple Sweets and Starters categories, have already been named.

Like so many people have done before them, the 100 finalists in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest will attempt to wow the judges for the $1 million grand prize when they prepare their recipes in a hotel ballroom in November, in Las Vegas.

I’m looking forward to being there too, and will bring the experience to you here on “A Taste of General Mills.”

In the meantime, you can learn more about the contest at, and about the taste-testing process on the Bake-Off blog.