Ready Steady Cook

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Ready Steady Cook
BBC Ready Steady Cook.png
GenreCooking show
Presented byFern Britton (1994–2000)
Ainsley Harriott (2000–2010)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series21 (Original series)
9 (Celebrity series)
No. of episodes1735 (Original series)
102 (Celebrity series)
22 (specials)
1859 (total)
Running time30 minutes (1994–2000)
45 minutes (2000–2010)
Production company(s)Bazal Productions
DistributorEndemol UK
Original networkBBC Two (Original series)
BBC One (Celebrity series)
Picture format4:3 (1994–2000)
16:9 (2001–2010)
Original releaseOriginal series: 24 October 1994 (1994-10-24) – 2 February 2010 (2010-02-02)
Celebrity series: 11 July 1997 (1997-07-11) – 3 January 2003 (2003-01-03)
Related showsMasterChef
(1990–2001, 2005–present)

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.[1] 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 foods 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[edit]

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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Featured chefs[edit]

Variations on the format[edit]

  • 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.


Ainsley Harriott on the set of Ready Steady Cook, August 2004

Original series[edit]

Series Start date End date Episodes Presenter
1 24 October 1994[2] 23 December 1994[3] 24 Fern Britton
2 9 January 1995[4] 2 June 1995[5] 70
3 16 October 1995 17 June 1996 115
4 2 September 1996 19 June 1997 142
5 20 August 1997 15 June 1998 136
6 7 September 1998 12 July 1999 109
7 6 September 1999 30 May 2000 108
8 14 August 2000 5 January 2001 65 Ainsley Harriott
9 22 January 2001 30 July 2001 65
10 3 September 2001 21 December 2001 55
11 21 January 2002 28 May 2002 47
12 12 August 2002 20 December 2002 65
13 13 January 2003 6 May 2003 43
14 18 August 2003 23 December 2003 65
15 2 January 2004 26 May 2004 59
16 31 August 2004 10 May 2005 123
17 5 September 2005 10 May 2006 120
18 11 February 2008[6] 16 May 2008[7] 57
19 19 May 2008[8] 7 October 2008[9] 32
20 19 January 2009[10] 15 June 2009[11] 40
21 24 November 2009[12] 2 February 2010[13] 35


  • 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

Celebrity Ready Steady Cook[edit]

Series Episodes Start date End date
1 9 11 June 1997 24 December 1997
2 9 7 January 1998 4 March 1998
3 15 8 July 1998 24 December 1998
4 6 8 January 1999 12 February 1999
5 9 11 June 1999 15 December 1999
6 12 27 December 1999 2 July 2000
7 17 18 October 2000 16 April 2001
8 23 4 May 2001 29 June 2001
8 September 2001 29 June 2002
9 2 6 November 2002 3 January 2003


  • 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.

International versions[edit]

Country Title Broadcaster Presenter(s) Premiere Finale
 United States Ready.. Set... Cook! Food Network Robin Young (1995–1996)
Sissy Biggers (1996–2000)
Ainsley Harriott (2000–2001)
2 October 1995 1 January 2001
 Australia Ready Steady Cook Network Ten Nick Stratford (2005)
Peter Everett (2006–2011)
Colin Lane (2011–2013)
2005 12 December 2013
 Italy La prova del cuoco Rai 1 Antonella Clerici (2000–2008; 2010–2018)
Elisa Isoardi (2008–2010; 2018–present)
2 October 2000 present
 Germany Kochduell VOX Britta von Lojewski September 1997 27 August 2005
 Greece Στην κουζίνα ολοταχώς
Stin kouzina olotahos
Mega Channel Ilias Mamalakis 2000 2004
Ready, Steady, Cook Alpha TV Akis Petretzikis 2017 present
 Finland Kokkisota MTV3 Sikke Sumari (1999–2004; 2017–) 25 February 1999
18 January 2017
13 May 2004


External links[edit]