Special Foods

What is 4-H Special Foods? (handbook)

  • Youth prepare a food item/dish
    • 90 minutes to prepare the dish
    • food must contain one serving of a food group from Choose MyPlate
    • three age groups: beginner (8-10), junior (11-13), and senior (14-18)
  • Contest includes 4 parts
    • nutrition interview
    • aesthetics & hospitality (eye appeal)
    • technique
    • food quality

The 2018 Yankton County Special Foods contest will be held on Friday, July 13th, at the Yankton High School. Anyone 4-H members interested in participating should fill out the Special Foods Registration 2017 and return it to the Yankton County Extension office by July 2nd.

To compete in Special Foods at the State Fair, check out the 2018 State Fair Special Foods Contestant Packet.


  • Special Foods Recipe Worksheet
    • receipe example
    • In addition to the worksheet, you also need your recipe on two 3×5 or 4×6 index cards, one for you to use while cooking and one to include with your place setting
      • include: name, county, & menu occasion in upper right-hand corner
        • menu occasion examples: family, guest, party, picnic, holiday
  • Nutrition interview: information in the Special Foods handbook

Aesthetics & Hospitality

  • Place setting in 22 inch area
  • Include utensils needed to eat the meal planned
    • place mat even with edge of table
    • all other items one inch from edge of table
    • other items needed: napkin, plates/cups/glasses, utensils
  • Centerpieces
    • required for junior and senior members only
    • if a beginner participant chooses to include a centerpiece, it will be judged
    • keep it simple
    • create a theme
    • viewed from all sides
    • mat under centerpiece
  • Menu & recipe
    • Beginners need a menu for one meal or snack
    • Juniors need a menu for one meal
    • Seniors need a menu for the entire day
    • Everyone needs a copy of their recipe
  • Garnish
    • related to your recipe/food
    • added to your dish
    • examples
      • Cream of Mushroom soup in recipe, use mushrooms
      • fish in recipe, use lemon
      • tomato in recipe, use tomatoes
      • onion in recipe, use decorative onions


  • Personal grooming
    • avoid long, flowing sleeves
    • wear apron
    • wear comfortable close-toed shoes
    • wear something on your head to pull back your hair such as a scarf, hair net, or cap
    • wash your hand before beginning
    • have a wet cloth at your workstation to periodically wipe your hands as you work
    • be sure to wash your hands often while preparing your food, especially after coughing, sneezing, or handling raw meats
  • Supplies/Equipment
    • bring all supplies and equipment needed
    • bring ingredients in their original container
    • measure at least 3 ingredients
    • no more than 2 ingredients can be pre-measured, pre-cooked or pre-cut
    • when measuring, use ‘catch-all’ under utensil
    • use a cutting board when needed
  • Items you will probably need: recipe, wax paper, masking tape, trays, cutting board (hard plastic is recommended, wash between different foods or take two), towels, wash cloth, potholders, trivets, serving spoons, timer, paper sack for garbage, spoon caddy, cooler & ice packs
  • Setting up your work space
    • have 2 trays
      • work left to right/clean to soiled
      • set up all supplies (utensils & ingredients) on your left
      • cover with clean towels
      • keep refrigerated items in cooler
    • tape a piece of wax paper in the center of your work space
    • tape a small garbage sack at the side of your table in front of where you will be standing
    • wet a kitchen wash cloth for clean up & have a kitchen hand towel handy
  • Cooking
    • wash your hands first
    • pre-heat oven or check to see oven is set at temperature needed
    • be sure all electrical appliances are turned off before you plug them in. At State Fair a special board is needed under all appliances
    • prepare your recipe: you can pre-measure ingredients & set them aside, but cover them to keep unwanted items out
  • Measuring ingredients
    • judge must watch you measure 3 different types of ingredients: liquid, solid in measuring cup, solid in measuring spoon, weigh something on a food scale
    • spoon items like shredded cheese, cottage cheese, diced meats, flour sugar, etc. into a dry measuring cup and level off using the straight edge of a butter knife
    • for ingredients such as salt, pepper, spices, etc. pour the ingredient into the measuring spoon over a small dish, level off using the straight edge of a butter knife.
    • when measuring liquids always use a liquid measuring cup: get down at eye level when pouring into the cup
    • you may have only 2 prepared/pre-measured ingredients
      • raw eggs are not considered prepared/pre-measured ingredients
      • fruit is not considered prepared/pre-measured because you are most likely going to cut, dice, blend, etc. during the contest
      • if your recipe calls for one pound of ground beef, this is one prepared/pre-measured ingredient: it would become a non-prepared/pre-measured ingredient if you bring extra and weigh it on a scale for the contest
      • Other prepared/pre-measured ingredients: can of soup, can of any other ingredient, package of soup mix, pie crust, crescent rolls
    • if your recipe calls for 2 eggs and then tells you to hard cook them and dice them, you can change your recipe to say 2 hard cooked eggs & then dice them while you are at the contest
  • Food Safety
    • use dry potholders
    • turn handles inward
    • know how to use utensils and appliances
    • watch for spills
    • wash fresh fruits and vegetables
    • use meat thermometer
    • avoid cross contamination
      • use disposable gloves whenever working with meat
      • change gloves often
      • NEVER go from meat to other ingredients without changing gloves
      • wash hands if they come in direct contact with meat product
    • eggs
      • wash your hands and all your eggs before cracking them
      • crack your eggs with a knife, not the side of a bowl/dish
      • put into a clear cup to check the egg for blood
      • add to your recipe
      • repeat this step for each egg used
      • wash your hands after working with eggs
      • do not use an egg that does not look good-discard it
  • While your food is baking
    • clean up your work space
    • set up your place setting
    • review your worksheets
    • review your nutrition information
    • talk to the nutrition judge
    • talk to the place setting judge
  • Finishing up
    • when you are ready to take your item out of the oven find a judge
    • take your food out of the oven & be sure to immediately check the temperature: have a judge watch
    • place one serving size on a plate for the tasting judge
    • put one serving of your food on your place setting & remember the garnish

Food Quality

  • prepare only one dish
  • judging based on: taste appealing, seasonings, texture, appearance (garnish)


Special Foods Beginner Score Card

Special Foods Junior Score Card

Special Foods Senior Score Card

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