Explore the world of cooking with tasty, hands-on experiences; from the sweet and simple to the complex and savory and everything in between.

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Exploring 4-H

Cooking Spark Activity: Kitchen Scavenger Hunt
See how many of these things you can locate and/or do within your kitchen.

  • ½ cup dry measuring cup
  • 1 cup liquid measuring cup
  • 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon
  • Cookie sheet
  • Cutting board
  • Fruits & vegetables: Identify 2 fruits and 2 vegetables you have on hand (may be fresh, frozen, canned, or dry).
  • Flour: Measure 1 cup of flour by spooning the flour lightly into the measuring cup until it is overfull. Level off the flour with the straight edge of a knife. Repeat.
  • Food thermometer
  • Hand soap
  • Herbs & spices: Identify 3 herbs or spices you have on hand.
  • Hot pads
  • Microwave safe dish
  • Oven: See how long it takes to preheat to 350 °F.
  • Recipe
  • Refrigerator
  • Whisk

These everyday kitchen items are essential for learning how to cook!

4-H Project Levels and Goals
  • Learn the basics of cooking
  • Learn how to measure dry and wet ingredients
  • Learn to properly set the table
  • Learn to prepare a daily and weekly menu
  • Practice food and kitchen safety
  • Learn about and prepare items from each food group
  • Become familiar with different kitchen tools and techniques
  • Continue to prepare items from food groups
  • Demonstrate a cooking skill to your club
  • Explore and complete food experiments
  • Plan and complete a community service project
  • Explore career paths
  • Prepare a taste test
  • Try using new herbs and spices
  • Create your own herb and spice blends and start your own business selling the mixtures to friends, neighbors, and/or family
Put Your Project Into Action

Show Your Skills

  • Create a menu for a balanced special meal
  • Design a traditional meal of a specific culture
  • Practice plating techniques
  • Start a kitchen garden and develop dishes with the harvest
  • Write instructions on how to prepare a meal so that all items have the same finishing time 

Service and Leadership

  • Cookie baking day with a nursing home
  • Kitchen supply drive for a community center
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Coordinate a meal train for families in-need
  • Donate to / volunteer at a local food pantry
  • Chair your 4-H club’s refreshment committee
  • Coordinate food-related 4-H service projects
  • Youth liaison for a food stand at a 4-H show
  • Assist a food SPIN club in using new recipes


  • Make & sell homemade candy for holidays
  • Create a cookbook
  • Mix and sell locally sourced dried spice blends 

Technology Connection

  • Explore new kitchen gadgets and how they improve the kitchen experience
  • Set up a virtual cooking show
  • Start a food blog

Connecting with a Mentor

  • Community college with a culinary arts program
  • Local restaurants, bakeries or caterers 
  • Local food company
  • Family and consumer education teachers 
  • College or university food and nutrition majors or faculty


  • 4-H Food Challenge
  • 4-H food SPIN club
  • 4-H Presentations Contest - Food Demonstration
  • Illini Summer Academies
  • Local cooking / baking challenges / cook-offs
  • Community-wide food festivals
  • Local grocery store cook-offs or demonstrations

Project Manuals & Exhibit Requirements

  • 4-H Cooking 101 
  • 4-H Cooking 201
  • 4-H Cooking 301
  • 4-H Cooking 401              

Purchase manuals on the Shop Illinois 4-H Store

View exhibit requirements and scoresheets on the Illinois State Fair page.

chef standing in empty kitchen
  • Chef
  • Food Scientist
  • Research & Development
  • Food Stylist
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Nutritionist
  • Recipe Developer
  • Taste Tester
  • Restaurant Owner
  • Food & Nutrition Educator
Start a Conversation
  • What are the different styles of knives and what are their functions?
  • Why is yeast needed in certain breads?
  • Besides steaming, what other methods could you use to prepare green beans?
  • Are you passionate about food? What careers could you pursue that channel that passion?
  • Is there an old recipe you want to try from your ancestors? 
  • What new food do you want to try? What is that food’s nutritional value?

“4-H Cooking 101, 201, 301, 401” – University of Illinois Extension 4-H Publication

University of Illinois Extension staff that contributed to this resource include Katharine Rose M. Girone.

4-H Spark Sheets are a collaborative effort of 4-H staff, volunteers, alumni and teens from across Illinois. A big thanks to the many contributors and reviewers!