It takes 25 episodes over seven weeks to whittle 56 contestants down to one MasterChef 2018 champion. But with the format changing as the competition progresses, ranging from three to five episodes on varying days each week, it can be hard to keep track of when it’s on.
So here’s our handy guide to how the competition plays out, week by week, and what kinds of challenges the cooks can expect to face…
Weeks 1 to 4: the Heats and Quarter-Finals
Monday 26th February until Thursday 22nd March
The first four weeks of MasterChef follow a pattern of two heats each week, followed by a quarter-final at the end of the week in which the six contestants from the two heats come together and are reduced to four. At the end of the four weeks, that leaves 16 cooks progressing to the next stage.
For the first three weeks, episodes are on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. For week four, they switch to Monday, Wednesday and Thursday due to Sport Relief on the Friday.
Heat: Mondays 9pm-10pm
Seven new contestants take on the Market Challenge – an invention test using their choice of items from an array of fish, meat and vegetables to create one dish. The bottom three cooks are then sent home.
The remaining four contestants must now cook their own two-course meal to impress not only John and Gregg but also a former MasterChef winner and two finalists – after which one more cook leaves the competition, while the remaining three head into Friday’s quarter-final.
Heat: Thursdays 8pm-9pm (Wednesday in Week 4)
Following the pattern of Monday’s episode, a second batch of seven contestants take on the Market Challenge, then cook for former finalists.
Quarter-Final: Fridays 7:30pm-8pm (Thursday 8pm in Week 4)
The remaining six contestants from the week’s two heats come together to each cook a dish to a brief from a well-known food critic. Two go home, four go through to Knockout Week.
Week 5: Knockout week
Week commencing Monday 26th March
Week five of the competition sees a new episode every night, Monday to Friday, and kicks off with the remaining 16 contestants being split into two groups of eight.
The first group of 8 must each cook a dish inspired by either a family favourite or their childhood. At the end of the challenge, six go through and two go home.
The second group of eight is whittled down to six.
The first group of six contestants head off to cook in top London restaurant Eneko under chef Javi Blanco. It’s then back to the MasterChef kitchen to face John, Gregg and guest judge chef Nathan Outlaw in an invention test that shows off what they’ve learnt. Five go through, one goes home.
The second group of six get to cook in Italian Mayfair restaurant Sartoria with chef patron Francesco Mazzei, then head back for their invention test which, again, will see one contestant sent home.
The remaining ten contestants come together to each cook one dish that will show off their skills and impress John and Gregg. The best three will go straight through to the semi-finals, while the rest must compete again in next week’s first challenge.
Week 6: Semi-Finals Week
Week commencing Monday 2nd April
Four episodes this week, one by one reducing the contestants to the final five. Exact days of the week are still to be confirmed.
The surviving contestants who didn’t make it straight through to the semi-finals will each now cook their best Italian dish for John, Gregg and chef Theo Randall, known for his Italian food. At the end of the challenge, one more contestant will say goodbye.
The eight remaining contestants are split into two teams to cook at RAF Halton for 120 recruits, airmen and veterans to celebrate the RAF’s centenary. Then it’s back to the studio, where members of the losing team face a cook-off, and one of them goes home.
The seven contestants head to Roux at Parliament Square, to deliver a three-course lunch for 20 female VIPs – including chefs, broadcasters and Dr Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of the Suffragettes leader – to mark 100 years of women’s right to vote. Once service is complete, it’s back to the MasterChef kitchen where all seven cooks are challenged with creating a special plate of food inspired by someone they admire.
The remaining contestants must produce a fine-dining dish for critics Tracey Macleod, Faye Maschler and Tom Parker Bowles. At the end of the episode, we’ll have our final five.
Week 7: Finals Week
Monday 9th April at 9pm on BBC1
The remaining five cooks begin the last week of challenges at Carlton Towers in North Yorkshire, where Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks has devised a five-course tasting menu for them to re-create. Returning to the MasterChef kitchen, they must then cook a dish inspired by a place they love, before one contestant is sent home.
Wednesday 11th April at 8pm on BBC1
On a trip to Lima in Peru, the remaining four contestants learn from the godfather of Peruvian cuisine, Gaston Acurio, and take on a service at Central, the number five restaurant in the world, with leading international Michelin-starred chef Virgilio Martinez. They’ll then cook their own Peruvian-inspired dishes at a special dinner for Gaston, Virgilio and three other leading lights of the Peruvian food scene.
Thursday 12th April at 8pm on BBC1
The final four cook alongside chef Ashley Palmer Watts who runs two-Michelin starred Dinner in Knightsbridge. After a stint in the kitchen, the contestants have five hours to re-create a dish from the menu. Then they must produce one more dish for John and Gregg which showcases their growing talent, with three of the four progressing to Friday’s final challenge.
The MasterChef 2018 final: Friday 13th April at 8:30pm on BBC1
The final three each cook their best three-course menus and the MasterChef 2018 champion is crowned.