Strategies Per Food Type

All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.-Sun Tzu


This section is LOADED with competitive eating strategies along with tips, secrets, and advice to help you pick a successful Man vs Food challenge strategy and/or competitive eating contest strategy. By now you should have already read the Randy's Challenge Advice homepage along with the Training Stomach Capacity, Tips For Food Challenges, & Tips For Eating Contests sections. Now I will give further challenge/contest tips which are broken down based on the type of food that you will be eating. Almost every challenge is unique, and each one requires it's own strategy. The main unique challenge types that I will explain are burgers/sandwiches with fries, pizza, steak, breakfast, mexican, dairy, spicy, & partner challenges. These are the main challenges that people need help with, & I have won all of them!! Here are some tips, & contact me if you have any questions on other challenge types or need additional information...

Burgers & Fries!!

The most popular type of challenge in the United States is to have a large burger or sandwich along with french fries and/or some onion rings. For an example, check out my cool video of The 5Lb Burger Challenge at The All Star Rock Bar in Kansas City, Missouri which is pictured to the left. You will hear this in other sections too, but remember to eat the protein (meats) first, followed by the starches & carbohydrates. Focus on eating the hamburger/meat first, then the vegetables, then the bun, and then the french fries & onion rings. When I am doing a big burger, I have the restaurant butter & toast the bun so that it tastes better while I'm eating it by itself. If I can choose how I want my burger cooked, I choose medium rare so that the meat is more juicy and easier to eat. Cold & dry meat is a lot harder to eat than a juicy burger. If you don't want to eat the bun all by itself, eat about 3/4 of the meat and then start eating some of the bread with it. I suggest eating the bottom bun first because its already moist & soggy from the greasy burger. The bottom bun will taste bad when it gets cold. Plus the top bun usually has mayonnaise or something on it to help it taste better later. If plain, have them butter & toast it!!

I always do fries last. Sometimes if I am not fast enough, the fries get cold. That is why I use lemonade or a drink of choice, because it helps get through the bad taste and texture. Feel free to use a little ketchup or bbq sauce on the fries if you need to. Sometimes a buger is just stacked high with smaller patties rather than having just one big one. If thats the case, eat all of the patties first except for one. Take the last burger patty and put it in between the two buns, & just eat it like a normal burger!! For an example of this, watch me DOMINATE The Stellanator at Stella's Bar & Grill in Bellevue, NE. In other cases, the burger or sandwich may just be pretty thin. There may be two or three sandwiches, or it may just be one of many parts in a challenge. If thats the case, its ok just to eat the sandwich all together like a normal human being!! For an example of that, watch me defeat The Lucy Challenge at Tin Cup in St. Paul, Minnesota which was the featured challenge of Man v Food Nation: St. Paul!!

The last thing I will talk about under this heading is french fries. 80% or more of food challenges come with some type of starch as a side item. Typical options are french fries, onion rings, tater tots, or baked potatoes. Most challenges include french fries, but every restaurant serves different types of french fries. Therefore, you have to base your strategy on the type of starch you will be eating. Every now & then, you may even have a choice. Typically, they only come with steak challenges, but my favorite starch to eat is a baked potato. If cooked right, they go down so easy!! You just have to pick it up with your hands and eat it like a caveman, and you don't need butter or sour cream. Also, you only get 1 baked potato that usually weighs around 12-16 ounces, so you know exactly what you got.

With french fries, onion rings, & tater tots, you will get whatever the cook gives you. Unless they weigh it in front of you, you won't know exactly how much you are eating. I have done challenges advertised as having 1lb of fries, but then the plate came out with over 2lbs!! Given the choice between the three others, I would choose onion rings first, then tater tots, and then french fries, simply based on taste. I will talk about speed later. Plus, onion rings & tater tots are more dense so you usually have to eat less, since most of the time they are weighed out before getting thrown into the fryer. There are many types of french fries, including steak fries, sweet potato fries, curly fries, waffle fries, crinkle-cut fries, fresh-cut fries, and regular fries like you get at McDonald's. Sometimes, the fries may even be seasoned. Given the choice between these, based on speed, I would choose fresh-cut fries, steak fries, sweet potato fries, regular fries, & then curly fries, waffle fries, & crinkle-cut fries. The last 3 are usually the least dense & toughest to eat.

There is more surface area so they become extra crunchy and hard to chew, and you usually have to eat more because they are less dense. Before you choose, look at somebody else's plate. Decide which option you will like most along with the option that you think will go down the fastest & easiest. If you can, just like when ordering your burger, ask them to slightly undercook the fries. You don't want them fully cooked & tough to eat!! Otherwise you will have to chew a lot which will take a ton of time. This is not good since you will already be full & eating slowly after the BIG burger!!

Most of the time, you won't have a choice to pick which type of starch you want. You just have to eat what they give you!! Remember you can always choose how the food is cooked though. If you have watched any of my food challenge videos, you have seen how I eat french fries. If you have not watched a video, watch this one!! I had to eat about 4lbs of greasy curly fries. I crunch and ball them up, and then fill my mouth. By crunching them up, this helps soften the fries so that I have to chew less. Then I chase the fries with soda and swallow as fast as I can. If you don't want to ball the fries up, put a handful of them together and eat as much as you can. Don't worry about using good manners. Years ago I learned the hard way that you can't win a challenge eating fries a few at a time!! :)

Pizza!! Pizza!!

A pizza is actually pretty straightforward, and one of my favorite type of challenges to do. There is one pizza strategy that I use that helps me A LOT!! If you watch any random YouTube videos about pizza challenges, you will notice that they just go slice to slice, or they start from the outside and work their way in. You may also notice that these same people usually lose!! With a pizza, you want to eat the interior with all the cheese, sauce, & toppings first. Then eat the crust. Just like a burger, eat the protein first and then the carbs. The cheese & meat is a lot more heavy and dense than the crust. The crust also tastes better and has a better texture when it cools down. I have found that late in a challenge, I would much rather eat crust than to eat cold, hard cheese and meat. Plus, the interior makes up over 90% of the pizza. Get the hard part out of the way first. It will be a lot better for your mind too, because then you only have a little bit left!! Confidence will be high, and that's what you need to win!! Honestly, food challenges are more mental than physical. For a great example of how to win a pizza challenge, watch me defeat The Gorilla Challenge at Wheat State Pizza in Pittsburg, Kansas!! :)


The most famous big food challenge in the United States is the 72oz steak challenge at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. This one has spawned a lot of replica steak challenges throughout the big USA. Everybody loves steak!! The trick to eating a steak fast is to cut the massive piece of meat into very small pieces. It's definitely not easy to chew steak, and you will choke if you try to swallow big bites. Let a sharp knife do the work for you. Ask your server for a better knife from the kitchen. DO NOT settle for using a dull steak knife. You should be able to put 5-8 of the bite-sized pieces in your mouth at one time. Feel free to use steak sauce if you want, but a well-cooked steak of that size should be really juicy. I always make sure to order my steak medium rare, just like a burger. If your steak challenge comes with side items, treat it like any other challenge. Eat the meat first and the carbohydrates (baked potato & roll) last. For a great example of how to eat a big steak, watch me beat the 87oz Steak Challenge at Lone Star Bar & Grill up in Brooklyn, New York in under 15 minutes!!

Breakfast Foods!!

I am not a big pancake fan, but I always enjoy breakfast challenges. I really wish there were more omelet challenges around!! Treat big breakfast challenges just like all other challenges. Eat all the meat (sausage & bacon) first along with eggs. Then go to the potatoes/hashbrowns, & then finish up with the biscuits and/or pancakes. While eating pancakes, feel free to use syrup to help moisten them which makes them easier to eat. Syrup also can add flavor. Most pancakes that big taste pretty terrible. I use syrup, melted butter, and milk (usually chocolate) to help get through the bad tasting pancakes, especially if they are cold. If you need butter or jelly on your biscuits, thats ok too. If you are doing an omelet challenge, what should you do first? Eat the omelet, then the potatoes, and then the carbs!! For an example of how to defeat a breakfast challenge, watch me defeat The Breakfast Challenge at Urbandale Cafe in Urbandale, Iowa near Des Moines, IA. Also, just for fun, watch me beat The Big 70 Challenge at Midway Truck Stop & Travel Plaza in Columbia, Missouri. I was featured on the Travel Channel show Truck Stop USA becoming the first person to beat the challenge consisting of 7 biscuits, 1lb hash browns & bacon, & 70 ounces of gravy!! I won in 7 minutes & 25 seconds!! ;)

Mexican Foods!!

Mexican food challenges are my favorite!! There is not a huge variety of good Mexican food challenges today though. Typically, you either have to eat a HUGE burrito or you have to eat a certain amount of tacos. The one big thing I wanted to say about Mexican foods is that they are the easiest to eat. The meat and everything is already ground-up into small pieces. Therefore, you don't need to chew as much. Just take smaller bites and you will be able to swallow faster. The key to eating a lot at one time is to start out eating fast. With Mexican foods, you should be able to start out eating at a very quick rate. For an example of how to defeat a large burrito, watch me beat The Mexicutioner Burrito Challenge at Z-Teca Mexican Grill in Kansas City, Missouri. To see how to beat a taco challenge, watch me DESTROY Maggie's Taco Challenge at Maggie's Authentic Mexican Restaurant in Lee's Summit, Missouri. I definitely wish there were more Mexican food challenges available around me!! SO GOOD!!

Ice Cream & Dairy!!

These are the challenges that all men & women can enjoy!! Who does not love delicious ice cream and big milkshakes? Even some lactose-intolerant people drool over pictures of ice cream sundaes!! These challenges are very rare, and they definitely are not easy. The most famous and oldest dairy challenge is definitely The Crown Candy 5 Malt Challenge at Crown Candy Kitchen in St. Louis, Missouri. This challenge was featured on Man v Food: St. Louis. Challengers have to drink five 24oz malts or milkshakes in under 30 minutes. I have defeated the challenge twice now, and I currently hold the record with a time of only 2 minutes and 29 seconds!! Click here to watch!!

The other type of dairy challenge, other than milkshakes, is to finish big ice cream sundaes loaded with toppings. There are not many of these, but they are definitely delicious!! To watch me defeat a 16-scoop ice cream sundae loaded with toppings called The Boonville Bellyache at Carrie Lyn's Ice Cream in Boonville, MO, click here!!

For a malt or milkshake challenge, you definitely want to choose milkshakes because they are not as thick as malts. Hopefully the shakes come with a big spoon, because you will want to stir them a lot so that they become thinner and easier to drink. You won't win the Crown Candy Challenge by drinking them through a straw!! If allowed, let the shakes sit for 5-10 minutes while you stir them and continually make the shakes thinner. Along with the shakes, ask for a warm glass of water. It will help to drink the warm water whenever you start to feel a "brain freeze" coming. The warm water really helped me beat the record!! Also, don't get fancy with your flavor options, or you will have the same outcome as Adam Richman did on Man v Food: St. Louis!! He tried 5 different flavors and ended up throwing up towards the end, so he failed!! During both of my victories, I only drank simple vanilla shakes. You don't have to just choose vanilla, but please stay consistent with your flavor choices :)

While attempting ice cream sundae challenges, order 2 glasses of warm water. You will want to drink the first glass during the challenge, and you will need the 2nd glass to heat up your spoon. Fresh from the freezer or container, ice cream is cold & thick!! It will be hard for your spoon to penetrate the ice cream, especially if it's high quality ice cream that is high in fat!! Heat up your spoon by letting it sit in the warm water for a few seconds. Then the spoon will cut through the ice cream just like a knife going through melted butter. Other than that, ice cream challenges are pretty simple. Just eat the ice cream as fast as your body will allow, and you should not need to chew much. If you have to eat A LOT of ice cream, you may want to wear a sweatshirt during the end of the cold challenge ;)

Partner Pizzas!!

I just wanted to briefly talk about partner challenges. About 95% of the partner challenges available involve pizza. Two or more people are required to work (eat) together to finish a HUGE pizza. I have only seen one non-pizza partner challenge, and that is a big burger located in Memphis, Tennessee. With partner challenges, the most important thing is to pick a good partner. If your partner is not a big eater, that means that you will have to pick up the slack, meaning that you will have to eat everything that he or she cannot eat. When picking a partner, first evaluate how big the challenge is. Then evaluate how much of the pizza/food that you can eat. If you are going to eat a 12lb pizza, and you know that you can eat about 7lbs of it, you better pick a partner that can eat at least 5lbs. Otherwise you will lose. That's easy math, but many people don't think about it.

Also, it really helps the team confidence if both partners trust that the other will eat his or her share. If you know that your partner is going to eat his share, then you will be a lot more relaxed and comfortable while eating, and everything will go smooth. It is definitely a morale breaker when two partners are eating, and one of them just stops and quits. I would never pick somebody like that to be on my team. As for the food, you should treat it just like you would if you were eating by yourself. One thing you may want to do is to sit down & figure out eachother's strong points. If one person loves crust and the other doesn't, adjust your strategy accordingly. Work together as a team and you will be able to DOMINATE!! For an example of a great record-setting partner challenge, watch my team defeat The Big Ten Pounder Pizza Challenge, a 28" 2-topping pizza at the Monroe County Pizza in Bloomington, Indiana. My partner was Jammin' Joe Larue, a 13-year veteran professional eater!!

Spicy Challenges!!

It's finally time to discuss spicy food challenges. First of all, I HATE them!! I don't do them very often, and I dislike the effects that spicy challenges have on my body. The level of toughness of a very spicy challenge is determined by the type(s) of peppers that are used to prepare the dish. The hottest and most difficult peppers are ghost peppers (Bhut Jolokia), which completely numb your entire mouth, and you feel like you are chewing fiberglass. There is no possible way that anybody in the world can actually enjoy eating a ghost pepper. Its just like swallowing pepper spray!! They are over 100 times hotter than a jalapeno. The next pepper to worry about is the habanero pepper which is 40 times hotter than a jalapeno. Typically, these are the two peppers that are used in spicy challenges. All of the others, including jalapenos, are just thrown in for flavor.

Spicy challenges come in a variety of ways. There are spicy burgers, chicken wings, bbq sandwiches, chili, curry, pizzas, and other dishes. For an example of a spicy challenge, watch me defeat The Super Thai Hot Challenge at The Thai Place Westport in Kansas City, Missouri. I actually enjoyed this dish because it did not use ghost peppers. The dish included 53 total peppers, with the hottest being habanero peppers. Spicy challenges usually always come with a specific set of rules that need to be followed, including time limits and rules about what you can drink. The worst challenges are the ones that require you to not drink anything, and you must wait a certain amount of time after the challenge before you can take a drink. You have to sit there feeling absolutely miserable while people laugh at you. Make sure to check the rules beforehand so that you know what you can & cannot do before, during, & afterwards.

The other big rule to check is whether you can drink anything during the challenge. Some challenges allow you to drink whatever you want. Some just allow you to drink water. Most spicy challenges don't allow you to drink anything at all. The reason that spicy foods are spicy is because they contain a chemical called capsaicin. It's a fat-soluble chemical, and not water-soluble. That means that water and other fat-free drinks will not relieve you from any heat. They will just spread the heat around your mouth, so I recommend that you DO NOT drink water, fountain drinks, or beer. If I am allowed to drink whatever I want during a challenge, I drink whole milk because its very high in fat which helps relieve the intense heat from the capsaicin. People also try to add fatty toppings such as ranch dressing & sour cream to their food which has a similar effect.

If you watched the video, you saw me drinking whole milk which was allowed during that challenge. If you are allowed to drink milk, you may want to bring your own. You can buy an entire gallon of milk for the same price that most restaurants charge for it. Trust me... you are going to need more than 1 glass!! If you are not allowed to drink anything, you just have to cowboy-up and eat it. Its not going to feel good, but take comfort in knowing that you will feel better in a little bit. Try to eat as fast as possible. On a tall bridge, they tell you to not look down. Well during a spicy challenge, don't think!!

Just eat!! Get through the challenge so that you can be done and find some relief (milk or other fatty drink). I definitely suggest listening to music while doing a spicy challenge so that you can get you mind away from thinking about the intense pain. With almost all spicy challenges, you won't have to do any stomach capacity training. The meals are usually very small. There are a few challenges though, mostly pizzas, that are created to be both spicy and large. For these you will need to train. I don't suggest training for hot challenges though. If anything, you may want to add a few habaneros & jalapenos into a training meal. Don't use too many though!! That may upset your stomach & mess up all your training.

To be honest, doing a spicy challenge is very easy compared to the after effects. Unless you are special and your stomach can handle really spicy foods, your stomach is going to be upset. Right before & right after a spicy challenge, you may want to either take some Pepto-Bismol or some TUMS. Most likely, you will need to take something later too. From my experience, using TUMS works a lot better. If you are lucky, your stomach will get so upset that you puke it all up!! Please note that I DO NOT suggest making yourself puke though. I would never suggest that. Just be aware that if you are able to keep it all down, you may spend some time in the bathroom!! For more tips about recovering from the effects of spicy challenges, check out my Recovering From Food Challenges page.

If it's allowed, some people try putting petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on their lips and gums so that the capsaicin does not penetrate and create the intense burning sensation. Usually this is considered cheating, and I have not tried it yet. Also as a final tip, you may want to stop somewhere afterwards and get a milkshake to help soothe your stomach. The high amount of fat & sugar in the milkshake will help relieve some of the pain and agony. As you can see, there really is nothing smart about doing a spicy food challenge. There are A LOT of them available now though!! Remember that the thrill of victory feels a lot better than any temporary pain, and take pleasure knowing that you never have to try the challenge again!! :)

My Conclusion

I hope that you have realized that there are A LOT of different types of food challenges and contests available to try. I have explained the most popular types in this section. If you are going to do a challenge that I did not explain above, use the knowledge and information that you have learned so far. If you are doing an oriental challenge, eat the meat & vegetables before the rice if you have a choice. Just use common sense. Also use the information that I have included in other sections. If you still have questions or need help, check out Randy's Challenges, and find a challenge that I have done similar to what you will be doing. Watch that video to see the strategy that I used, and everything else that I did in order to win the challenge. If you still need help after all that, please contact me, and I will be glad to help you out. On a final note, I want to mention a very informative interactive competitive eating seminar on YouTube that was created by a competive eater up in Canada named "Furious" Pete. He explains how to eat hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and wings fast. To see it, click here!! It's great advice for eating contests!!


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