Amateur cooks from around the United States vie for the honor of being judged the country's best amateur chef. Each episode features three cooks who prepare a three-course menu for less than $75. Host Gary Rhodes and two celebrity guests judge the winners, who race against the clock to complete the menu in two-and-a-half hours. The first nine episodes cover regional cookoffs, in which the selected amateur chefs compete for a semifinal slot. In the next three programs, three semifinalists compete for a finalist slot. In the grand finale, the three semifinalists compete against the clock and each other to capture the title of MasterChef USA.