Rodeo Cook-Off gives taste buds an 8-second ride

John Cañamar, Sport's Editor

Smoking may be frowned upon in most public settings and even banned, but at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it’s required.

Before all the cowboys, horses and trail rides reach the NRG complex, the barbeque pit masters and connoisseurs arrive for the annual three-day celebration known as the Houston Rodeo Cook-Off.

If you enjoy the taste of meat after it has been cooked in its own juices for multiple hours only to be enhanced by the sweet flavors of apple, mesquite or pecan wood smoke and secret recipes, all while listening to good music and being surrounded be good friend, then the Houston Rodeo Cook-Off is the event for you.

This three-day party starts off on Thursday when cooking teams prepare their pits and begin the 72-hour marathon of smoking briskets, ribs, turkey legs and multiple more cuts of game.

For this years Cook-Off, there were 263 cooking teams that entered the competition and made the trip to Houston from as far away as Sydney, Australia. Each team has their own tent where they throw private parties.

Besides the fabulous barbeque there was remarkable music come from every angle. Each team had a band or DJ playing in their tents and there was also the Miller Lite Stage at the Garden that was open to the public, which had 11 bands and a DJ over the three-day party.

To give all Cook-Off goers the full experience, the Rodeo sponsors a public tent that serves 50 thousand chop beef sandwiches with beans and chips.

The Marine Corp NOLA Band was a huge crowd-pleaser, playing both current and classic rock and country music.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, all of the finalist for the completion were gathered around the Miller Lite Stage for the announcement of the five individual event winners—Brisket, Ribs, Chicken, Go Texan and Dutch Oven—and the overall Grand Champion.

This year’s winners were:

  • Hill Country Go Texan – Brisket
  • 100.3 The Bull – Ribs
  • Across the Track – Chicken
  • Hill Country Go Texan – Go Texan
  • Tejas Cookers – Dutch Oven
  • Across the Track – Grand Champion

There were no repeat winners from last year’s event, although Tejas Cookers were the only team to win last year for Ribs and this year for Dutch Oven.

Kathy Scafuri, of Tejas Cookers, created the winning desert in the Dutch Oven competition. “I made a strawberry cheesecake sopapilla turnover for this year, last year it took fourth place.”

Besides all of the great food and lifetime friendships established at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Cook-Off is just the beginning of the rodeo, which raises money for scholarships.

Jose Treviño a member of the barbeque committee said, “I enjoy being out here because we raise money for scholarships. This year alone we will give more than $9 million in scholarships.”