Category / Cook-Off


2015 Praise the Lard First-Ever Steak Cook-off

11-8194We held our first-ever Steak Association Cook-off as part of the Praise the Lard Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-off festivities this year. This is a fast-growing segment of the competitive food circuit and I think it’ll be the next big thing. Competitors have to simply show up with their grill, charcoal, seasonings and a few tools. The $100 entry fee includes two 16 oz. ribeye steaks. It’s easy for teams to compete using their existing equipment and local people can get in on the fun, too.

12-8198Carly O’Keefe from KFVS-12 helped us promote the contest early Friday morning. We’re cooking these steaks on GrillGrates, and the GrillGrate company is a sponsor of both our cook-off and the Steak Cook-off Association. In fact, the person with the highest score using GrillGrates was awarded an additional $500 from GrillGrate. Interestingly, every person in the top 10 cooked with GrillGrates. We find them to be an indispensable tool in our operation and at home.

13-8203Mike, me, Carly, and Darren Warth, who also did a demo on air.


Each contestant gets two 16 oz. ribeye steaks.

15-8209Look at this beautiful piece of Certified Angus Beef.

16-8212The steaks are displayed on a tray and each person gets to come through and choose two.

01-1262We were honored that World Champion Johnny Joseph came to Murphysboro to take part in our inaugural contest. Here he is prepping his steaks.

02-1327Terry Reinhardt of TR’s Up In Smoke gauging the temperature.

03-1330Well seasoned steaks.


05-1373The judges are looking for steak cooked to a perfect medium.

06-1377The certified judging panel carefully considered each entry.

07-1390Jeff Streuter volunteers and helps us in so many ways. He tabulated the scoring for the steak contest.

08-2569This contest is double blind, and we read the winning teams from ticket numbers, add an element of mystery. Not even the organizer knows the winners. Here are the top 10 Steak Cook-off teams.

09-2574The top four teams: Johnny Joseph, Ryan Grob and his son Ethan, Joe Stump, and Jeff Ellison.

10-2580The Grand Champion was seasoned steak cooker Joe Stump, who is also the 2014 and 2015 World Steak Cook-off Grand Champion.

17-2760Huge thanks to John Reeves, the SCA rep who scored the contest and ran the judging.

SCA Steak Cook-off Top 10
10) Alex Schenck
9) Bryan Ropollo
8) Terry Reinhardt
7) Laura Butler
6) Jim Hughett
5) Kenny Nadeau
4) Jeff Ellison
3) Johnny Joseph
2) Ryan Grob
1) Joe Stump

Mark your calendars NOW for 2016. It’s always the third weekend AFTER Labor Day, so next year’s dates are September 22-24, 2016.

Read more about this year’s cook-off results and events. Next week, we’ll publish photos and stories about the Kids’ Que. Stay tuned!

Photos © Troy Brown.

Follow our adventures in real time on Instagram and Twitter.
See lots of entertaining and barbecue ideas on our Pinterest boards.
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Praise the Lard 2015 Events

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_25In addition to the barbecue cooking itself, Praise the Lard Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-off is a three-day celebration with a variety of events, live music, and vendors. The 17th Street crew works all year to produce the weekend and we rely on many sponsors and volunteers who work tirelessly alongside us.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_02Ryan Maglich, Chris Pritchard, and Phillip Heern. These three, and a few others not pictured, direct the set-up and tear down. Tents, banners, signage, lights, outdoor bar, stage, and anything that needs to be moved with the forklift.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_06If you’re a judge, team, sanctioning organization, or sponsor, you communicated with Sammi Graff at some point over the past year. She works on some aspect of the cook-off all throughout the year, and she’s the master juggler of the details. You are a superstar, Sammi!

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_05Becky Streuter, our catering manager, produced the Fish Fry and the Grand Champion Buffet, our two delicious evening events.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_03Personality plus. Kyla Silkening, Melanie Cappiocoi, and Steph Meyer ran the outside bar.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_04Sandy Schenk and Renee Rodewald skillfully tended the Warehouse bar.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_01Shane Walker worked in our Marion, Illinois, restaurant for several years, before moving back to Georgia to be closer to his family. For the past several years, he’s driven up for the weekend to run our merchandise tent. We love welcoming you home, Shane!

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_07Jen Graeff and Tammy Caldwell were indispensable this weekend. Thank you, ladies!

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_09Murphysboro Key Club members volunteer each year during our evening events.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_10They help in the kitchen …

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_11… and serve food. In addition to earning community service hours, they gain valuable event experience and we’re very proud of the way they help welcome people to Murphysboro.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_12A long-standing tradition is the Crimson Pride marching band performing on Friday afternoon.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_08 PraiseTheLardEvents2015_13 PraiseTheLardEvents2015_14 PraiseTheLardEvents2015_15

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_21On Thursday and Friday evenings we have a Fish Fry and a Grand Champion Buffet, designed for our local friends, sponsors, and judges. Our visiting teams and judges always remark about the way our community embraces the cook-off and welcomes our guests.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_16The line is long and it starts early. It moves pretty quickly, though, and people are all smiles, because they know what awaits them inside.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_17Sheila and Jim Stewart are the smiling faces our guests encounter at the welcome counter as they check in.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_18For over 20 years on this Thursday night, Abe Keene has fried mountains of fish. Here he’s pictured with his sister Robin Keene, and his niece, Paula and Tim Lee.


PraiseTheLardEvents2015_20This year we had a record crowd and we went through 570 pounds of fish.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_22A nod to history. Teams and judges enjoyed searching for familiar faces in these photo collages.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_23Becky Streuter and Sandy Marks designed this lovely buffet station for Friday night.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_24We’re the number one seller of Red Hook in the state of Illinois and we are very grateful for their support of our events. Thanks to Matt Alfredson for decorating and for the kegs of Red Hook we poured each evening!


PraiseTheLardEvents2015_27Tina, Brian, and Alex Roberts with Denise and Brad Etherton.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_28J.T. Jenkins from the MisPits team.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_30Hunter Neef and Brandon Graeff checking out the barbecue.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_31Kay Lirely and Katherine Twenhafel have long been cook-off supporters.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_32 PraiseTheLardEvents2015_33

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_34Commanding the stage and warming up the crowd as the opening act for Murphy 500.


PraiseTheLardEvents2015_35This is the midway, packed with people visiting teams on Friday night.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_36Murphy 500 is a popular band with Murphysboro roots. They’ve recorded in Nashville, and have a strong regional following. They drew a huge crowd Friday night.

PraiseTheLardEvents2015_29Team work makes the dream work. Mike’s signature is on every detail of of the weekend. He’s so proud to welcome teams and judges to Murphysboro.

Praise the Lard Cook OffIn addition to our staff and volunteers, these local and national businesses the immense support necessary to produce an event of this magnitude. We incredibly grateful to all of them and we hope you’ll say “thank you” by considering them as you do business.

“The Cook-off is great for Murphysboro as a town. And the only reason we are here, 28 years later, is because of the generosity of the community. The City of Murphysboro puts unlimited resources at our fingertips. The sponsors, competitors and all the volunteers come together to make this all possible and create this special stop on the barbecue circuit.” ~Mike Mills

Mark your calendars NOW for 2016. It’s always the third weekend AFTER Labor Day, so next year’s dates are September 22-24, 2016.

Stay tuned for photos and stories about the Kids’ Que, Steak Cook-off, and more. For full cook-off results and photos, click here.

All photos ©Troy Brown. Thanks, Troy, for expertly capturing the spirit of our weekend.

Follow our adventures in real time on Instagram and Twitter.
See lots of entertaining and barbecue ideas on our Pinterest boards.
And we post fun things on Facebook, too!