Competition steaks are judged for their appearance as well as their “doneness,” taste and texture.

By Anne Eickstadt


The annual Steak Throwdown during Heritage Days may sound delicious and funand it isbut it is also serious business for those who enter the competition. Competing teams arrive, check in and set up all day on Thursday, June 24, starting at 7 a.m. Set-up and check-in time continues on Friday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Steak Cookoff Association (SCA) contestants will meet at 3:45 p.m. to review the contest rules and choose their steak from those provided by the SCA. The SCA brings steaks to ensure the quality of every steak is the same for all the contestants.

The judges meet at 5 p.m. and the Buchanan Street Pub Street Steak Throwdown contestants begin turning in their ancillaries at 6 p.m. for judging. Ancillaries are the extra dishes they whip up for the event. Ancillaries can range from chicken wings to anything-on-a-stick to desserts or whatever else the organizers think up.

For Heritage Days this year, the ancillaries are bacon, which is turned in 6-6:15 p.m. for judging; and tacos, which are turned in 7-7:15 p.m. Steaks will be judged from 8-8:30 p.m. Awards will be announced upon completion of judging and scoring.

Each of the ancillary winners will take home $200, Second Place receives $100 and Third Place earns $50. The steak winners will take home: First Place $1,000, Second Place $750, Third Place $500, with awards reaching to 10th Place at $50. Sponsors for the Steak Throwdown are Hog Wild Original BBQ Sauce, Lee Jensen Sales, Inc. of Crystal Lake, CES Civil Engineering Services, Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers, Alto Equipment Co. and Rush Power Systems.

The Steak Throwdown Grand Champion is automatically invited to participate in the SCA World Championships in March 2022

Brett Gallaway and Ken Phillips founded the Steak Cookoff Association (SCA) in late 2013 when there were only nine steak cookoffs in the United States.

“I was a competition cooker,” Gallaway said. “Ken and I called our team ‘The United Steaks of America.’ Together we had won all but one cookoff in the country.

“We wanted more. We fell in love with cooking, except we wanted to see more of them. In 2014, our first season, we held 19 cookoff events. In 2015, the number jumped to 49. In 2016, we had 87 and in 2017 there were 116 cookoffs with events in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.   

“In 2019, we had 225 events in 31 states and 15 countries including new events in Austria, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, the Caribbean, and New Zealand.

“What started as a fun time has become our full time jobs. We get to travel the world and share fun times with people who also enjoy cooking as much as we do.

“Our payouts are good.”

“The winner gets to come to the SCA World Championship in Fort Worth, Texas,” Gallaway said. “The first prize there is $10,000 and a world championship ring. We have teams coming from all over the world for the championship. That is a two-day event. The best steak cookers in the world will be there. You have to win an event to get in. Someone from this event in Belvidere will get in.

“No one has more fun than Ken and I do. I make so many new friends. I am so thankful for the success we have had.”

The Steak Cookoff Association is dedicated to building the sport of steak cookoffs. The SCA benefits both cook teams and cook-off by implementing standardized rules and equal competitive opportunities for each team.

Every cook team likes to know the rules, know the judging tent is run with integrity, that payouts are guaranteed, and that they have an equal opportunity to win, explains the SCA website. So after a year of conversations and negotiations with some of the most influential leaders of the steak cookoff community, the SCA was created.

Now cook teams can be assured of a fair and well-run cookoff when it is sanctioned by the SCA. All SCA sanctioned cookoffs will have an “SCA Representative” on site to run the judging area and be an ambassador to the cook teams. The SCA Representative will be trained and know all the rules and regulations of an SCA cookoff. 

For information, membership forms, and member discounts, visit

The BBQ Showdown will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 26 and 27.

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