Think you’ve created the best marinade for a steak, pork loin or chicken breast? Have you perfected a beef rub or rib recipe? Know the secret to the best lamb chops? The tastiest bacon burgers?

Farm Bureau is giving Iowans the chance to put their skills to the test at the 54th annual Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest during Farm Bureau Day at the Iowa State Fair. On Tuesday, Aug. 15, on the Iowa State Fair Grand Concourse, the state’s top outdoor cooks will display their best grilling, barbecuing and smoking techniques as they compete for the title.

Road to the championship

The road to the champion title begins with one of 20 Farm Bureau county cookout contests held this year. Contestants can enter one of six meat categories — pork, beef, lamb, poultry, turkey and combo/specialty.

Fairgoers will easily ‘follow their nose’ to find the mouth-watering contest, just south of the grandstand on the Grand Concourse. They are welcome to sample some of the cookout creations after judging is complete, as well as pick up grilling tips from the contestants.  

Celebrating farmers

Cookout contestants arrive in the early-morning hours to begin their preparation, and the judging and taste testing begins at 10 a.m.           

"This contest is one way to celebrate and acknowledge not only a popular summer activity, but the tasty result of Iowa’s farmers working hard to put food on our plates," said Denny Harding, Iowa Farm Bureau cookout coordinator.

A panel of chefs and other food industry experts serve as judges for the contest’s main categories. Meanwhile, a panel of celebrity personalities will add their own "spice" to the contest while evaluating the team category.

Ed Wilson, WHO-TV chief meteorologist and longtime Iowa State Fair personality, will return as a guest judge again this year, along with other surprise celebrities.

The contest also includes team, showmanship and youth categories. Entries in the beef category cannot include brisket due to time constraints. Combo recipes combine two or more meats from the five other categories. 

Specialty recipes may include any Iowa domestically-raised product, such as venison or fish. All wild game is excluded. Contestants will be judged based on taste, appearance and originality of their entry. County winners in each category advance to the state competition, at the Iowa State Fair, where they compete for cash prizes.

All participants in the youth category must be between the ages of 13 and 18 as of Aug. 1, 2017. The youth champion will be awarded a gas grill, donated by the Iowa Propane Gas Association.     

Prize sponsors for the cookout contest include the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Growmark, Iowa Propane Gas Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the Iowa Turkey Federation, Iowa Poultry Association and the Iowa Sheep and Wool Promotion Board. For more information on entering a local competition, contact your county Farm Bureau office or go to for a list of county competition dates and locations.

For more information, visit Iowa Farm Bureau’s State Fair page at