Growing up, mom ruled the kitchen, dad manned the grill and my siblings and I were told to stay out of the way.

Consequently, after I moved out on my own, my cooking skills were limited to whatever I could order or microwave. While my repertoire is much larger now, it’s only recently I’ve ventured into grilling. My first attempt at pork chops was *chef’s kiss.* But my first try at chicken drumsticks was, um, not so great. But hey, I’ll keep learning.

That’s why it’s so fun for me to see young people confidently whipping up incredible meat dishes at Iowa Farm Bureau’s Cookout Contest each year. They’re already ahead of the curve, and when you ask them where they got their love of cooking, they often credit their parents.

Father-son pairs are a common sight at the competition, with dads taking part in the adult contest and their sons showcasing their skills in the youth division.

While the Cookout Contest celebrates Iowa-raised meats and the farmers who provide it with sustainability and animal care as top priorities, it’s also an event that creates core family memories.

Take Dusty Wilson and his son, Jace, for example.

“Having him by my side during the Farm Bureau Cookout Contest is one of our highlights of the year,” says Dusty. “My family gets to watch him grill and see what he has learned over the years. It would be an honor for him to win the competition in his life.”  

When Jace was just a baby, he tagged along to barbecue competitions and catering events with his dad and uncle who started a barbecue business together 10 years ago.

Jace began cooking on his own at 11 years old and has built two drum smokers by himself. His signature dish is pork ribs with a sugary rub and a hint of heat, which Dusty says Jace perfected through trial and error.

But backyard cooking is about more than just the food. Dusty says it’s also about community. “This is something you can do your whole life and meet a lot of great people,” he says.

That’s how Scott Degeneffe feels, too.

His sons have been cooking with him since day one after his mom gifted him his first smoker for Father’s Day. To him, barbecues encompass all things that matter in life like family, friends and laughs. “All great get-togethers have food—why not provide some of the best,” he says.

Like Dusty, Scott is a veteran Cookout Contest competitor. Last year, his son, Austin, participated for the first time, and Scott is excited that another one of his sons might join this year.

While his kids are actively involved in sports, Scott notes the lessons learned from backyard cooking differ. It encourages a blend of science and art that requires creativity and adaptability as you adjust for how the meat is fairing and the day’s conditions. This is why he loves the challenge of the Cookout Contest.

“It’s so much fun watching them find success and failure,” says Scott of his sons. “But by far the best is when they make food for the family all on their own during the week. No recipe or specific instructions, just motivation and the vision of something new.”

If you have a teenager who enjoys backyard cooking, check out the Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest website to learn how they can compete at the event on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at the Iowa State Fair on the Grand Concourse.

Take it from Dusty and Scott—it’s time well spent with family, good food and good folks. In honor of dads everywhere this Father’s Day, I’ll add it could be the start of a “grate” new family tradition with your son or daughter—“sear-iously.”  

Learn more about author Caitlyn Lamm here.

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