Last summer I took part in my first SCA (Steak Cookoff Association) event and became instantly hooked. If you’re a fan of this site there’s a pretty solid chance that you know how to grill a steak but do you think it’s good enough to win cash? When I went into my first event I had zero expectations besides having a good time.
I’ve been fortunate to have met incredible people from the local barbecue scene over the last few years and I joke “you cook it and I’ll talk about it.”. I never dreamed I would enter competitive food on any scale especially after homebrewing for years. That was until I heard about “Grill Your Steak Off” at Williams Ace Hardware in West Newton, PA.
Grill steak? Pssshhhaaawww my daddy taught me how to do that before I was able to walk. I can do that plus the top prize is $1000! Well, I think I can. Wait, these other guys are BBQ competitors and live this meanwhile I throw the meat on a grill. Oh man, I don’t know if I can handle it. *DEEP BREATH*. OK, I got this.
My anxiety from overthinking this was calmed as I reached out to a few of the teams competing for tips and it shouldn’t surprise you to learn they were VERY giving of their time and tips. This is something I’ve come to really appreciate with the BBQ community, all you have to do is ask and someone will help. Cooking is their passion and they welcome any chance to share their knowledge. Plus a few “Oh the media guy thinks he can roll with the big dogs.” may have been shared. It was game on!
The only complaint I have is, unlike in homebrewing competitions, you don’t receive feedback from the judges so you have to look at the final numbers and guess what to improve on.
If you’re new to this it may seem like a lot because guys who write about SCA events are experienced cooks. I’m going to break down what you need as a first-timer. There are several master lists but those can be overwhelming. Here are the basics to get you started and then you can adjust as you compete for more to find your grilling groove.
I’ve compiled this list to help make your first SCA event a fun one and whatever you do, don’t burn yourself (as you can see I did in the picture to the left). This is not an end-all-be-all list but something I started writing last year and I’m sure it will update as I attend more events. Speaking as a new(er) guy, this will help you shake the jitters and cook with confidence.
I’m breaking this into 3 sections.
- Camp – this will be your home for 6-8 hours so get comfy.
- Kitchen – supplies you may need to turn out a quality steak.
- Grill – it’s more than fire and something to cook it in.
- 10 x 10 tailgate tent/canopy – You’ll want shade plus you can pick one up at WalMart or a sporting goods store for under $50
- Table & table cloth – 4 to 6 ft folding table is best. You’ll need to have a prep area to work on your steaks and the back of your car is probably filthy.
- Garbage bags – Don’t litter. Pick your camp up plus when you’re cooking or trimming you need to toss your junk somewhere.
- Sunscreen – The only thing that should be red is your fire.
- First Aid/Burn Kit – You think I’m being funny but last year I burned my finger on a chimney starter and another guy cut himself. It happens.
- Radio/Book – Put your phone away and get to know your neighbors. When you’re done read books about steak because you haven’t watched enough YouTube videos or listen to a BBQ podcast.
- Tailgate chairs – any chair really but make sure it fits in your vehicle. My big butt needs a cushion.
- Rubs/Spices – It is the simplest things that you can forget. Even if it’s salt and pepper. Don’t forget it!
- Cutting board – You’ll have trimming to do and rubs to apply. Doesn’t matter the size or what it’s made of, just have one.
- Knives – I pack a boning knife, pairing knife and chef knife. As long as it cuts bring what works best for you.
- Thermometer – Get yourself a good digital instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen MK4. You don’t want to waste time waiting on a temp reading to overshoot your cooking temp.
- Butcher String – Some teams like to tie their steaks for presentation just don’t forget to remove it before turn-in.
- Aluminum Foil
- Table pan – When you pick out your steaks you need to bring them back to camp. You can get these cheap at the Dollar Store.
- Tongs – Unless you’re flipping with your bare hands (no) you need something to flip with.
- Gloves – latex/latex-free… those gloves you think a doctor may wear. It’ll save on the number of paper towels you use.
- Paper towels – Don’t try to act like you don’t make a mess. Keep yourself clean.
- Paper plates and plastic utensils.
- Clorox wipes – Kinda goes with number two.
- Cooler with ice – You need to chill drinks but also you need to hold that meat for a few hours until it’s time to cook.
- Water – Stay hydrated.
- Extra food and munchies – Just a heads up, the teams around you will probably grill snacks all day so feel free to join in. Just don’t bring steak!
- Charcoal or wood grill/smoker – Don’t bring a gas grill. No one wants to see that and it’s a hazard.
- Fuel – Charcoal, wood chips, wood pellets.
- Lighter – Seriously. Mine died last year and I had to run to the Dollar Store.
- Chimney starter – put the charcoal in the top and light paper/starter cube from the bottom.
- Ash bucket – Some places provide buckets and/or places to dump your ash when you’re done.
- Heat resistant gloves – Again you don’t want to get burned.
- Tongs – I have a long pair to move charcoal and a short pair for flipping meat.
- Fire Extinguisher
- GrillGrates – They say grill marks don’t factor into scoring but you know you wanna do it. Find your perfect match here.
Here are a few pics from Grill Your Steak Off 2018. You can catch the whole gallery on our Instagram account!
What are your go-to items we may have missed? Leave them in the comments below!