This past weekend marked the 27th annual Praise the Lard Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-off, hosted by 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, Illinois. The highly anticipated competition kicked off on Thu., Sept. 18  and ran through Sat., Sept. 20, with barbecue enthusiasts participating in various competitions – including a Bloody Mary contest – and enjoying live music and general barbecue education from some of the best pitmasters from around the country. 

Seventy-five teams from 15 states (as well as competitors who traveled from Germany) set up camp around the 17th Street Barbecue warehouse to compete for Grand Champion bragging rights and to share in the $25,000 prize. Named by Food & Wine magazine as one of America’s top 20 barbecue cities, more than 200 judges, volunteers and ambassadors traveled to Murphysboro and 17th Street Barbecue for the three-day event.

Winners were announced in two different contests – Memphis Barbecue Network and Kansas City Barbecue Society. 

There was also the Townsend Spice Kids 'Cue where 17 teams of 7 to 11-year-old competitors created and grilled a hamburger recipe to present to judges. Winners, judged on appearance, tenderness, texture and taste, have the opportunity come up with a logo and product to sell at next year's cook-off. All of their proceeds go to a charity of the winner's choosing. Last year, Hott Pink Hogs won the cook-off, and they designed a seasoning to sell at this year's event. All of their proceeds will benefit a young classmate who battling cancer.

17th Street Barbecue also hosted for the World Food Championships' Southern Illinois Showdown. More than 20 regional home cooks, chefs and restaurateurs faced off in the bacon and seafood categories amid the specially constructed Kenmore Kitchen Theater located behind 17th Street Barbecue. St. Louis' Sugarfire Smokehouse took first place in the bacon category. The winners in each category received $1,000, and the top three in each category are eligible to compete at the annual World Food Championships in Las Vegas in November. The president and chief executive officer of World Food Championships, Mike McCloud, was one of the judges in the first seafood round on Saturday.

17th Street Barbecue is owned by famous pitmaster Mike Mills and his daughter and business partner, Amy. For almost 30 years 17th Street Barbecue has attracted legions of fans for Mills' award-winning barbecue and for the restaurant's trademark warm and gracious hospitality.

To learn more about Mike and Amy Mills, check out our profile in the June 2014 issue of Feast and watch the June episode of Feast TV.

For a full list of Praise the Lard winners in each category, click here.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Sugarfire Smokehouse as placing third in the bacon category of the Southern Illinois Showdown.

17th Street Barbecue, 32 N. 17th St., Murphysboro, Illinois, and 2700 17th St., Marion, Illinois,


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