Information about the Contest
Wanna have some authentic East Texas fun and enjoy all the delicious homemade stew you can eat? Then come to the World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest the 4th Saturday in October in Sulphur Springs, TX.
Held on the 4th Saturday in October, the cook-off features over 150 4-person cooking teams competing for several thousand dollars of prize money. Cooking over open wood fires, the teams prepare hearty chicken or beef stew in huge cast iron pots.
Each team must prepare a minimum of 10 gallons so that there is ample stew for judges and spectators. For $8, spectators may visit as many campsites as time and appetite allow. Some contestants use 20 or even 35-gallon iron stew pots. Last year, the 160 cooking teams who entered fed over 7,000 people. The World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest is the biggest event held in Hopkins County throughout the year… and it’s only getting better with time.
Teams entered in the competition start setting up early enough on Saturday to make the 10:30 a.m. deadline for providing samples to the judges. Many teams have begun setting up as early as Friday morning and preparing supper foods such as beans, chili, Dutch oven desserts and more over their campfires for many visitors who tour the stew grounds Friday night. Last year, over 2,000 people were on the stew grounds Friday evening to visit, eat, and reminisce about their favorite memories of the stew contest.
Stew is served at 10:45 a.m., but visitors are encouraged to get to the stew grounds early so that they may walk around, enjoy the atmosphere, and witness the cooking of delicious stew. Teams can even compete for “Best Campsite and Costume” and receive cash prizes.
History of the Competition
The cooking competition began in 1969, but the roots of the dish date from the late 1800s. The county had approximately 100 schools back then, and it became customary to celebrate the end of each school year with stew suppers that were cooked in iron pots over open hardwood fires.
In those days, there were no recipes. Families just brought what they had and threw it in the pot. The meat most likely was squirrel, and typically the most dominant vegetables were potatoes, onions, corn and tomatoes.
There was never a “written” recipe for Hopkins County Stew. However, for the annual cook-off, contestants are encouraged to stay true to the five main ingredients always present in Hopkins County Stew: chicken or beef (no squirrel), potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and corn. Seasonings are completely up to the two-person cooking teams. Most cooks have a secret ingredient that they will keep secret until the day they die, or pass on the tradition to one of their children or grandchildren. Needless to say, no two stews taste alike. Prizes are awarded for the best chicken and best beef stews.
For just $8, attendees will receive a bowl (for all the stew they can eat), along with cheese and crackers. Then, if visitors want to take some stew home, they may purchase quart containers for $15 and enjoy the stew for many nights to come.
For more information, please contact the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce at 903-885-6515.