Preparing for the NJAS Cook-Off

Farm Forum

The All-American Certified Angus Beef Cook-Off contest is a long-held tradition that provides a unique educational experience for junior Angus members. The popular competition at the National Junior Angus Show (NJAS) not only teaches youth about the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) product, but also how to communicate beef’s nutritional importance.

For juniors participating in the contest during the 2015 NJAS in Tulsa, Okla., the American Angus Auxiliary offers a few tips for preparing and showcasing their recipe to impress the judges.

“The first thing, besides learning about Certified Angus Beef, is to have fun,” says Anne Lampe, American Angus Auxiliary Cook-Off co-chair. “Think outside the box to come up with good recipes, skits and things that are different.”

More than 40 teams will compete in the Cook-Off, and six participants are entered in the Chef’s Challenge, which is an event open to both National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) members and adults.

To compete, teams of two to six NJAA members decide on a recipe and prepare it in one of three meat divisions: steak, roast and other beef item. The second portion of the Cook-Off includes a creative skit showcasing CAB.

Sponsored by the American Angus Auxiliary and the NJAA, the focus of the competition is more than a winning team: “One of our main goals for the Certified Angus Beef Cook-Off is to give juniors an opportunity to learn about our product and feel comfortable promoting it,” Lampe says.

She also encourages participants to go beyond describing the CAB specifications, and explain why the specifications qualify the CAB brand as better than ordinary beef one might find in the meatcase.

“Always remember that when developing the skit and recipe the main goal is to promote Certified Angus Beef to the consumer,” Lampe says. “If you’re going to use Certified Angus Beef specs in your skit make sure that you explain them on a consumer level; what it actually means.”

Participating teams should do their homework and be equipped to answer a variety of questions. The CAB website hosts several different information sources and ideas to prepare for the Cook-Off, including the carcass specifications, various cuts and cooking methods and degrees of doneness.

The Cook-Off involves a few rules junior members should consider when making their plans:

• All teams will use the same CAB product in their respective categories, no exceptions. Each category will receive a specific cut, which can be found at

• No team may receive the CAB product until 8 a.m. on contest day. Please do not choose a recipe that requires overnight marinating or cooking time over 5 hours.

• Grills are strongly encouraged for preparation of beef.

The teams have been assembled and informed of what cuts of CAB product they will be using during the Cook-Off, so now the preparations begin. The competition has been a tradition for more than 30 years, and the lessons the teams learn while developing their recipes and skits — and having fun — stick with them for a lifetime. And they can be proud of the product they help raise back home on the farm or ranch.

“As they’re developing their skits and learning their recipes, learning the Certified Angus Beef facts, it’s becoming very familiar to them,” Lampe says. “They can go out in their schools or communities or even to fellow Angus breeders that may not be as familiar with the Certified Angus Beef program, and be comfortable with sharing that information.”

For more information on the All-American Certified Angus Beef Cook-Off, visit the Auxiliary’s website.