High School Varsity Barbecue Teams are a Thing in Texas

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address



There are some things for which you can’t help but say, “Only in Texas.” But this is something you could say so with pride! Yes, there are such things as a high school varsity barbecue team. (Where were these when I was in school?!) And, yes, these are truly Texan. Only a very few north Texas high schools have barbecue teams, but the concept is fast gaining notoriety. Perhaps it’s because when the word “varsity” is spoken, it’s generally followed by the word “football.” And that’s just cool. Well, so is barbecue! And sometimes the two go hand-in-hand.

Last year the Ennis High School, developed its first ever competitive barbecue team with the help of Horticulture teach Tommy Copeland. After finding out that Burnet (in the Texas Hill Country) holds an annual state barbecue tournament with more than 100 competing schools, he felt it was a great opportunity for Ennis High. A group of its students proved that they loved the art of cooking nearly as much as they loved their football. They traveled to school cook-offs coordinated throughout the state of Texas.

High School Varsity Barbecue Teams are a Thing in Texas

Photo: 116 ACW

“When we tell people about it,” Copeland explained to, “they’re in disbelief at first. Then they say, ‘Wow, I wish that was around when I was in school–I would have been on that team.'” At Ennis High specifically, their barbecue team is a bit of a hybrid. The students are required to develop and weld their cooker which they’ll use in competition, mixing metal shop with home economics. The results are delicious…’er astounding and educational. Copeland has obtained the assistance of some of his counterparts to help the students learn their barbecue. In effect, they learn how to be pitmasters. During the cook-offs themselves, teachers aren’t allowed to help the students – like any competition.

The judging in each is based on the quality of their beef brisket, who has the best bean, pork ribs, and half-chicken, a dessert category, as well as best pit, best t-shirt, and most school spirit. What are the requirements for making this dynamic team? Participants must be a senior student keeping a passing average. In the meantime, Copeland works to mentor juniors as well, holding sessions such as “ribs practice” outside the stadium in advance of a home football game. His concept of the whole opportunity, he told KVUE, is that “When these boys leave here, they are kings of their grills,” and that’s something to aim for.