EDINBURG - The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce held the 12th annual Texas Cook’Em: High Steaks competition at H-E-B park this past Saturday, July 1. Pit masters from across Texas gathered to claim cash prizes – totaling $30,000 – and to kick off the Independence Day weekend.

As one of the first barbecue competitions to feature steak alongside the traditional staples of chicken, pork ribs and brisket, High Steaks is unique. It is the only steak cook-off sanctioned by the International Barbecue Cookers Association (IBCA) and the Steak Cook-off Association (SCA) in South Texas. As such, the competition attracts members of IBCA and SCA hoping to rack up points toward the top cook rankings of the respective organizations.

This year, 128 teams and individuals entered High Steaks, with Valley grilling aficionados making up the majority of the competitors. And, it is no surprise. Of IBCA’s Top Ten Overall Cooks of the 2016 Season, six were from the Valley.

“Competitive barbecuing has been around for a while,” said Ronnie Larralde, Director of Marketing and Special Events for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. “People down here grew up with cooking all the time, but they weren’t into competitive barbecuing, but it’s become a craze and it’s taken off.”

Some of the favorites from the Valley are Team Casanova, A Ver Que Sale, InHogNito, and Chillin-N-Grillin. All though many have won in different cook-offs across the state and internationally, most say the important thing is being with family and just enjoying yourself.

“If you come out here just wanting to win, then it becomes stressful and your whole day is ruined,” said Gilbert Casanova of Team Casanova. “If I get a trophy great. If I don’t, I don’t care. As far [having] a secret - just have fun with it.”

It seems his advice works, as Team Casanova ended up placing among the top 15 teams this year amidst heavy competition.

This year’s top three competitors were Gerardo Cardenas of Raymondville with his team Loaded Smoke, winning IBCA Reserve Champion; Fred Robles of Weslaco with Rio Valley Meat, winning IBCA Grand Champion; and Gary Kelley of Sinton with his team Road Crew BBQ, winning Overall Grand Champion. Each received a trophy, a check, points from IBCA and CSA and bragging rights.

As High Steaks continues to grow, the Valley and its pit masters become more well-known. The secret that residents have known all along is almost out: the RGV is home to world-class cooking.