Cowboy Cookin’ – Chuck-Wagon Style

The Chuckwagon
The cross-country cattle drives may have ended over a century ago but chuck-wagon cookin’ is still running strong on ranches today and as competitions at events of their own.

There are still many ranches out there that pull out the ol’ chuck-wagon during the cowboy works.  With large pastures and herds of cattle, it’s much easier to have a central camp out in the middle of those pastures, then to have to drive all the cowboys all the way back to someone’s house to eat for both breakfast, lunch, and supper.

Because of the popularity of chuck-wagon cookin’, you can now find all sorts of competitions across the US.    It’s common for ranch rodeos to hold chuck-wagon cook-offs and this is where I was introduced to how real cowboy cooking is done.

Back when we worked for the Fulton Quien Sabe Ranch, up by Amarillo-TX, we would go to two ranch rodeos every year where  chuck-wagon competitions were held.  The one held in Amarillo was by far the most work in my opinion because we had to cook for the public and for the judges.  They would provide you with the main ingredients like 50lbs of meat, 20lbs of taters, and tons of beans!  Each year the menu was basically the same–Chicken Fried Steak, Mash Taters, Beans, Rolls/Biscuits and a Cobbler.


The chuck-wagon competition held in Wichita Falls, TX was much more fun but lordy it was hot & humid! How you did in that competition affected the overall score the cowboys got during the ranch rodeo.

Lots of competitions and I’m proud to say that I have won 1st place for Mexican Cornbread and a couple of 2nd place prizes/points.

And you see the fella sitting down?  He taught me how to make the best white gravy ever which I’ll share with you soon!

The Dutch Oven

Anything you can cook at home, can be cooked in a dutch oven. They are built for holding heat which makes for excellent baking and frying. The stubby little legs are for sitting on hot coals and the lip on the lid allows for coals to sit on top for baking. And by simply flipping the lid, you can easily fry up some bacon.

We like to cook cornbread, cobbler, and rolls in dutch ovens. Everything is always cooked so evenly but you definitely need some practice before you attempt dutch oven cooking. It’s an experience for sure but one you have to try at least once!



For more info on a competition near you, check out!

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  1. says

    I remember watching one of the Chuck Wagon contests on TV a while back. It was really interesting to see all the different foods they made and how they made them. Looks like a LOT of hard work! That is great that you have competed in the contests and won some prizes!

  2. Dorene says

    Are you planning on sharing the dutch oven recipes you have? I would love to know how to make biscuits myself. I just bought a DO for the first time and am dying to try it out..just wish it would stop raining here in CO so I can.

    I’d love to go see a chuckwagon competition sometime too..just hate to think I have to go to TX to see one (it’s awefully hot down there).

      • Dorene says

        I did go to the to check out when they’ll be holding something in I’m gonna definitely check it out!! I can’t wait to see your recipes too!

  3. says

    Post the recipe for the biscuits!! I could eat some with butter and cane syrup and that would bring me right back to my grandmothers house in Alabama!!

  4. says

    All righty woman, now you’re talking!
    You said the magic words – chicken fried steak and white gravy!
    I hope you’ll be sharing the recipes for those.

  5. says

    Nothing perhaps beats the fragrance of a woman’s perfume other than the aroma of great cooking. Be it entering the kitchen or over the camp fires working the dutch oven with fresh Pan De Campo breads, superb Mesquite Smoked Entrees with sides like Chuck Wagon Beans while always finding room for that home made Peach Cobbler. The ranch atmosphere, gathered with compatriots for great music, superb foods and the freshness of cooking outdoors. Just got to love those chuck Wagons and the Chuck Wagon Cooks. I’ll have to one day try your Mexican Style Corn Bread……