About The Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas

If you have ever had an intruding squirrel plague your domain, you know how irascible and persistent they can be. With that spirit in mind, they are back again. After a brief hiatus, Mr. Joe Wilson has returned with one of the most creative events in competitive cooking: The World Champion Squirrel Cookoff.

photos from the cookoff

Squirrel Season this September

That’s right, celebrating its triumphant return September 23 at the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center in Springdale, Arkansas, in partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Stewed, fried, braised and grilled; squirrel is what will be for dinner.

Standard rules still apply. Evidence of squirreliness must be shown at the beginning. Dishes must contain 80%squirrel meat. Dishes must be prepared in their entirety on-site.  Teams are 3 people, and given 3 hours to prepare food and sides for judging. Any and all squirrel humor, puns and parody are accepted, even expected.

Be Squirrely

We can’t express how exciting it is to have this unique event back on the calendar. With a typical nod to the quirkiness of the event, since it takes place on the 23rd day of September 2023, the 23rd place winner will receive their due in the form of a special prize package. That’s right; Payout to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and…23rd. What’s it going to be? Years past have seen squirrel and dumpling, squirrel tacos, multi meat loaf, squirrel stroganoff, along with sausages and ‘squirrel wings’. Get more event details on their Facebook page.

There is no charge to attend as a spectator, and explore treats like Squirrelbrau Lager beer and Squirredust spice rub. There is something happening for almost everybody at the World Champion Squirrel Cookoff. With numbers coming in and limited to only 40 teams competing, time is running short. But there is always plenty of room for spectators and fans, with a whole lot more going on in addition to the Sciurus culinary dishes.

What’s it all about?

You might already know that Joe has said many times over Squirrel, It’s what’s for supper! Well, those cute little tree-dwelling critters that most of the country looks as being a Disney thing- aren’t so innocent. According to national statistics, Squirrels cause millions of dollars of damage to homes, electrical wires, and even trees! They’re a nightmare for linemen to remove from our power lines, usually after getting fried…

Just like any rodent, their teeth continually grow, so they must chew on things constantly! This includes electric wires in your attic and outdoor property. House fires that were caused by squirrels make up 20% of the entire US average. So it seems Joe Wilson took traditional country-living cuisine to the next level of fighting this costly epidemic! He was the first to create the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off in 2013.

His motto is now is changing the way we look at organic exotic meat that’s a real game-changer. His idea is now spreading all over the country thanks to his awareness.

What makes his cook-off competition different?

You won’t find an attitude about ‘who’s the Best of the Best’ at this one-of-a-kind cook-off since everyone brings their favorite recipes. If you’ve tried squirrel before, you’ll know it can be prepared in so many ways. At this competition, you’ll get points for traditional no matter where you grew-up. If it’s Squirrel gumbo, fried squirrel, or rotisserie squirrel, you’ll be welcome at this World Championship like no other.

That doesn’t mean you can be different since some new entries such as squirrel sushi, squirrel pizza, and even squirrel corndogs are making news. Just enter the competition, bring your recipe, and some nice spring’ squirrels to prepare. Judges will inspect your squirrels before skinning will begin.

Archive: Looking Back – 2019 Coverage of the Squirrel Cookoff

Last year there were nearly 40 contestants who entered, and everyone walked away happy.

The big winners were:

  • Nutty Cheeks Squirrel Squad – 1st Place
  • Big Time Barbecue – 2nd Place
  • Rawhide Nut Pirates – 3rd Place
third place winners
Rawhide Nut Pirates took home 3rd place in the 2019 Squirrel Cookoff Championship

You can see more on them and get the winning recipes here.

Entertainment, Music and more

This year the special headline music guest is Route 358 which brings their original country brand of music to their headliner stage. They’ve been rising in the charts lately and will give everyone a real taste of Arkansas entertainment when September 25th rolls around.

But expect that other great Arkansas talents will be on the big stage all day long. We can only hope that Joe Martinez and Joe Wilson will be on stage again giving back plenty of back-woods humor! They help lighten the mood with a fine Grand Ole Opry Vaudeville routine’ that features music and jokes that poke fun at the history of squirrel-eating folk.

With so many people that turned out last year, they’ve added concession food trucks and vendors who’ll be selling BBQ and comfort food. Sorry folks, they won’t be having the squirrel corndog this year even though it was a huge hit a couple of years back. Unless they can figure out a way to make it work! Squirrel is real lean meat that doesn’t work well for corndog batter dipping. Joe would love to hear your ideas if you’ve got a method that works better.

They’ll also have plenty of sideshow meats on the rotisserie that are exotic and free. If you’re curious about trying something new, you’ll get to taste gator, python, or other back-country organic meats. Yet the name of the game at this event is all about cooking squirrel at its’ finest. Whether you want to call it tree bacon, limb chicken, organic tree meat, tree rats, or tofu of the woods, you’ll change your mind at how good it is!

You get to be in the spotlight!

This competition isn’t just some Redneck gathering, it’s national TV coverage that’s getting serious attention. Don’t forget that redneck is another word for our farmers who work under the sun. And these folk are generous as they get when it comes to old fashioned country hospitality. With so much television coverage, you might get to tell your opinion of how good squirrel happens to be.

We’ll be following-up the event to let you know here at Squirrel Cook Off BBQ, who are this year’s winners too. After all, major events like ICSs World Championship Chili Cookoff in 1977 featured Jack Powell, the reigning chili champ from Tennessee. He cooked a chili recipe made from fresh Raccoon that was incredible. Mr. Powell went onto help form Memphis in May’s Superbowl of Swine. You just never know what famous BBQ Pitmaster will be at this eco-friendly event.

You’ll have to check it out for yourself!