What the heck is burgoo?! …Would you eat it?

In the hills of Appalachia lays a tradition that’s been stewing since before the Revolutionary War.

For hundreds of years, mountaineers have been returning from the hills with a hodge podge of hunts— sometimes a big buck or a turkey, other times a snake or a squirrel. Historically, these hunters were not picky eaters. Some would say they were downright impartial.

Regardless of shape or size, they’d place the kill into one big pot with vegetables over an open fire, heavily spiced and simmered until the meat fell right off the bone. This earthy mixture came to be known as burgoo.

Today, West Virginians still gather annually in Webster Springs to keep this Appalachian tradition steepin’. The Burgoo Cook-off is Columbus Day weekend at Baker’s Island Recreation Area, where more than 20 mountain chefs generally convene to show off their tasty stews.

Because burgoo needs time to simmer to perfection, contestants start their culinary concoctions at home in a slow cooker. At least 3 kinds of fish, fowl or meat are required to enter. In the past, brave burgoo-goers have sampled stews flavored with rattlesnake, snapping turtle, elk, buffalo and bear.

If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea— er, burgoo—  the cook-off has much more to enjoy, like an apple pie baking contest, scarecrow contest, children’s activities, apple butter making, pumpkin painting, arts and crafts AND live music!


Think that’s an odd dish? Try the Roadkill Cook-Off!

Discover the Roadkill Cook-Off >


This post was last updated on July 28, 2020