Could you eat a 72oz steak in one hour? I’m not sure I could eat a 72 ounce steak in 72 hours. But that’s just me. Because over 10,000 people have come, eaten, and conquered this meal that’s as big as Texas here at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas: the 72 oz. Steak Challenge.
The Big Texan first opened its doors in 1960. Originally located on Route 66 the restaurant relocated to its current location on Interstate 40 in 1970. The bright yellow and blue building and oversized roadside attractions out front beckon road trippers to pull over for food and fun.
Look for a big steer nicknamed “Big Moo” in the parking lot, a 15-foot-tall cowboy boot, a 27-foot-long dinosaur wearing a cowboy hat (“Big Tex Rex”), and a painted wooden photo op of someone enjoying their big meal.
More than half a million people a year descend on the two story dining room each year to feast on a menu of barbecue, Chicken Fried Chicken, quesadillas, and, of course, steak. Hungry carnivores can choose between top sirloin, prime rib, rib eye, and more. You can even get their very own Big Texan Strip. With slabs of meat ranging from 8oz. To 30oz., the menu appeals to appetites of all sizes. No one will leave hungry.
But for those with a Texas-sized appetite, there is one menu item that can’t be ignored. The world famous 72oz Steak Challenge.
The eating challenge was core to The Big Texan’s appeal from almost the start. Soon after opening, founder Bob Lee decided to hold a contest among the stockyard cowboys to see who could eat the most steaks in an hour. One man ate four and a half 1-pound steaks, a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, a dinner roll, and a salad in that hour, earning himself the grand prize of $5. Impressed, Lee declared that “whoever eats that much again in my restaurant, he gets it for free.” And his word was kept.
The 72oz Steak Challenge pits stomach against food in an ultimate act of gluttony. If you choose to partake you’ll be given one hour to eat a 72 ounce steak, a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, a salad, and a roll with butter. That’s four and a half pounds of meat plus all the trimmings. Finish every morsel of food in that time frame you get the $72 meal for free and your name on the wall of fame.
Anyone who comes to the restaurant can try their hand at it, all you have to do is let the server know and they will set you up at a big table and let you have at it to the ticking of a big digital clock.
Many have tried and failed but over 10,000 people have successfully completed the challenge. Everyone from competitive eaters to NFL football players to Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman to professional wrestlers, to average men or women who are just really hungry have met the challenge.
One of the most impressive showings was 130 pound professional eater Molly Schuyler, who ate three 72 oz. steak challenges in a row in 2015, eating the first in 4 minutes 18 seconds and finishing the rest in 20 minutes. Previously she had world’s fastest records at 4 minutes 58 (besting hot dog eater extraordinaire Joey Chestnut’s record of 8 minutes and 52 seconds) and ate two meals in 14 minutes and 57 seconds.
The 10,000th challenge was on September 1, 2021 by 40-year-old John Lamons, who ate his last bite just under the wire at 59 minutes and 50 seconds.
Personally, my appetite wasn’t quite that big so I went with a modest 12-oz ribeye with a loaded baked potato and green chili cream corn.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and The Big Texan is proving that saying right. Route 66 road trippers and big eaters can’t miss this site. Just don’t leave our appetite at home.
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Address: 7701 I-40 East, Amarillo, TX 79118
Cost: Free to See, Meal Costs Vary,72oz Steak Challenge is free if eaten in 1 hour or costs $72