Award-winning pitmaster Myron Mixon believes barbecue is simple really. It’s about the meat, the smoke and the fire.
In his new book, “Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules: The Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat,” with Chapel Hill writer Kelly Alexander, the legendary master of the pit shares his “tried-and-true” methods and techniques for smoking the best steaks, whole hog and brisket. He has a book event Thursday night at Roost Beer Garden in Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village.
Mixon, a Georgia native, is the chief cook of the Jack’s Old South Competition Bar-B-Que Team. He learned how to smoke meat from his dad, Jack Mixon. He teaches classes at his home when he’s not starring in several television cooking shows, including “BBQ Rules” and “BBQ Pitmasters.”
He took a few minutes to answer questions about how to avoid barbecue blunders, his favorite side and the easiest and hardest meats to smoke.
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Q: What’s the common mistake people make when smoking meat?
A: Most of the time, when they smoke meat, they either overcook or undercook the meat. That’s why I always recommend they use their meat thermometers and cook by internal temperature. Whatever meat you are cooking, there is always an ideal internal temp. That meat thermometer helps you get to that point, not going under and not going over.
Q: What distinguishes a pitmaster?
A: A pitmaster has the knowledge of smoking and grilling meat. They also have the insight of different flavors that complement the meat they are barbecuing. A pitmaster is also somebody who has studied the art. They are not just engulfed in the gadgets, and all the latest technology we have today. They understand that the cooking methods are 100 plus years old … someone who is aware of where barbecue comes from to get to where it is today.
Q: What’s your favorite side?
A: My favorite side is Brunswick stew. I was born and raised in the South. When you do barbecue, you do Brunswick stew.
Q: What’s your favorite meat to smoke?
A: Whole hog.
Q: What’s the easiest meat to smoke?
A: Chicken and poultry. A very fast cook, especially if you are cooking pieces, no longer than a couple of hours. Again, you need to use your meat thermometer. You don’t want to undercook chicken especially.
Q: What’s the hardest meat to cook?
A: Beef brisket is probably the hardest meat to cook. The grain runs opposite of each other. It takes a little time to get it tender.
Q: Do you have any routines or rituals?
A: You want to go and select your meats and then select the woods for that particular meat. Then you want to select the seasonings, I don’t use the same ones. It all depends on what I’m feeling like that day. Is it going to be sweeter? Hotter? Or spicier? Those are the things I go through every time before I barbecue. I choose the sauces. I decide before I put the first piece of meat on, what the sides are. I do everything before I fire the pit up.
Q: What’s the secret to smoking?
A: There’s no real secret to smoking meat. You have to pay attention and be patient. You have to follow your recipe. You got to be careful about fire management. It’s not like turning a knob, and setting it and forgetting it. You got to have patience. Barbecue for me is planning for two days before I ever put any meat on the pit.
Q: How do you know when the meat is ready?
A: My dad taught me how to barbecue. He never owned a thermometer. He taught me how to tell it was done by smell, sight and feel. I’ve been doing it since I was 9-years old. This is what I do for a living. But for the guy who only does it on the weekend, I strongly suggest he use a meat thermometer.
Q: What’s your favorite season to smoke meat?
A: I like doing it in the winter, hog killing time. That’s really what barbecue was about. They would put the meat in the smoke house to make sausage. There are no insects. I’m a full-figured man so I like it when it’s cool. I start early in the morning before the sun rises. I wanted to get started early so I can be through before nightfall.
Bridgette A. Lacy is the author of “Sunday Dinner,” a Savor the South cookbook from UNC Press. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet the Author
What: Four-time world barbecue champion Myron Mixon offers tips and instructions on becoming a skillful backyard pit master during the Cooks & Books dinner. Mixon is the host of “BBQ Rules” and star of two other hit television shows “BBQ Pitmasters,” and “BBQ Pitwars.”
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Fearrington Village’s Roost Beer Garden, 2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro.
Cost: $75, which includes a signed copy of “Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules: The Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat,” along with a dinner of St. Louis ribs, peach baked beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and a cold beer. Order your ticket online fearrington.com/event/cooks-books-mixon/ or call 919-542-3030.