7 Tips for Better Barbecue, According to a BBQ Master

A good barbecue involves much more than just tossing some meat on a grill. We asked world champion Myron Mixon for a few tips on how to prepare the ultimate backyard BBQ.
Take your barbecue game to the next level this summer.
Take your barbecue game to the next level this summer. / Eugene Mymrin/Moment/Getty Images

The days are long, the weather is warm … time to fire up the grill! In 2015, we asked Myron Mixon—a.k.a. the winningest man in barbeque, who started cooking with his dad when he was just 9 and has earned more than 1800 trophies in his career—for some tips to help you nail it this barbecue season.

1. Do your research before barbecuing.

Barbecuing isn’t as easy as throwing some meat on a grill. “It is important to research and understand the process,” Mixon said. When he first started in competitions, he had only trial and error to guide him; now, there are many avenues available to the novice BBQ chef. “There is so much information out there,” he said. “Read cookbooks, take classes, search the Internet, watch shows. It will make you a better pitmaster.” It also helps to have a working knowledge of your equipment, so don’t be afraid to read the user’s manual.

2. Always prep before you barbecue.

“Prepping is very important in barbecuing,” Mixon said. It encompasses everything from selecting the cut and quality of your meat to how you cut up that meat to flavoring your future meal with seasoning and marinades. How well you prep, he said, directly translates to how delicious your meal is: “Great prep, great barbecue.”

3. Use a meat thermometer when you barbecue.

A meat thermometer is a must, for one very simple reason: “The most common mistake made in barbecuing is undercooking or overcooking,” Mixon said. “The best cooks use an internal meat thermometer to make sure the product is cooked perfectly.”

4. Pick the right sauce for your meat.

Mixon likes vinegar-based sauces on pork, mustard-based sauces on poultry, and tomato-based spicy sauce on beef. “[Avoid] any sauce that’s so overpowering that it masks the natural flavor of the meat,” he cautioned.

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors.

“A little twist to flavors for your barbecue can be as simple as adding puréed fresh fruit to the sauce before being applied to the meat,” Mixon said. He recommends things like blueberries, strawberries, and applesauce.

6. Keep your barbecue sides simple.

“For me, BBQ is a simple food with simple ingredients and the process is easy,” Mixon said. “My [side] dishes are the same.” He makes his mom’s fish slaw, which is made of coarse cut cabbage, diced tomatoes and onions, mayo, salt and pepper, and his peach BBQ beans, which he creates using baked beans, peach pie filling, and red bell peppers.

7. And remember, you’re the boss of your barbecue.

The one thing to remember when you’re making barbecue, Mixon said, is to “always cook and flavor the barbecue the way you, the pitmaster, like it. Your grill, your yard, your way.”

A version of this story originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2023.