7 Tips for Better Barbecue from a BBQ Master

Use these tips to take your barbecue to the next level.
Use these tips to take your barbecue to the next level.

The days are long, the weather is warm … time to fire up the grill! 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 a staggering 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 says. When he first started in competitions, he says, he had only trial and error to guide him, but now, there are many avenues available to the novice BBQ chef. “There is so much information out there,” he says. “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 says. 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 says, 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 says. “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 says.

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 says. 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 says. “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 says, is to “always cook and flavor the barbecue the way you, the pitmaster, like it. Your grill, your yard, your way.”

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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How Did Apple Pie Become an Iconic American Dessert?

Apple pie isn't as American as you may think.
Apple pie isn't as American as you may think.
Dilyara Garifullina via Unsplash

Many staples of American cuisine originated outside the United States. German immigrants brought over the modern hamburger, and Italians were the first to combine cheese with macaroni. Apple pie—a dish that commonly follows the words “American as”—has a reputation for being one of the rare dishes the country can fully claim. But as it turns out, the history of the iconic American dessert isn’t so simple.

The earliest known recipe for apple pie comes not from America, but from England. It dates from the late 1300s and lists multiple fruits as the ingredients, including figs, raisins, and pears, as well as apples. Unlike a modern pie, there was no added sugar, and it was baked in a “coffin” pastry crust meant to contain the filling rather than serve as an edible part of the dish. Though the first concoction resembling apple pie may have come from England, the recipe itself wasn’t wholly English. Its influences can be traced back to France, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire.

Apple trees had only been cultivated in Britain for several centuries by this point. An early ancestor of the fruit originally sprouted up in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan millions of years ago and was later cultivated in Central Asia before spreading across the globe. Before apple pie could take over America, someone first had to plant the right apple trees on the land. The only apples native to North America prior to British colonialism were crab apples. When colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in the 17th century, they brought with them the Old World seeds and cuttings they needed to make cider, creating new varieties of American apples.

U.S. residents enjoyed apple pie throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but it didn’t gain its all-American status right away. The dessert’s transition from British import to American classic may have started during the Civil War. In his book Apple Pie: An American Story, author John T. Edge describes Union and Confederate soldiers scavenging for apples and raiding the hearths and flour bins on farms to make pies. The memory of the sweet treat during a time of national turmoil may have “fixed the taste of apple pie on the palate of generations to come,” Edge writes.

The patriotic symbolism surrounding apple pie was fully established in the early 20th century. A 1902 New York Times article kicked off a new era for the dish, dubbing it “the American synonym for prosperity.” The Times may also be responsible for creating the myth that apple pie is an American invention. A 1926 headline from the paper read: “The Tourist Apple Pie Hunt Is Ended: American Army Abroad Has Failed Again to Find in Europe ‘the Kind They Make at Home.’”

The dish's patriotic popularity continued to rise. A 1928 New York Times article called First Lady Lou Henry Hoover's homemaking skills “as American as apple pie.” Several years later, fighting “for mom and apple pie” became a common slogan among World War II soldiers. During the Second World War, apple pie was linked to a certain image of domesticity and the perfect American housewife.

Apple pie may not be 100 percent American in origin, but very few foods are. Many of the most iconic American dishes include contributions from various cultures and parts of the world. Apple pie—with its Asian apples, Middle Eastern wheat, and European recipe—is no exception.