WATCH: Cooking out this weekend? Here’s a BBQ grand champion’s top tip

The summer is upon us, and grills and smokers all over the DMV are heating up as well. For the series Fired Up with Jake and John, WTOP’s Mike Jakaitis and John Domen are talking with some of the region’s best pit masters about their methods, with the goal of helping you level up your barbecue game.

Myron Mixon owns a restaurant in Old Town Alexandria and is considered “the winningest man in BBQ.” He’s won five Memphis in May World Championships, including last month’s.

We asked Mixon to impart his most important tip for the amateur. Would it be about spice? Sauce? A secret ingredient? Some other finishing touch?

Nope.

“Always, always cook by meat thermometer,” Mixon said without any hesitation, displaying one in his Old Town kitchen. “That seems like a rudimentary tip, but — always.”

Mixon, his dad — who taught him lots about barbecue — and other pros we talked with can tell how close to done a piece of meat is just by feeling it. The odds are, you can’t. And the numbers matter.

“That’s the biggest mistake” the backyard chef makes, Mixon said.

“They either get the inside raw and they burn the outside, or the reverse. … Whether it’s over done or under, doneness is generally the number one bad thing.”

And to get that doneness just right, forget about time and cook to the right internal temperature.

“Every protein has got its own doneness,” Mixon said. “Brisket is 205 [Fahrenheit] at the point. Chicken — white meat chicken is 160 to 165. Legal is 160, but I like to take it to 165. Dark meat chicken is 180.”

It’s a matter of safety — Mixon once saw someone get disqualified from a competition because their chicken wasn’t cooked through, which left the judges susceptible to salmonella — and it’s also the biggest difference between something that pulls apart easily, and something chewy.

“I don’t want tough brisket,” said Mixon. “You pull it at 190 or 180 and it’s going to be tough — 205 is what you want it to be at.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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