Myron Mixon on the Worst Barbecue He’s Ever Eaten
Chef Myron Mixon is a true barbecue legend. Not only is he a three-time world BBQ champion, he’s also the head judge on Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters (which will be premiering its fourth season Sunday, June 2, at 9 p.m.), a best-selling author, and the restaurateur behind two restaurants called Pride and Joy, one in Miami and the other opening soon in New York City.
We had the opportunity to speak with Mixon about the upcoming season, as well as what makes barbecue great, the worst barbecue he’s ever had, and the challenges of opening a barbecue restaurant in the middle of Manhattan.
The new season of BBQ Pitmasters will be different from the previous ones thanks to a new influx of guest judges, who will be filling the third judge slot. The biggest name is probably Chris Lilly, but there will also be "some pretty high-profile BBQ personalities," according to Mixon, and at the end of the season they’ll be selecting one of them for a permanent judging role. "You’ll be pretty surprised but pretty happy with who we select," he added. The season’s grand champion will go on to win $50,000.
As for common misconceptions about the competitive barbecue circuit, there’s one main difference: "It’s very meticulous," he said. "You can only take a couple bites and then we gotta move on and judge the next entry. So that competitor’s gotta get so much flavor, that wow factor, in a couple of bites."
As for the hallmarks of great barbecue, it’s fairly simple: "It’s about the correct amount of smoke that you can get on a piece of meat, the tenderness achieved, and at the end of the day it’s about the flavor that you impart into that meat," he said.
When it’s your job to eat barbecue, you eat a lot of good and a lot of bad. And Mixon’s eaten some bad barbecue. "[The] worst barbecue I’ve ever had was some overcooked brisket that was almost charred and oversmoked to the point where I thought I had a forest fire in my mouth," he said. "The worst mistake you see happening is that the meat is overcooked. Even overcooked to the point where they’ve got it too hot and the outside is charred and the inside is underdone."
The most important rule of BBQ? Know your smoker. "You need to practice on it, you need to learn how it works," he said.
Mixon’s newest restaurant, Pride and Joy, will be opening sometime in June in New York City’s Lower East Side. Opening a restaurant in New York certainly presented some unique challenges. Finding the right space was one of them, but they conquered that one: it’s a 10,000-square-foot space in a prime location, and they "really fixed that place up to where even before you eat the food, it looks barbecue, and that’s what I tried to achieve," he said.
For Mixon, deciding on New York was a no-brainer. "We decided that we wanted to hit some big markets, with a lot of people who really appreciate good food in general, not just barbecue," he said. "New York tops that list. We really weren’t planning New York this quickly, but the property became available in the place that we really wanted to be. And it just came together, and that’s when we pulled the trigger on it and started working hard to get it done."
Nowadays there’s no major shortage of solid barbecue in New York, but Mixon believes that there’s still a niche for him to fill. "I’ve learned it, and I’ve learned it well," he said. "And I’m bringing those recipes that helped me become a three-time world champion and we’re using those same recipes in the restaurant in New York. So you’re going to get some barbecue that I think is going to be totally different from anything else that anybody’s eaten here in the city."