BBQ Pitmasters – tips and tricks

BBQ Pitmasters had a long and successful run, and I’ve been rewatching many of the episodes to up my BBQ and smoking game.

Yep, many of the episodes are over a decade old, but the concepts and art of BBQ don’t change much, so I’m sharing some of the tidbits I’ve picked up by rewatching these shows.

You might want to catch a few episodes if you haven’t watched it. Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone are the regular hosts in the later years, usually accompanied by a 3rd guest host. Myron Mixon, “the winningest man in BBQ,” has written a book I have bought and continue to get good mileage from. I wrote an article about that: Best cookbooks for smoking meat

These are quick, unedited, and unformatted notes that I had been keeping in an offline note-taker, but then I figured I might as well share them here.

Note that these are kind of “stream of consciousness” notes based on what the different judges and cooks said they would do. Given this, you’ll see various notes that may seem to conflict, such as “cook at 225 for 4 hours” and “cook at 275 for 3 hours” for the same item. That’s because different people on the show said they do it that way. Another example is what type of wood they prefer. Some prefer Oak, and some prefer Pecan for cooking brisket. You’ll see both in my notes.

My intent here is to provide a spectrum of insights from which I (and you, too!) can experiment. Remember, there are no rules – just guidelines and experimentation is highly encouraged.

I’m providing tabs (below) for the various topics to make it easy to find what you are looking for in addition to my normal Table of Contents(above).

Lastly, this is a living document and I will continue to update as I watch and rewatch the show. Be sure to check back often.


  • Pecan wood is a good choice
  • Four hours on the smoke, wrap it in aluminum foil with some apple juice, and cook for another 3 hours or so until 205.
  • Ernest – pour coke over brisket and wrap. His secret (not so secret anymore) (brisket float)
  • Judging comment: “Should melt in your mouth,” “Must have beef flavor,” “Pull – a little give, not fall apart or crumble”
  • 350 degrees over direct heat for about an hour, then flip and finish on indirect low and slow…[one person did this…did he win? ]

Burnt Ends

  • Come from the point of the brisket
  • Cut into uniform cubes, toss in some sauce, back on the cooker for awhile (hour or so)
  • Beer, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar for burnt in sauce

Brisket Point

  • You don’t need to inject, although some do – Tuffy seems to prefer injecting brisket point
  • Brisket fat renders between 160 and 170% and can take several hours.
  • Brisket point – 275 for 4 hours, then wrap it. black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic salt, cayenne pepper
  • Brisket point – 275 for 6.5 hours
  • Wrap at 165 or so
  • Brisket point to 220(??)
  • Brown sugar, molasses, ketchup (KC sauce) on the burnt ends, back on the cooker

Prime Rib

  • 10 lb bone in prime rib – 4-6 hours at 250 degrees
  • “French” the bones
  • Salt, pepper, garlic…etc…same as steak (‘cuz that’s what it is)
  • 1 part sugar, 2 parts salt and pepper
  • Cook at 235, take off the smoker at 138
  • Medium rare at 130

Pork Spare Ribs

  • Trimmed so they are even
  • Rub/sauce for 2 hours, wrapped in a cooler
  • Cook for 4 hours @270 degrees; meat should be pulling back from the bone.
  • Wrap bone-up after 4 hours to avoid over-smoking. Wrap with brown sugar and butter and leave for about one more hour at 250-270 until 195
  • Judging comment: “Good bite, a little pull. Didn’t fall off the bone. Dried immediately after the bite.
  • “Hollywood cut” or “wide cut” – cut each side of the bone for a big bite (Tuffy) – serve only every other bone so each served bone has heavy meat on both sides.

Pork Butt

After 4 hours (about 140 degrees), wrap or put in a pan (with apple juice) and then cover the pan with foil. Back on the smoker for about an hour until 195 degrees. Past 195, it gets mushy fast
– Peanut oil first, then the rub. Peanut oil helps hold the rub on


  • Whole chicken – brine for flavor salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder,
  • Part it out – all the pieces and parts require different temps and cook times, so don’t want to cook it whole.
  • Cook it whole to hold in the juice
  • 275 for 3 hours (drape bacon over the chicken while smoking
  • Bite through skin – brining will cause rubbery skin(?). The skin should not all be pulled off in a single bite
  • Temp – 165 internal
  • Muffin pan chicken (Myron method)


  • Take quarters off, breasts off, leave wings on. Cook quarters and breast whole
  • Thighs, drums, and wings removed
  • MUST inject – something sweet (apple, pineapple, etc.)
  • Use a meat tenderizer to puncture the skin to help with the bite-through (bite-through skin)
  • turkey breast meat – 165
  • turkey thigh – 180
  • Turkey breast
    • – Inject before cooking and mid-cook
    • – baste continuously
  • In a pan, 325 degrees for 4-5 hours(Tuffy) and 275 degrees for 6 hours (Myron). Too much heat will push the juice out of it, which you don’t want.

Shrimp & Oysters

  • They had one hour to cook (side challenge)
  • Black iron shrimp sauteed with breadcrumbs and bacon
    • Butterfly shrimp, back with butter on top
  • Butter and garlic – you can’t go wrong
  • Split shrimp, pull from shell. lime, lemons
  • Shuck oysters, lime, lemon over the oysters in a pan, into the grill
  • BBQ oysters rockefeller
  • Don’t overcook
  • Saucepan until they are almost done, then move into a bbq/garlic mixture
  • Grill oysters in the shell with garlic butter – simple


  • Smoked Venison Tenderloin
    • Vinegar spray/rub/etc can cut the gaminess flavor.
    • Sassafras wood for any time of game meat
    • Sauce – something spicy sauce, or cherry/chipotle sauce (sweet heat – less sweet so the venison flavor comes through. Sweet can overpower it
    • 130 degrees – medium rare. Cook high (500 or so) for about 4-5 mins.
    • Little bit of salt, pepper, garlic, but lightly
    • Bit of crushed/chopped bacon for rub/crust

Judging BBQ

  • Ribs – bite should not pull meat away from the bone – should leave your teeth imprint
  • Smoke ring – shows the cook knows what they’re doing (but can also be “chemically enhanced,” so not always a true representation)
  • Judging criteria webpages:
  • RIBS: When cut, there should be a smoke ring around the outside of the meat. The ribs should pull off the bone cleanly without falling off the bone or being mushy. The bone itself should retain slight moisture, or sweat, once the meat has been pulled away but not have pieces of rib meat clinging to it; the bone should not be completely dry after the bite is taken. The meat should have a degree of smoky flavor without being harsh or acrid. The ribs may be either sauced or un-sauced, but there should not be “puddling” of sauce in the presentation container. Feel free to make a bed of lettuce, parsley, or some other presentation, but it WILL NOT be a judging parameter.
  • BRISKET: Brisket should be cut approximately ¼” thick, (about the width of a #2 pencil), generally from the flat, and should exhibit a defined smoke ring around the outside of the meat. The meat should be juicy and tender, not dry, or tough; it shouldn’t fall apart upon slicing but should pull apart with a gentle tug (picture a slice draped over a thin knife blade-it should seem as if gravity is slowly pulling the meat apart). The slices should be uniform in width, should be evenly and uniformly cooked and should not be tough or mushy. The meat should have a degree of smoky flavor without being harsh or acrid. The brisket may be sauced or un-sauced, but there should not be “puddling” of sauce in the presentation container. If you want to make a bed of lettuce or parsley or some other presentation, feel free, but it WILL NOT be a judging parameter.

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