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Top 5 Tips for Making Winning Barbecue

Focus on Flavor Profiles

A flavor profile refers to how much sweet, salty, sour and bitter taste is in your finished barbecue. The flavor comes from the meat, the cooking method (wood or gas, pan smoker or grill, hickory or cherry wood, for example), marinating, dry spices you add (called a dry rub) and the sauce.

For each meat you barbecue, work on a flavor profile. Taste, then repeat, recommends Mixon. He spends most of the year working on flavor profiles. That's because competitions often hinge on creating the best flavor. "If the meat is tender and moist like it should be, it comes down to a flavor contest," he says.

If you want to cook rather than sell barbecue condiments, you don't need to make your own sauces and rubs from scratch, says Mixon. Instead, choose from the many commercial products. "My recommendation to anybody coming into competitive barbecuing is to pick out a good sauce and rub, and stick with it, because it's not worth trying to reinvent the wheel. If you have a flavor profile you want to do, somebody else has done it."

The Ribber City Sauce Company won a Scovie (hot sauce) Award in 2008 with its habanero-infused honey condiment. But mixing the wrong flavors can make your barbecue taste too strange for anyone to enjoy. Read on.