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Dan Hixon, Pitmaster – 3 Eyz BBQ

Posted By: Richard Wachtel
Published: September 15, 2011


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This week’s Meet the BBQ Pro which is brought to you by Tucker Cooker, is Dan Hixon. Dan is the Pitmaster of 3 Eyz BBQ. Some of you might recognize his name as he was on TLC’s PitMaster Season #2. Dan is also the head cook of 3 Eyz BBQ and one of two founding members. While not a classically trained chef, Dan continues his quest to perfect competition BBQ and has been observed competing across the country in as many as 23 competitions per year. Dan attributes his devotion to BBQ as being critical to maintaining his well sought after physique. When not Q’ing, Dan can be found working as an environmental consultant, playing poker, monitoring his fantasy football teams, listening to music, dreaming up the next award winning BBQ spice rub and spending time with his wife and dog, Snoop.My first question that I always ask my guests for the Meet the Pros Series, is what made you start to barbecue?

Dan Hixon: I think it was sort of a natural progression. As soon as I moved away from home I started cooking. And pretty badly at first, lol. I lived in an apartment without a place to cook outside, so I started using the little indoor type grills to cook up hot dogs, burgers, steaks, etc. Once I bought my house and had a deck, it was on. I bought a cheap offset from a local chain store and started playing around. I cooked ribs and chicken on it and wasn’t happy with the results. Way too much fuel was needed and the darn thing just wasn’t getting the job done. That was then “donated” to my father in law and I bought a brinkman. I think this was really the turning point for me because I started to really want to cook better BBQ. I started reading, watching TV shows and discovered forums like The BBQ Brethren.

Why do you love Competition Barbecue and also just grilling and barbecuing during the off season?

Dan Hixon: Competition BBQ is simply put…..awesome. It’s the perfect mix of cooking, competitive outlet, hanging with friends and camping. I also love it because it’s not easy. I love a challenge, love to push myself and competition BBQ provides this.

Sadly, doing so many contests a year (20-25 each of the last 2 years) plus working a 40+ hour full time job has actually decreased my non-competition BBQing and grilling. But, when it comes to a steak or a burger I still find time to grill those up!

Why do you think that both competition barbecue and outdoor cooking has grown in popularity?

Dan Hixon: I think TV has a lot to do with it. Cooking shows used to be all about cooking inside using an oven, or in a frying pan. Now you have shows that focus on BBQ and grilling and even shows like chopped, top chef and next food network star that have episodes about BBQ and grilling. And people watch TV……

How and why did you start to participate in competition barbecue?

Dan Hixon From TLC's BBQ Pitmaster Show

Dan Hixon From TLC's BBQ Pitmaster Show

 Dan Hixon: I’m one of those people that starting watching BBQ shows on TV. I remember watching a Las Vegas competition where Rod Grey won GC. I remember watching Myron Mixon cook whole hog at Memphis in May. And I remember drinking a beer on my couch saying to myself, “I can do that…”

So, when a friend told me about a tailgate rib cookoff in Bel Air, MD I entered. I got my butt beat, with something like a 14 place finish out of 16 teams. I was hooked. Why? Because I am competitive and I NEEDED to improve. But why compete against people that aren’t the best I had thought. Instead, I looked in the next parking lot and saw the pro teams and determined that that (the KCBS competition) was what I was going to enter next. [Dan – It seems that the same thing happened to me!!]

So, fast forward about 6 months after much research, practice, visiting more contests, picking people’s brains. Our team (3eyz BBQ) won first place in chicken and 10th place in pork at our first KCBS competition in Salisbury, MD.

Just yesterday, we won 1st place chicken again, our 200th KCBS award. It still feels great!

What do you like the most about barbecue competitions?

Dan Hixon: What I like most is that it’s not easy, it hurts, it’s tiring and it can be rewarding. I often say if competition BBQ was easy everybody would be doing it. That rings true when my friends stop over and say things like, “how can this be fun, its SOOO much work!” And I have to agree. Creating award winning BBQ consistently is a full time job. Organization is needed, patience, planning, commitment, and a solid support system. So for me, BBQ competitions are an outlet for my competitive nature.

What was your greatest accomplishment in the Barbecue World so Far?

Dan Hixon: Geez. This sounds like I’m retired. I believe my greatest accomplishment is yet to come as I’m really just getting warmed up doing competitions. But if you’re asking what is my greatest accomplishment to date, I’d have to say my KCBS Team of the Year 5th place rib finish in 2009.

What was it like to participate in TLC’s Pitmaster Show? What was the greatest challenge for you and your team in participating on the show?

Dan Hixon:

It was awesome to compete on TLC’s BBQ Pitmaster and a bit daunting. I mean, how exactly does one compete 2000 miles away from home and be prepared to cook anything? Those were our exact instructions!

So for us, the logistics involved were our greatest challenge. I mentioned the distance involved, but we also needed equipment, time off work, ingredients (to cook anything of course), etc. Thankfully with a ton of help from Thom Emery (our west coast teammate) we were able to make it happen.

Once Chris Hall, Dan McGrath, Thom and I were there it was like a new world. We were now the “talent” and had a dedicated producer and camera woman. We had to learn how to work with a microphone on, how to interact with a camera in your face, how to maneuver around the set which was cramped. Oh yea, and how to survive the fast balls and curve balls thrown at us during a live competition for $100,000 that millions of people would see. Pretty intense stuff.

Where you Nervous in Making a Turducken? and have you ever made a turducken before?

Dan Hixon: Ahhh yea, scared shi*tless would be another way to put it. I mean, I at least knew what it was (several competitors did not), but I certainly had never cooked one before. That is one huge ball of meat and other stuff that has to be cooked safely. I mention safety, because you can cook a whole beef roast rare and that ok. Try turning in a perfectly cooked Turkey and Duck with rare chicken and see how that works…. So, proper cooking was a necessity.

In re-watching the episode, you slow cooked the full duck, looking back did you think that was a mistake?

Dan Hixon: My short answer, no. But that’s not much fun is it?  I’m a bit confused actually. If the challenge had been pork ribs, I would have BBQ’d and turned in pork ribs, bone and all, sliced but otherwise untouched. Now, I guess I could have deboned those ribs, ground the meat and turned in a pork burger. But to me, that’s not the challenge.

And that’s how I feel. I think 3 of the competitors took the challenge at face value and ran with it. I think the true challenge and why we had so much time was to cook the whole bird(s). hat said, turning in a Turkey, Chicken and Duck roulade certainly seemed to work for the 4th competitor.

What is the “must have” tool for every pitmaster?

Dan Hixon:I think the absolute must have tool is a BBQ Guru temperature controller. It serves multiple purposed that I feel are critical. You can keep track of the temperature of your meat while it’s in the cooker and it keeps your pit at your set temperature so you can get some rest during long cooks.

What is one thing that the public doesn’t know about that you would like to share?

Dan Hixon: As far as cooking goes, I am completely self taught. No culinary training at all. If you have a passion for something (like I do for competitive BBQ) go for it and make it happen!


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