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7 Tips for Better Barbecue from a BBQ Master

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The days are getting longer, the weather’s getting warmer … time to fire up the grill! We asked Myron Mixon—a.k.a. the winningest man in barbeque, who started cooking with his dad when he was just 9 and has earned a staggering 1700 trophies in his career—for some tips to help you nail it this barbecue season.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Barbecuing isn’t as easy as throwing some meat on a grill. “It is important to research and understand the process,” Mixon says. When he first started in competitions, he says, he had only trial and error to guide him, but now, there are many avenues available to the novice BBQ chef. “There is so much information out there,” he says. “Read cookbooks, take classes, search the Internet, watch shows. It will make you a better pitmaster.” It also helps to have a working knowledge of your equipment, so don't be afraid to read the user's manual!

2. ALWAYS, ALWAYS PREP.

“Prepping is very important in barbecuing,” Mixon says. It encompasses everything from selecting the cut and quality of your meat to how you cut up that meat to flavoring your future meal with seasoning and marinades. How well you prep, he says, directly translates to how delicious your meal is: “Great prep, great barbecue.”

3. HAVE A MEAT THERMOMETER—AND USE IT.

A meat thermometer is a must, for one very simple reason: “The most common mistake made in barbecuing is undercooking or overcooking,” Mixon says. “The best cooks use an internal meat thermometer to make sure the product is cooked perfectly.”

4. PICK THE RIGHT SAUCE FOR YOUR MEAT …

Mixon likes vinegar-based sauces on pork, mustard-based sauces on poultry, and tomato-based spicy sauce on beef. “[Avoid] any sauce that's so overpowering that it masks the natural flavor of the meat,” he says.

5. … AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT WITH FLAVORS.

“A little twist to flavors for your barbecue can be as simple as adding puréed fresh fruit to the sauce before being applied to the meat,” Mixon says. He recommends things like blueberries, strawberries, and applesauce.

6. KEEP THE SIDES SIMPLE.

“For me, BBQ is a simple food with simple ingredients and the process is easy,” Mixon says. “My [side] dishes are the same.” He makes his mom’s fish slaw, which is made of coarse cut cabbage, diced tomatoes and onions, mayo, salt and pepper, and his peach BBQ beans, which he creates using baked beans, peach pie filling, and red bell peppers.

7. AND REMEMBER, YOU’RE THE BOSS.

The one thing to remember when you’re making barbecue, Mixon says, is to “always cook and flavor the barbecue the way you, the pitmaster, like it. Your grill, your yard, your way.”

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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