Many individuals agree that the sauce on barbecued meat is like the icing on a cake. Gourmet barbecue sauces, rubs and marinades are commonly served on (or on the side of) the finished dish. Barbecue sauces are used to add flavor and sweeten the meat for a better tasting meal. The types of barbecue sauces available throughout the world are endless. Barbecue sauces, rubs and marinades are the three basic methods of seasoning and each brings its own unique element into the barbecuing experience.
Many individuals and families swear by barbecue sauce and some find it impossible to prepare meat without it. Popular types of BBQ sauce depend highly on the region, since many different areas have an opinion all their own. Barbecue sauces can are usually based with vinegar, pepper, tomato or mustard and can offer either a sweet or spicy taste to the dish. Some barbecue sauces also use alcohol such as bourbon or zinfandel to add flavor. Most BBQ sauces use a sweetener such as white sugar, brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup to add sweetness to the dish. Sugar burns easily and as a result, it is best to add the barbecue sauces during the last stage of grilling.
Barbecue rubs are available in two forms, wet and dry. A dry rub is often a combination of dry spices and herbs which are spread over the meat and rubbed into the surface. Wet rubs are simply dry rubs with a liquid (usually oil) which binds them together. When cooking for longer periods of time, wet rubs provide moisture to the meat so the meat does not become burnt or tough. Wet rubs are usually used on dishes such as fish or poultry since they do not have as much taste, whereas dry rubs are better suited for steak and pork. Most rubs contain paprika, black pepper, ground chili and garlic powder.
Marinades are seasonings which contain acidic ingredients such as vinegar, wine and citrus juice and are used to tenderize the meat. Marinades can be a combination of herbs, spices and vegetables and are used to add flavor to the dish. When you soak the meat into the marinade, the meat absorbs the ingredients and the result is a more flavorful and tender dish. The meat must soak in the marinade for a good part of the day or even overnight to ensure it has enough time to absorb its maximum capacity. Make sure you read the directions prior to marinating because some foods (like shrimp and fish) can become mushy and soggy if they are left in too long.
Regardless of which form of seasoning you choose, rubs, sauces and marinades add flavor and tenderness to all forms of meat. So give your BBQ a gourmet kick and add a gourmet BBQ sauce, rub or marinade to your next barbecue.
Gene Grohan is a contributing writer for various food related sites including Barbecues and Grills ? a site offering information about choosing barbecue grills and great BBQ recipes - and Gourmet Foods 101 - a site offering information about and gourmet foods, meats and wines including things like gourmet shrimp.