Making homemade BBQ sauces, rubs and marinades

Making your own flavour enhancers at home is easy and allows for a lot of personal flair. Here are the basics of flavouring your barbecue with homemade marinades, rubs and sauces.

Making homemade BBQ sauces, rubs and marinades

Sauces

Let's start in the most familiar territory for barbecue novices: sauces. Like many great sauces, barbecue sauce is best used during cooking instead of as a dipping sauce at the meal. There are two schools of barbecue sauce:

  • Mop sauce is thinner and has a simpler flavour. Things like tomato juice, beer or Southern-style vinegar sauce act like bastes to bring moisture and flavour to the meat.
  • True barbecue sauce is the iconic, thick and sweet variety brushed onto the meat late in the cooking process to achieve caramelization.

Marinades

Marination happens prior to cooking, allowing a complex array of ingredients to impart deep, subtle flavours to the meat.

  • At minimum, a marinade is a source of fat (usually oil) and a source of acid such as vinegar or lemon juice.
  • The acid breaks down the meat a bit to tenderize it, while the fat adds moisture and distributes flavour.
  • Marinades are made with mixes of spices, ground mustard, wine, beer, peppers, herbs and a variety of other possible additions.
  • The fun of marinades is inventing new combinations, so experimentation is encouraged.

Rubs

Rubs are dry or semi-dry preparations that add a flavourful crust to the meat. The most commonly rubbed barbecue meat are the ribs, but the process works for any dish.

  • A dry rub is a combination of herbs and spices and often includes some form of sugar to help the ingredients adhere to the meat. For example, ground pepper, paprika, cayenne and brown sugar are fairly standard for classic Tennessee barbecue.
  • Rubs like Jamaican jerk are more of a paste. Pastes use fresh peppers and onions instead of dried ingredients to create a spicier, more potent flavour.

Barbecue aficionados have strong feelings about what kind of flavouring works best for certain kinds of meat, but the truth is that any barbecued meat can benefit from sauces, marinades or rubs. They all bring a lot of flavour to the party and are fun to make at home. All it takes are good spices, fresh herbs, a little sweet and a little tang.

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