Every pitmaster knows that great BBQ flavor starts with wood smoke. However, wood smoke alone doesn’t give you the classic taste of Texas brisket or Carolina pulled pork. For that finishing touch, pitmasters turn to two classic methods of BBQ seasoning: dry rubs and BBQ sauces. The key to using rubs and sauce well is to realize that each has its own place and time! Using rubs and sauce at the right point in your cooking process will give you the flavor results you’re looking for, so let’s take at the question of dry rubs vs. sauce and when to use each.
A BBQ dry rub is a blend of spices and herbs that you apply to meat before cooking it. As the meat cooks, the juices in the meat absorb the spices and circulate them throughout the meat, ensuring the whole cut gets the same delectable flavor. Dry rubs can include all kinds of tasty seasonings, but they’ll often have some combination of the following:
Applying a dry rub isn’t hard. Start by patting the meat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water. Then, sprinkle a generous helping of the spice mix all over the meat and rub it in with your hands. Some people like to add a thin coat of olive oil to the meat first to help the rub stick better. Once it’s rubbed in thoroughly, you’re ready to make the magic happen.
Sauce has been a fundamental part of good BBQ since, well, forever. Whether it’s a thick and sweet Memphis-style, a bold and zesty golden BBQ sauce or a tangy Carolina-style sauce, BBQ sauce plays a big role in determining how the final product tastes. Typically, BBQ sauce is the last thing to go on the meat before it’s served. That’s because many BBQ sauces are on the sweet side, and sugar can burn or turn gummy if it’s left on the meat during the cooking process. Thus, most pitmasters don’t add the final sauce until the meat is almost or completely done cooking. When serving the meat, it’s common to put the sauce on the side so that guests can choose how much or which sauce they want.
Every pitmaster should also know about mop sauce, a special type of sauce that pitmasters apply to low-and-slow cuts like pork butt or ribs during cooking. Mop sauces are typically thinner and much less sweet than BBQ sauces, and their name comes from how they’re “mopped” onto the meat using a brush. Their recipes are often quite simple and use a wide variety of bases, from apple cider vinegar to beer.
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This question is less about choosing one side and more about timing. Specifically, you should know when each type of seasoning is appropriate to use on your BBQ! Here’s our basic guide to help you figure it out:
Every pitmaster needs a go-to arsenal of seasonings, and that’s exactly why we put together the Grilla Grills sauces and rubs collection! Check out our whole selection of delectable sauces and rubs, or browse all of our WiFi pellet grills to learn about the state-of-the-art grilling tech that Grilla Grills can bring to your patio.
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