When to Apply BBQ Sauce

Grilling is a serious job. And, there are endless meat options, cooking styles, and BBQ sauce techniques to consider before picking up the tongs. Primarily, when cooking various meats on the grill or in a smoker, the timing and the way in which you apply BBQ sauce is crucial. Not to mention, what type of sauce you use should be considered.

The most popular meats to grill are chicken, ribs, and beef. So, let’s dive into these three types of meat and find out how to correctly apply the sauce. Hopefully, you learn a thing or two about grilling juicy and delicious meat.


BBQ sauce to chickenFirst, let’s start off with the chicken. When cooking chicken, the way the sauce is applied is important. Most grillers will apply the sauce first and then continue to baste the chicken with sauce while it cooks. This is a common practice, but it can lead to burning your chicken. You want the chicken to slowly cook to perfection and then add the sauce during the final 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. This is true for adding sauce to ribs as well while grilling or smoking. This provides more of a tasty coating rather than burnt skin.

Steps to BBQ Saucing Chicken

  • When coating the chicken, be sure to use a solid coating. You want to baste the chicken with just enough sauce to cover it, but not too much that it is drenched in BBQ sauce.
  • Coat one side and then allow the chicken to cook for 4 to 5 minutes before turning the meat over and coating the other side.
  • Choose a thick sauce. The best sauce type for chicken is one that is very thick. A vinegar or juice-based sauce is too runny and thin, and won’t cover the chicken as well. A thick BBQ sauce ensures that the chicken is fully coated and cooks evenly.


Now, let’s get to the beef. When cooking a BBQ beef entree, you want to apply the BBQ sauce early. Slice into the meat lightly with thin lines on the top and then coat it fully with a BBQ sauce. The thin lines allow the sauce to seep down into the meat for a tastier beef. Most importantly, you want the sauce to cook directly into the meat, rather than to add it later (like the chicken).

Steps to BBQ Saucing Beef

  • With beef, it is better to apply the BBQ sauce before cooking, and then allow the meat to cook for a few hours.
  • As the meat cooks, add sauce every hour.
  • During the final stages of grilling, you can remove the meat from the grill. Then, add more sauce and wrap it in aluminum foil. The beef can then resume cooking longer while covered on the grill. That way, the last layer of BBQ sauce sticks on the meat and helps it taste even more flavorful.


BBQ sauce 2Finally, let’s consider grilling pork. When applying BBQ sauce to pork, such as pork ribs, it’s important to show a little restraint. Instead, let the meat and smoke flavor come through first. This is just long enough to heat and cook the sauce (possibly even carmelize it) without it burning. Once you are ready for the sauce, you will need about 1/2- 3/4 of a cup of BBQ sauce to fully cover the pork.

Steps to BBQ Saucing Pork

  • Apply the sauce after the meat has been cooked.
  • Depending on the cooking temperature and the type of sugar, a sweet sauce can get gummy or even burn. So, apply the sauce at the end, about 15-30 minutes before removing the pork to add rich flavor.
  • If you can, warm the sauce in a pan or in a microwave to take the chill off.
  • While brushing the sauce on is a must, don’t drown your pork. Instead, apply several thin coatings to build layers.

When it comes to grilling, there are many techniques for creating the perfect meal. Find BBQ sauces you enjoy and keep these tips in mind to enhance the taste of your chicken or beef. And, whether you are hosting or just attending a backyard BBQ this season, there are a few essentials that will make your party one of the best on the block. Check out our list of must-have Maryland backyard BBQ basics.