Just like cooking meat, applying barbecue sauce on the grill is an art form. Too much and you lose the flavor of the meat, too little and you don’t even taste that great sauce. When it comes to grilling with barbecue sauce, not only do you need to get the portions right, but you need to know when to apply the sauce for maximum effectiveness.
How Much Sauce?
When it comes to applying sauce, always show restraint. You want both the meat and any smoke that has been infused to shine through. Generally, one coat is enough, but two coats of sauce are the maximum. Ideally, you want enough sauce for both a solid coating and to serve at the table for those that like their meat a little saucier.
For meat that you will need to slice, be sure to sauce before you cut. For other sorts of meats like pulled pork, resist the urge to just dump huge amounts of sauce on. Leave the pulled pork plain and let the diners add the desired amount of sauce on themselves.
When to Sauce?
It is crucial to never sauce before the meat is actually ready or at least very close to ready. There are microbes on raw meat that can be potentially hazardous. Yes, they will get cooked away, but if you slather sauce onto raw meat, those microbes are then transferred onto your brush and back into your sauce bowl.
Not only that but adding the sauce too early will cause the sugars in the sauce to turn gummy or even burn completely. You want the sauce to caramelize, not burn. In order to do this, wait until the meat is ready, add the sauce, and continue to leave the meat to sit for a few minutes on low, indirect heat. A few black bits are good for flavor, but if the whole slab of meat turns black, you have gone too far in the wrong direction.