Why Rachael Ray Uses Brown Sugar In Her Sloppy Joes Seasoning

Rachael Ray's prominence on American TV screens was cemented by her focus on simple home cooking. There was no "professional chef" in a ridiculously large kitchen; it was accessible and simple for everyone. Therefore, it makes sense that, rather than providing a complicated chemical explanation for including brown sugar in her Sloppy Joes recipe, Ray just says it's because "Sloppy Joes, they're a little bit sweet, right?"

There is a nifty food science reason for using brown sugar, though, and Rachael Ray is by no means the only person who uses it for Sloppy Joes. Sugar is a natural tenderizer, so using it as part of a rub is a great way to get tender meat. Ray, for example, combines brown sugar with a grill seasoning that includes garlic, onion, black pepper, coriander, mustard seed, and paprika. By combining the sugar with plenty of spice, Ray ensures her meat is packed full of flavor and moisture.

If you don't have brown sugar in the cupboard, you could still use white for sweetness, but you'd be missing out on the unique flavor offered by the molasses present in brown sugar. Molasses is what gives barbecue sauce its signature richness, and also infuses more moisture into the ground beef. So if you want your Sloppy Joes to be even sloppier, brown sugar is the way to go. Ray says that both light and dark brown sugar would work, but keep in mind that the darker the sugar, the more molasses.

Use tomato sauce and red peppers to sweeten the deal

In order to really enhance the sweetness of her sloppy Joes, Ray doesn't stop at brown sugar. She also adds red peppers and tomato sauce, singing the praises of the red pepper's "nice and sweet" natural flavor and saying she uses a little tomato sauce because "it's got a little bit of sugar going through it."

However, when you're working with this many sweetening ingredients, you may end up going too far, so be sure to taste your food as you go. Letting one flavor overwhelm the others is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when cooking Sloppy Joes — you want the perfect balance of sweet and meaty.

If you're whipping up your own Sloppy Joes and you find you've used too much sugar, folks on the r/AskCulinary subreddit have advice on balancing the taste and saving your dinner. One user recommended using soy sauce or umami seasoning, using the hints of salt to level out the sweetness. If you don't mind adding a bit of extra heat, another commenter said to "try a squeeze of mustard." Sloppy Joes tend to include some mustard anyway, so it won't negatively impact the overall taste of the meal if you add an extra dollop.