The Real Reason Your BBQ Sauce Keeps Burning

While the aroma from the fire and meat on a grill can make people's stomachs grumble, burnt BBQ sauce may not add to that appeal. Although grilling is a cooking method that can impart a charred flavor, no one wants to burn that sauce. According to The Spruce Eats, when sugar reaches a temperature of around 265 F, it may start to burn. A quick glance at store-bought barbecue sauces will reveal that one common ingredient is sugar (via Jake's Famous Foods). So cooking BBQ sauce at a high temperature can make that sugar burn and, in turn, create a bitter flavor that is not appetizing.

Since the ingredients in the barbecue sauce are not going to change, it is imperative to keep a keen eye on the grilling temperature. One option is smoking the meat at a lower heat, which will allow you to add sauce without burning it. The Spruce Eats notes that you can also keep the sauce on the side as a condiment rather than cooking with it. Since there really isn't an easy fix to remove that burnt sauce, it is easiest to avoid the burnt possibilities in the beginning. But even if you go the riskier route, smart grilling techniques can keep that temperature range in check and help to avoid burning the sugar in the BBQ sauce.

Some easy ways to avoid burning BBQ sauce

Understanding how and when to apply BBQ sauce can be key to avoiding that acrid taste. For example, there is a difference between marinating meat and saucing it. While Jake's Famous Foods recommends marinating the meat in sauce for 1 to 2 hours, it suggests that excess sauce be removed before cooking since the sauce has already imparted flavor through the marinade. More importantly, if the temperature rises above the burning point, that extra sauce layer can burn because of the sugar, making for an unpleasant experience.

Speaking with Today Food,  the host of the show "Carnivorous," Courtney Rada, suggested adding the sauce about 5 minutes before the meat is done cooking is ideal. At that point, it won't be heated long enough to burn but will still create a crust around your meat. (Similarly, The Spruce Eats suggests adding the sauce 10 minutes before the food's finished cooking.) That means cooks need to recognize when food is close to being done. Using a good meat thermometer can help to gauge when to take the meat off the grill. After all, burnt sauce and overcooked meat are never a winning combination. We can't promise that this info will make you a great pitmaster overnight. That may take a lot of trial and error. So hopefully, everyone in the house loves having a lot of barbecues.