Cooking Class: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

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Sauce vs. Marinade

It’s important not to confuse a marinade with a sauce. A marinade is a vinegary, acidic mixture used to treat meat before it’s cooked; the vinegar’s acid breaks down the fibers in the meat, tenderizing it and adding flavor. A marinade should never be used as a basting sauce at the end of cooking or as a table condiment. Unless you’ve boiled the marinade, bacteria from the raw meat could still be active.

Barbecue sauce, on the other hand, contains a naturally high level of sugar from the tomatoes (and, in most cases, additional sugar on top of that) and should be applied only to meat that’s been almost fully cooked. If sweet sauces are used to baste meat before or during the cooking process, they will caramelize and burn it.