Do You Put BBQ Sauce on Before or After Grilling?

One of the age-old debates in the world of grilling is when to apply BBQ sauce. Should you slather it on before grilling or wait until after?

The answer may vary depending on personal preference and the type of meat you’re cooking. In this article, we’ll explore both options and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Applying BBQ Sauce Before Grilling

One school of thought argues that applying BBQ sauce before grilling helps to create a flavorful crust on the meat while keeping it moist. By brushing the sauce onto the meat before it hits the grill, you allow it to caramelize and develop a smoky, tangy flavor.


  • The sauce has more time to infuse into the meat, resulting in a stronger flavor.
  • The sugars in the sauce can caramelize, creating a delicious glaze.
  • It reduces the risk of overcooking or burning the sauce during grilling.


  • The sugars in the sauce can burn easily if cooked at high temperatures for too long.
  • If using a sugar-heavy sauce, it may cause flare-ups on the grill.

Applying BBQ Sauce After Grilling

The opposing viewpoint suggests that applying BBQ sauce after grilling allows for better control over its flavor intensity. By waiting until the meat is cooked through, you can brush on as much or as little sauce as desired, ensuring that it complements rather than overwhelms your dish.


  • Allows for customization of sauce intensity, catering to different taste preferences.
  • Minimizes the risk of burning or charring the sauce.
  • Provides a fresh and vibrant flavor to the finished dish.


  • The sauce may not penetrate the meat as deeply as when applied before grilling.
  • If applied too late in the cooking process, the sauce might not have enough time to heat up and meld with the flavors.

So, Which Method Is Best?

The truth is, there is no definitive answer. The decision of when to apply BBQ sauce ultimately comes down to personal preference and the type of dish you’re grilling. Some people enjoy the bold flavor that comes from applying it before grilling, while others prefer a lighter touch by adding it after.

To find your preferred method, consider experimenting with both techniques. Try marinating meat in BBQ sauce before grilling and see if you enjoy the result. Alternatively, grill your meat plain and brush on some sauce towards the end to determine which approach you prefer.

Final Thoughts

No matter when you choose to apply BBQ sauce, remember that it’s essential to use a high-quality sauce that complements your meat selection. Experimenting with different sauces and techniques will help you find your perfect balance of flavors. So fire up that grill, grab your favorite BBQ sauce, and get ready for a deliciously saucy adventure!