When it comes to barbecuing chicken, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is when to apply the BBQ sauce. The timing can greatly impact the flavor and texture of the chicken. In this article, we’ll discuss the different approaches and help you determine when to put BBQ sauce on your chicken.

Marinating vs. Saucing

Before we dive into the timing, it’s important to understand the difference between marinating and saucing. Marinating involves soaking the chicken in a mixture of ingredients, such as spices, oils, and acids, to enhance its flavor and tenderness. On the other hand, saucing refers specifically to applying BBQ sauce during or after cooking to add a rich and tangy taste.

Before Cooking

One option is to apply BBQ sauce before you start cooking your chicken. This method allows the sauce to penetrate into the meat while it cooks, resulting in a flavorful and moist dish. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using this approach:

  • Caramelization: When you apply BBQ sauce before cooking, it has more time to caramelize on the surface of the chicken. This creates a delicious crust that adds depth of flavor.
  • Burning: On the flip side, BBQ sauce contains sugar which can easily burn at high heat. To prevent burning, it’s important to monitor your grill or oven temperature closely.
  • Tenderness: While marinating can help tenderize the meat, applying BBQ sauce before cooking may result in slightly drier chicken compared to other methods.

During Cooking

If you prefer your chicken with a sticky glaze or want more control over the sauce’s texture, applying BBQ sauce during cooking might be the way to go. This approach offers the following benefits:

  • Control: By applying BBQ sauce during cooking, you have more control over the thickness and consistency of the sauce. You can brush it on lightly for a subtle flavor or apply multiple layers for a bolder taste.
  • Tenderness: Applying BBQ sauce during cooking helps keep the chicken moist and tender since it doesn’t have as much time to dry out compared to pre-saucing.

After Cooking

Another option is to wait until your chicken is fully cooked before applying BBQ sauce. This method allows you to enjoy the natural flavors of the chicken first and then enhance them with a savory layer of sauce. Here are some advantages of saucing after cooking:

  • Texture: By adding BBQ sauce after cooking, you can achieve a sticky and glossy texture without worrying about burning or excessive caramelization.
  • Flavor Customization: Saucing after cooking allows you to taste test your chicken before deciding how much sauce to add. You can even offer different types of sauces on the side for individuals to choose from.

The Verdict

In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to when you should put BBQ sauce on chicken. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and desired outcome.

If you enjoy a deeply caramelized crust, consider applying the sauce before cooking. For more control over flavor intensity and tenderness, opt for saucing during cooking. And if you prefer a customizable experience or want to avoid any potential burning, save saucing for after cooking.

Experiment with different methods to find your preferred way of saucing chicken, and don’t be afraid to mix it up depending on your mood or the occasion. Happy grilling!