Tips for Building Better Barbecue

Want the secret behind more flavorful barbecue? Up the ante by applying spice rubs, sauces and mops.

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Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Sarah Copeland ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Steps to Better Barbecue

Barbecue — that low-and-slow method of cooking that's all the rage — requires more than just time to turn out tasty meats. The key to flavor-infused foods? The careful application of rubs and sauces. Read on for tips on when they should be applied, and find out which ingredients make a big impact.

Maximize the Flavor of Spices

To get the most mileage out of your spices, don't just go with the preground store-bought option. Extract more flavor from your spices by buying them whole and then toasting them in the oven or in a dry skillet. 

Grind Spices Before Applying

Grinding toasted spices with a heavy pot or spice grinder right before using them will add a whole new dimension to your marinade or rub. 

Build Your Own Spice Rub

When making a spice rub, it's important to include the basics for heat, spice and color. But don't be afraid to get creative. Three secret ingredients that add a ton of flavor are coffee grounds, smoked pepper and ground dried apples. For even more ideas, flip through this gallery of spice rub ingredients and tips for making your own rub.

See More Photos: Build Your Own Spice Rub

How Much Rub?

Every cut of meat will require a different amount of spice rub. A good rule of thumb is to slowly apply the rub, and stop when the meat looks evenly covered and can't hold any more rub. Avoid glopping on the rub to the point where it's falling off — and remember, the amount you put on is the amount you'll end up eating. 

How to Apply Rub

Although the name implies otherwise, gently apply the rub to your meat instead of, well, rubbing it in, to avoid damaging the delicate surface of your protein. You need only apply the rub 15 to 20 minutes before cooking to ensure a flavorful crust, but for a more intense flavor, let your meat sit refrigerated overnight in the rub (minus the salt, which would dry out your food).

Store Extra Rub

If you love the spice rub you made, make extra. Spice rubs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several months; letting moisture into the container will result in clumps. If you do end up with clumps, don't panic! Just regrind the rub in a food processor, or place in a plastic bag and roll it out with a rolling pin. 

Customize Store-Bought Sauce

Looking to punch up your store-bought barbecue sauce in a pinch? Try whisking in some mustard powder, cayenne pepper, jalapenos or horseradish for extra kick, or lime or lemon juice for a bright acidity. For an Asian-flavored barbecue, stir in lemongrass, ginger or Asian chili sauce. Just make sure to keep an eye on the consistency — you don't want your sauce to become too runny or thick.

When to Add Sauce

When to sauce your meat is a matter of kitchen science, of regional style (Kansas City-style ribs mean sauce on the side while Memphis wet ribs are basted with sauce) and of personal preference. If your sauce includes sugar in any form, use it near the end and watch the heat so it doesn't burn. 

Use Both a Rub + a Sauce

If you can't decide between having a hard, flavored crust or the tangy glaze of barbecue sauce, the good news is you don't have to. Barbecued ribs lend themselves perfectly to both methods of flavoring meat. As a fatty cut, ribs take well to spice rubs, but we love our ribs with some sticky barbecue sauce too. Just apply the rub as you normally would before cooking, and then brush the glaze on in the last 5 minutes on the grill to achieve the perfect crusty, gooey ribs. 

When To Use a Mop Sauce

While glazing with barbecue sauce in the last few minutes adds fast flavor, mop sauces are best for flavoring tough meats you're going to be cooking for long periods of time. Thinner than barbecue sauces, mop sauces are typically made from beer, vinegar or apple cider, and are basted onto the meat every 20 minutes using a small mop or brush, ensuring maximum flavor infusion throughout the cooking process. 

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