Why You Should Be Careful When Saucing Smoked Meat

There's no better way to get in touch with your inner carnivore than with a heaping serving of smoked meat. We're talking the likes of smoked brisket or country-style ribs paired with an ice-cold beer or refreshing cocktail (or better yet, both at the same time). But smoking meat can be time-consuming depending on what you're making, cooking for as little as an hour all the way up to 24 hours, according to The Homesteading Hippy – and that's not including prep work. So is it really worth all the effort and time it can take to smoke meat at home?

Yes, it really is. Totally Smokin' explains the reason you should bother smoking your own meat is that the cooking method is more efficient at absorbing flavors than plain old grilling, due to the extended time spent over the heat. Smoking also results in meat that comes out incredibly tender, as the fat has more time to render and the protein breaks down. 

Properly smoked meat will boast an excellent flavor and mouth-watering aroma in itself, but perhaps you're looking for something a little extra to elevate your dish. An amazing way to improve your smoked meat is by adding sauce to complement the final product, however, you may want to be wary when it comes to saucing, as one small misstep could ruin your meal.

Exercise caution when saucing smoked meat

Too much of a good thing can quickly turn unpleasant. This advice can be applied to almost anything in life, and it rings true for saucing smoked meats. The goal of sauce should be to supplement the meat, not alter its taste entirely, so you need to be sure to apply the correct amount.

Different cuts of meat will call for differing amounts of sauce, and BBQ Champs recommends you use a light hand when applying. In general, ¾ cup of sauce (or one to two coats per slide, according to PS Seasoning) is more than enough for a slab of ribs, while dishes like pulled pork only need a few tablespoons per serving. You'll want to be especially cautious when using sweeter sauces, which can easily overpower other flavors. And really, isn't the unique flavor of the meat the whole reason you went through the effort of smoking to begin with?

Wait to sauce, but don't wait too long

Using too much isn't the only saucing mistake that can be made when it comes to smoked meat, as knowing when to add the sauce can also make or break your dish. Barbecue world champion Melissa Cookston advised Food & Wine to only apply sauce during the final stages of cooking, stating that the sauce should be considered "an accompaniment — never cooked on the meat." Since smoking can take up to 24 hours, as mentioned above, applying sauce too early can result in burning (via BBQ Champs).

So if burnt sauce and up to a day of your time and energy wasted is a possibility when saucing smoked meat while it cooks, why not just wait till it's totally done and off the heat to add that final flavorful ingredient? PS Seasoning explains saucing your meat during the last moments of cooking helps the condiment stick to the meat and allows the sugars to caramelize, adding a deeper flavor to the dish that wouldn't be achieved if it was applied after. While you can of course wait if you'd like, the final outcome just won't be as delicious as smoked meat that has the sauce baked on for a short time.