What You Can Do To Thicken Runny BBQ Sauce

If summertime is here, that means BBQ season is here, too, since warm weather provides the perfect backdrop for backyard picnics, cookouts, and BBQs. For those who haven't fired up the grills or smokers since last summer, however, or stirred up some delicious homemade BBQ sauce, it may take a few tries to get back into optimal BBQ form. Don't hear what we're not saying, though. If you're BBQing, friends and/or family will be invited, and if there's a slight error in execution after a long layoff ⁠⁠— say the BBQ sauce is a bit on the runny side ⁠⁠— well, there are definitely ways to fix that.

Because let's be honest, a fix is needed when it comes to runny BBQ sauce. Runny BBQ sauce just doesn't get it done, whether it's homemade or store-bought. The whole point of the sauce is to coat the meat and enhance its flavor (be it pork ribs, beef brisket, or the like), not to simply run off uselessly onto the plate in a watery little puddle. The good news, of course, is that fixing runny BBQ sauce isn't really all that difficult once you know a couple of tips and tricks. Whether you've whisked it in a bowl, or are simmering it on the stove, you're probably only a step or two away from the thick and delicious BBQ sauce you desire. And as Food Fire Friends notes, the ingredients you need to accomplish this task are likely already in your kitchen.

Tips for thickening runny BBQ sauce

Before you start thinking about BBQ side dishes like baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw, first you need to fix the runny BBQ sauce. The simplest method to thicken runny sauces, according to Food Fire Friends, is a basic reduction. This will thicken your sauce and concentrate flavor through evaporation, and it follows the same "low and slow" credo that distinguishes all good BBQ. Set the stove on low heat and leave the saucepan on for a good 30 minutes, uncovered of course to aid the process of evaporation.

Reduction is step one. Step two is adding one of the common thickening agents for BBQ sauce. Per The Online Grill , both flour and cornstarch offer a welcomed thickening to a runny BBQ sauce without any unwelcome flavors. Cornstarch is generally the more effective of the two ⁠⁠— as much as double the thickening power, says The Spruce Eats ⁠⁠— but it doesn't hold up as well to the acids in tomato sauce. Flour is thus a more sensible choice for most tomato-based BBQ sauces.

To introduce the starch element into your runny BBQ sauce, don't just toss some flour into the sauce and stir. Instead, first create a slurry by mixing flour and water in a bowl (The Online Grill recommends 2 tablespoons of flour to 1/4 cup of water), then add the solution to the sauce while it's simmering.

While there are other ways to boost your BBQ sauce's runny texture and consistency, start with reduction and some added starch, which should achieve the desired results; that is, thick, delicious sauce.