Why You Shouldn't Use Sugary Sauces On Grilled Vegetables

Grilled food always seems to taste better. In fact, grilling has become one of Americans' preferred ways of cooking, especially during the pandemic. As many were urged to gather outside, the NPD Group states that there was a 39% increase in grill and smoker sales between 2020 and 2021. But, while grilling is a great way to impart flavor, you should probably steer clear of sugary sauces to marinade vegetables if you don't want to ruin your cookout.

Cooking vegetables like mushrooms, asparagus, and peppers can help digestion as heat softens the cellulose fiber, supplying more antioxidants like carotenoids and ferulic acid, along with helping the body better absorb nutrients, explains Scientific American. However, this applies mainly to boiling and steaming.

Grilling, on the other hand, may also break down cell walls, but Healthline reports that the high heat achieved through barbecuing may produce toxins like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can be carcinogenic. Grilled vegetables coated in syrupy sauces are particularly at risk — but why?

Sugar scorches veggies

Although adding a sprinkle of sugar could help tenderize meat by retaining moisture in addition to creating caramelization during roasting, the same isn't necessarily true of grilled vegetables. Despite the fact that grilling can add depth to your produce, if you're not careful, it could also lead to disaster. 

Given that veggies tend to be a bit more delicate than meat, they are much more susceptible to mishaps. According to The Kitchen, sugary glazes like sweet and sour sauce, barbecue sauce or even balsamic reduction have a tendency to burn more quickly, which is why it's better to stick to coating your vegetables with oil or vinegar-based blends. 

However, if you have a penchant for sweet stuff, Bon Appétit recommends reducing the amount of sugar in your marinade recipes or basting vegetables only during the last few minutes of cooking. Of course, it also probably couldn't hurt to finish them off over a slightly lower flame. Happy grilling!