Why You Shouldn't Add Extra BBQ Sauce While Cooking Ribs

BBQ ribs are one of those foods that fit perfectly into the category of messy eating. Diners often ditch the utensils in favor of tearing off the smoky, tender meat from the bones, all of which are covered in sweet and sticky BBQ sauce. And if that sauce somehow ends up on popular plate pairings like mac and cheese or collard greens, then consider your taste buds blessed.

Now in terms of how that buttery, tender meat comes to fruition, well, that comes from its connective tissues, aka collagen, per The Human Spectator. This collagen breaks down into gelatin as ribs cook slowly over low heat, which provides "silky and moist textures" to the rib meat.

Now surely, if the ribs benefit from low and slow heat, then this goes for the BBQ sauce as well, right? Wrong. In fact, you shouldn't apply any sauce to your ribs until about 10 minutes before the ribs are done cooking, via Jake's Famous Foods. Here's why that is so.

No one likes burnt BBQ sauce

While it's tempting to slather BBQ sauce all over ribs, throw them on a grill or in the oven, and let the low and slow method work its magic, The Spruce Eats claims that this is a mistake because of the sauce's sugar content. Some of these sweeteners include molasses and brown sugar, which are prone to caramelization at 320 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperatures crank up to another 30 degrees, the sugars in the sauce start to burn, and you may end up with bitter-tasting ribs.

You might be thinking, "Well, doesn't this depend on the sauce?" True, no two BBQ sauces are alike, and Napoleon provides a handy chart for different types of sugars and their corresponding caramelization temperatures. For instance, if a BBQ sauce contains honey or some type of fruit, those sugars, which contain fructose, will start to caramelize at 230 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, cane sugar begins to caramelize at 320 degrees Fahrenheit since it's mostly made up of sucrose, per Science Direct.

Still, rather than memorizing which sugars caramelize at which temperatures, it's easier just to add the sauce right before the ribs are done cooking. That way, the sugars won't burn, and the BBQ sauce will taste exactly how it's supposed to: really damn good.