Best Grilling Sauces

June 09, 2023

With the arrival of warm weather comes the long-anticipated grilling season, waiting to awaken all of your senses. The warmth of the flames… The wafting of aromas breezing by… The seared perfection of the food… The sizzling sounds that tantalize your taste buds… 

The art of grilling has been a loved method of cooking for generations. Along with grilling, comes the use of various sauces. Continue reading to learn the ins-and-outs of grilling sauces. 


The History of Sauce

Europeans, known for being the first to ever document the use of sauces in cooking and eating, used to reserve the leftover juices from their meals. These juices would later be used to either create new meals (such as soups) or to collect any leftover bits of food to prevent food waste. Sauces were later used to add flavor to meats with little to offer.  

More specifically, BBQ sauce dates all the way back to the 17th century and was used primarily as a method of enhancing the process of grilling food. The original BBQ sauce consisted only of three ingredients: salt, pepper and vinegar. It was discovered that by using this BBQ sauce as a marinade prior to cooking, it would make the meat more tender, as well as adding a delicious flavor throughout. 


Sauce for Grilling

Today, sauces have become a staple in every American home. They play a huge role in producing properly cooked and flavorful meals. One of the most common times that sauces are used in cooking is when grilling. Sauces can help elevate your meal by: 

  • Marinating the meat prior to cooking to enhance the flavor
  • Marinating the meat prior to cooking to tenderize it throughout and prevent it from drying out
  • Slathering it on the meat just before removing it from the grill to increase flavor and prevent excess moisture loss
  • Serving as a dipping sauce after the meat is cooked

Remember that the cooking time of your meat plays a huge factor in determining whether you should use your BBQ sauce as a marinade or for dipping. 

  • For a marinade - best used on meats that take longer to cook. 
  • For slathering and dipping - better on meats that do not take as long to cook. 

Enhance Your Sauce When Grilling: BBQ Rubs

Many people prefer to use a BBQ rub, a BBQ sauce or a combination of both when grilling. If you are stuck trying to figure out which option is best for your next grilling session, it is best to educate yourself on the different types of rubs you can obtain.  

Dry Rub

A combination of many different spices working together in a harmonious manner to bring out the ultimate flavor of your choice of protein. Dry rubs are crucial for creating a crispy, flavorful bark to the exterior of meat, while sealing the juicy flavors on the interior. 

If you are looking for a delicious dry rub to add to your kitchen pantry, check out our Tocabe House Dry Rub, which is sure to produce the ultimate flavor profile of your next grilled meal! 

Wet Rub

Also a combination of many different spices working together in a harmonious manner, with the addition of a wet ingredient. Wet rubs are wonderful for use on dryer proteins (such as chicken) to retain moisture, so long as the wet rub is thick enough to adhere to the meat. 

However, If you are looking for a simpler spice that will still elevate the flavor of your grilled meat, try Sakari Farms Smoked Chili Salt. 

In case you want to use both a BBQ rub and a BBQ sauce, it is best to apply the BBQ rub to the meat, prior to grilling, so it has enough time to fully absorb. When you want to apply a BBQ sauce, it is best to apply as you are removing the meat from the grill. (This is discussed in further detail in the next section) Additionally, you can always serve your BBQ on the side for dipping purposes. 

The When & How of Applying BBQ Sauce

When you grill, it is important to focus on the type of protein you are grilling, as that will determine the best time in which to apply your BBQ sauce. Here is a brief overview of how to properly grill when using BBQ sauce: 

BBQ Chicken

This tends to be a rather dry protein and often it can be difficult to maintain the moisture within the chicken. For best results, you want the chicken to cook slowly. About 10 minutes prior to removing the chicken from the grill, you should apply your BBQ sauce (thicker sauce is best for chicken) thoroughly throughout. Allow the chicken to cook on the opposite side, about 5 minutes before removing it from the grill. By utilizing this timeline, you are less likely to burn your chicken and will result in having a crispy, outer coating. 

BBQ Pork

For pork, it is always best to allow the natural flavors to shine through first. You should only need to cook the sauce for a brief period of time, applying it to the pork 15-30 minutes before removing it from the grill. Try to apply the BBQ sauce in thin layers, rather than overcoating the pork. Remember that the more sugar contained in a BBQ sauce, the more likely it is to burn, so you will want to use a BBQ sauce that contains less sugar. 

BBQ Beef

Unlike chicken and pork, beef is a protein in which you will want to apply your BBQ early on in the grilling process. One helpful tip is to cut small slits throughout the top of the beef prior to slathering it in BBQ sauce. This process will help to ensure that the sauce is really soaking into the beef, which will greatly improve the overall BBQ flavor. Beef generally takes longer to cook so it is best to apply more BBQ every hour until it is done grilling. 

BBQ Bison

If you are tired of eating the same old cuts of meat over and over again, spice up your grilling game by cooking a bison steak next time! Bison cooks faster than beef so it is important to focus on the thickness of your meat to ensure the best grilling results. 

  • 1-inch thick bison steaks cook 6-8 minutes for rare or 8-10 minutes for medium. 
  • 1 ½-inch thick bison steaks cook 8-10 minutes for rare or 10-12 minutes for medium. 
  • 2-inch thick bison steaks cook 10-12 minutes for rare or 14-18 minutes for medium. 

(For some additional tips on how to best apply your BBQ sauce, keep reading!) 

  • Using a smaller sauce brush or a sauce mop will ensure a more even coat over the meat when grilling. 
  • Always use a light amount of pressure when you are applying the BBQ sauce to the meat. 
  • Warming up your BBQ sauce prior to applying it to the meat will help to maintain the appropriate temperature of the meat, rather than shocking an already hot meat with lukewarm or cold BBQ sauce. 
  • Do not forget about preventing cross-contamination when using BBQ sauce. Never use the same utensil that touched raw meat on a sauce that will not be heated properly prior to consumption. 
  • To thicken BBQ sauce, mix 1 cup of BBQ sauce with 2 tablespoons of flour and ¼ cup water. 
  • To thin BBQ sauce, mix 1 cup of BBQ sauce with 1 tablespoon of citrus juice or apple cider vinegar.  


For a Truly Unique Experience with BBQ Sauce

Try these earthy BBQ sauces from our Indigenous Marketplace.

Tocabe Huckleberry BBQ Sauce

Derived from the native plant, the huckleberry, this BBQ sauce is high in antioxidants, iron, potassium and vitamin C. We source our huckleberries directly from the Muckleshoot Nation of Washington state. If you have ever wondered where to buy Native American food, look no further and give this BBQ sauce a try with your next grilled meal!

Navajo Mike’s “Skinwalker Style” Spicy Southwest BBQ Sauce

If the ghost pepper does not frighten you, then this is the sauce for you! The incorporation of ghost peppers and dark chilis in this BBQ sauce is guaranteed to make your taste buds scream and your skin crawl. This is one of our Indigenous food staples that you will want to keep stocked in your kitchen pantry at all times.

Navajo Mike’s Skoden Golden BBQ Sauce

Derived from Tempe, Arizona, this prickly pear inspired BBQ sauce is a unique touch on the classic Golden-style. The taste of the Southwest gives it a subtle kick yet still retains the traditional flavors of a classic BBQ sauce and is perfect for any grilling occasion. 

Grilling is one of the most loved forms of cooking and no grilled meal is complete without an intensely flavorful BBQ sauce. Explore our Indigenous Marketplace to stock up on our unique and delicious Native American foods. The next time you grill, you will have all of your guests begging to know where you purchased your delicious bison, dry rubs and BBQ sauces! 

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