When it comes to grilling this summer, cooks should get a little saucy: Jasmine Mangalaseril

Scotty Yates is a private chef in Guelph who works with breweries, distilleries, and cideries to create custom barbeque sauces.  (Submitted by Scotty Yates - image credit)
Scotty Yates is a private chef in Guelph who works with breweries, distilleries, and cideries to create custom barbeque sauces. (Submitted by Scotty Yates - image credit)

Summer is prime time for weekend grill masters to showcase their searing skills while brushing up on their go-to sauces.

Sweet tomato-based U.S.-style barbecue sauces are generally the norm for most Canadians, but if you're looking for more flavours and influences to satisfy your cravings, other options like sweet and hot honey-sriracha; fresh, herby Argentine chimichurri or umami-rich Japanese sauces are easily available.

Slathering chops and kebabs is an easy way to add flavour your food, but there are better ways sauces can bring out the best of your 'que.

The bitter in the sweet

Two tablespoons of some commercial sauces have more sugar than you'll find in one doughnut and that sweetness easily turns bitter.

"If you have too much sugar content, the sauce actually burns a lot quicker than it actually cooks the meat," said Scotty Yates, a private chef in Guelph who works with breweries, distilleries, and cideries to create custom barbecue sauces.

"So, you're going to get kind of a charry, bitter taste to it because the sugars burn faster."

Saucing too early is a common mistake. The key is a few light brushings.

"When I do meats, I'll do a light baste. And then I'll do a little bit part way through. And then, at the end, I'll do one more quick baste." Yates said.

Marinades should be thin

Tim Borys, chef and co-owner of Kitchener's The Lancaster Smokehouse, said another common error is using sauces as a marinade.

"A lot of people will marinate a raw rack of ribs in some sauce. I just think you're asking for unevenness. You're asking for it to dry out," Borys said. "You're asking for overly charred and overly burnt bits. You're asking for the outside to be kind of dry and maybe a little bit tough."

If you want to use your thick barbecue sauce as a marinade, thin it and add an acid like a vinegar to help tenderise the meat.

Vinegary sauces make good marinades but save sugary ones for the end of the cook or the table.

"Basically, the rule of thumb is based on the sugar content," Borys said. "If you're going to have a high sugar content, then it needs to go on either at the very end or it needs to be served on the side."

Tim Borys is the chef and co-owner of Kitchener’s The Lancaster Smokehouse.
Tim Borys is the chef and co-owner of Kitchener’s The Lancaster Smokehouse.

Tim Borys is the chef and co-owner of Kitchener’s The Lancaster Smokehouse. (Jasmine Mangalaseril/CBC)

Grilling your veg

To bring more flavour to veggies, use a rub on them before grilling them hot and fast. Then, you can brush or spray sauce on at the end.

For larger vegetables or root vegetables, consider going low and slow. Rub a head of cauliflower or rutabaga with olive oil and a spice rub before cooking it at low heat or in your smoker.

"Once it's tender, it would be great to then put on a sweeter sauce and put it onto the broiler or give it a fast grill," suggested Borys. "You're going to get that same caramelization but the whole point is you don't want to burn it from doing that earlier in the cook."

Global grilling inspirations in Waterloo region

There's a world of grilling to inspire your next cookout. Here are three to set your tongs a-tingling.

Jamaican Jerk

Bursting with fresh herbs, aromatics, dried spices and often a splash of vinegar, jerk sauce can be a marinade, condiment or dip. Its spice level ranges from mild to blazing hot.

Nicky Amos is the owner of The Caribbean Kitchen in Kitchener.
Nicky Amos is the owner of The Caribbean Kitchen in Kitchener.

Nicky Amos is the owner of The Caribbean Kitchen in Kitchener. (Jasmine Mangalaseril/CBC)

Nicky Amos, owner of The Caribbean Kitchen in Kitchener, says "jerking is an expression of your personality."

"These things can be adjusted to what you like. So, if you feel like you're a person who loves to eat really spicy things, then of course you're going to add some scotch bonnet pepper or whichever pepper you're using," Amos said.

You can find locally made jerk sauces by Phlippens and Island Son in some local independent retailers.

KBBQ

Korean barbecue is about lightly charred marinated meats that complement dipping sauces.

Jin Hwa Chye, owner of Kitchener's Taste of Seoul and Taste of Seoul Express, said ssamjang (gochujang, sesame, fermented soy and aromatics) is the most popular, but there are others.

"We also mix salt and pepper and some sesame oil, too. But we normally use soy sauce-based sauces," Chye said.

Fruit adds sweetness and flavour to Korean marinades.

"Ground fruit, like pear pineapple, and apple with soy sauce, sweetens up the marinade for beef or pork," she said.

Her sauces, marinades and vinaigrettes are available at her shops.

Jin Hwa Chye, right, and her husband Jason Whalen. Chye is the owner of Kitchener’s Taste of Seoul and Taste of Seoul Express.
Jin Hwa Chye, right, and her husband Jason Whalen. Chye is the owner of Kitchener’s Taste of Seoul and Taste of Seoul Express.

Jin Hwa Chye, right, and her husband Jason Whalen. Chye is the owner of Kitchener’s Taste of Seoul and Taste of Seoul Express. (Jasmine Mangalaseril/CBC)

Ghanian grilling

Edwina Dei-Davis owns Kojo's Korner, a Ghanaian takeout in the Kitchener Market. Her pop ups at TWB Brewing in Kitchener feature suya — a marinated grilled meat, coated in a peanut spice mix. And while barbecue sauces aren't traditional to Ghana's grilling culture, she's created some by melding Ghanaian and Canadian flavours.

"I was going through all of our seasonings to see which ones really spoke to me and where were they coming from. Did I want my onion powder to come from Ghana or was it okay coming from the local farmer? Do I want crushed peppers, or do I want Ashanti peppers?" explained Dei-Davis.

Her spice blends and sauces are available at her shop

Edwina Dei-Davis owns Kojo’s Korner, a Ghanaian takeout in the Kitchener Market.
Edwina Dei-Davis owns Kojo’s Korner, a Ghanaian takeout in the Kitchener Market.

Edwina Dei-Davis owns Kojo’s Korner, a Ghanaian takeout in the Kitchener Market. (Jasmine Mangalaseril/CBC)