You can have all the fire-dancers and live music you want, but if what you’re taking off the grill is flavorless or just a flaming piece of charcoal with a meat-like center, your gathering won’t go down in history in any kind of positive way. Below, we explore local barbecue sauces and go over the basics of grilling—two items to overlook at your own party peril.
On the Sauce: Sampling Utah’s own basting and marinating delights
When the grills of summer heat up, meat’s the main treat. And while some like their prime cuts simple, others love the accompaniment of a fine sauce or marinade. We sampled five Utah-made recipes—with grilled chicken and pork back ribs, just for the sake of variety—so you can put a local spin on your backyard preparations.
T&J Foods (TAndJFoods.com) of Washington, Utah, makes a variety of sauces, but the T&J’s All in One is aptly named. This deliciously tangy sauce has a wonderfully complex flavor, combining citrus juice with vegetables like carrot and parsnip to complement the tomato base. It was a wonderful complement to the chicken, yet also had just the right amount of spice to stand up to the ribs.
The similarly versatile Little Oats Bar-B-Que & Marinade Sauce comes from Tooele-based Little Oats (LittleOats.com). A tropical touch of pineapple juice blends with other savory ingredients for a zesty mix that adds plenty of oomph to both the chicken and the ribs.
To locals, Snap Daddy’s (SnapDaddys.com) products are likely most familiar from supermarket shelves and radio ads, with three unique varieties. We tried the Snap Daddy’s Original Bar-B-Que Sauce, which had a deep, rich and smoky flavor perfect for the ribs (and likely for steaks and burgers, as well). It did, however, tend to overwhelm the milder chicken.
Also better for red meat than white meat is WTF Specialty Marinade, named for its maker Walt’s Tasty Flavor (WTFMarinade.com). Unlike the other sauces, this isn’t a tomato-based sauce, but an herb-filled mixture packing a powerful burst of jalapeño pepper sauce. Pick a rich cut to stand up to it.
For those with a taste for more traditional molasses-y sauces, Jeri’s Gourmet & Bar-B-Que Sauce provides an alternative. There’s a whole lot of sweetness here that worked well with chicken, but was less successful with the ribs. Advertised on the label as a “concentrate,” it should be kept thick for a dipping sauce, or diluted for use as a marinade.
Grilled to Perfection: Choosing the method that’s right for you
Cooking outdoors: It’s a return to our primal roots of roasting meat over a fire. Plus, it’s one of the rare opportunities to get those men to make dinner, amirite, ladies?
But for something with such primitive foundations, the subject sure can get people worked up. For some, cooking only with charcoal—plus maybe a little hardwood—provides the “authentic” grilling experience. Gas grilling is somehow treated as a shabby modern-day crutch for those not sufficiently manly to handle a real fire.
Yet, as with so many things in life, getting it right is ultimately much more important than doing it the way someone else tells you is “the right way.” When it comes to grilling meat, that right way is generally two-tiered heat. For a charcoal grill, that means building your coals into a pyramid, so that you have a hotter center of the grill than the edges; for a gas grill, that means heating up all burners on high at first, then turning some of them down to low.
The reason for this is fairly simple, yet too-often ignored by weekend grill chefs. No matter what kind of meat you’re using, there are two competing needs: getting that great grill sear, and achieving the necessary level of “doneness.” Keep your meat only on high heat and you’ll have an extra charcoal briquette before it’s cooked through; keep it only on low heat and you might as well have just thrown it in the oven.
Your goal, then, should be a combination of the two. Start your meat on the highest heat—either the center of your charcoal pyramid, or a gas burner on high—for two minutes a side to get your great sear. Then move it to the lower heat to finish—anywhere from a couple more minutes for a medium-rare steak to eight or 12 minutes for a pork chop or boneless chicken breast. Bon appetit!