Love me tender: Top 8 BBQ sauces

TENDERISING and adding flavour makes for a good double advantage in a sauce. When barbecuing, marinading is used to keep food moist and will ensure maximum tenderness and introduce interesting flavours.

Marinades need to permeate the fibre of meat, fish or vegetables to effectively tenderise it, so they need to have an acidic element such as lemon juice, wine vinegar, olive oil, or yoghurt. Spices, herbs and salt can be added too.

Oil can slow down the absorption of flavouring into meat, which is made mostly of water, but it does help to keep a thin cut of meat from drying out. Don’t expect meat to fully absorb a marinade no matter how long it is left. In fact, when frying a steak quickly on a pan, marinading can give it a boiled texture, so I just sprinkle with salt for flavour and cook on maximum heat.

Use oil when marinating for a barbecue. Most of the samples we tested had plenty of acids and sometimes tomatoes to provide added acid and substance.

I use a simple blend of two tablespoons of olive oil, ideally soaked with a few cloves of garlic for an hour before discarding, with two dessertspoons of lemon juice, and salt for grilling lamb chops, thick cod fillets, aubergines and other vegetables. Yoghurt, flavoured with finely grated garlic, salt, and olive oil makes a great marinade. It’s also an excellent sauce for vegetables.

Ballymaloe Steak Sauce 250g €2.99 While not labeled a marinade, we tried smearing it on chicken prior to grilling and it gave it a lively sweetness and richness. There are other sauces worth using this way too. This one is tomato based and, like the company’s chutney, is diluted with 5% Dungarvan stout. Delicious. Score: 8

Heinz sweet and spicy barbecue marinade 490g €2.99 Very sweet, it is quite smokey and has a strong chilli kick. Nicely balanced for anyone who likes chilli. Watch sweet sauces when barbecuing, as they can burn quicker than others. Score: 7

Aldi Sriracha & Lime dry rub marinade 50g €1.99 Named after a city in Thailand, sriracha is usually a sauce made from a spicy concoction of chilli, garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt. Here, the flavours work well in a dry rub which is very good for pork, chicken and fish, particularly hake. It can be used mixed with some mild mustard to make a sauce which makes it a handy store cupboard ingredient. Tasters also liked the lemon and herb rub. Score: 8

Levi Roots Reggae Reggae barbecue sauce and marinade 290g €1.85 A cheeky hot kick from Scotch Bonnet chillies is for the adventurous. There is also tomato paste, garlic and onion but you need to like chilli for this one. Good for marinating chicken. Score: 7.5

Lakeshore Sticky Hickory barbecue marinade 275g €2.50 Very sweet until you get the hit of chilli which is really hot. Good for bland meats and non-organic or free-range pork and chicken which need added flavour. Score: 7

HP classic BBQ marinade 465g €2.65 A mild blend of tomatoes, spirit vinegar, glucose fructose syrup, molasses, sugar, cornflour, salt spices and smoke flavouring provides a pleasant marinade, but be careful with it on the barbecue as all the various types of sugar will make it burn on high heat. Some tasters thought it best to use as a sauce. Score: 7

Newman’s Own Original Sticky BBQ 250ml €3.50 A classic sweet-and-sour mix, It is tomato based with sugar, treacle and honey with cider vinegar, garlic, paprika and cayenne providing the contrast. Avoid high heat due to the sweet ingredients. Tasters liked this, and if profits go to Newman’s charity, all the better. Score: 8

Marks & Spencer Teriyaki marinade and sauce 305g €3 Heat from ginger and chilli is softened by brown sugar and honey and salted with soy sauce, mirin rice wine and lime giving it a deeper flavour which has a hint of Eastern cuisine. Delicious for pork chops and thick fish. No too many sugars here, but still be careful with high heat if barbecuing. Score: 8.25


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