The saucy side of summer barbecues

Priya Hutner’s Summer Barbecue Sauce. | Priya Hutner

Although spring was elusive this year, it’s finally summer in Tahoe. Even with the mountain peaks still kissed with snow, the sun is shining, the poppies are in bloom, the days are warm and it’s time to think about taking our meal preparation outside.

Grilling is an art. Whether you are preparing meat, chicken, fish or veggies, the secret is in the sauce, marinade or dry rub. Use marinades and dry rubs before you cook and use barbecue sauce before, during and after. All are bound to make your main course a delicious hit. If you’re not a grill cook, there is no need to worry. All these sauces totally work for indoor cooking as well.

Barbecue is ubiquitous in the U.S. from Texas to Kentucky, Georgia and the Carolinas to Alabama — each region is renowned for its style of barbecue and barbecue sauces. It’s all about the sauce or rub and the way the meat is prepared. Texas barbecue sauce leans toward a thin, tomato-based sauce, beef drippings and spices such as smoky cumin, hot sauce, chili powder, chili pepper and garlic.

North Carolinians use a spicy vinegar-based sauce while South Carolinians use mustard in their recipes for a slightly sweeter and tangier version of their northern neighbors’. In Alabama, they use mayonnaise in their sauce. Kansas City barbecue sauce is sweet and tangy with a tomato- and molasses-based sauce. St. Louis cooks use a sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce with a kick of spice, making it tangier than most other barbecue sauces. St. Louis barbecue sauce also has one of the thinnest consistencies. Memphis grillers use a dry rub on pork. Both cities are known for their ribs.

It turns out Californians also have a barbecue tradition that emanates from Santa Maria. Thought to have originated by ranchers in the region cooking for their vaqueros or cowboys, the Santa Maria barbecue starts with a dry rub of salt, pepper and garlic powder on a beef tri-tip cooked over local red oak wood.

Fruit-based barbecue sauce is a delicious alternative to traditional sauces.

Dry rubs are used to season the meat before cooking. The process seals the juices inside the meat and gives the meat a crispy outside. Marinades generally combine acids, spices and juices and are used for quick cooking as opposed to slow. Marinating chicken, meats and vegetables before grilling them adds an amazing flavor and tenderizes the meat.

Apple cider and spices are a fabulous marinade for chicken. Using barbecue sauce as both a marinade and a sauce for dipping works well. Italian dressing is great for almost any grilled vegetable. Pesto-slathered corn on the cob is a delightful summer treat.

Chimichurri sauce is an excellent marinade and sauce for meats and seafood especially shrimp. An Asian soy and ginger sauce is also very good while Montreal seasoning is a great addition to dry rubs.

Most important is to have fun, make delicious sauces and enjoy grilling this summer.

Priya’s Summer Barbecue Sauce

½ C ketchup
2 t soy sauce
1 t Dijon mustard
2 t Sriracha
1 t honey or maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced or 1 t garlic powder
1 t salt
½ t pepper

Mix together all ingredients.