DIY grilling sauces and marinades are worry-free

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      Summer is barbecue season for most backyard chefs, although the really serious ones grit it out through the winter damp and darkness, sheltering under overhangs while dodging flare-ups and smoke.

      But warmer, longer days bring out hordes of amateur cooks burning everything from fish and chicken to steaks and sausages, and one ingredient they all seem to utilize is some kind of barbecue sauce or marinade.

      Unfortunately, most grillers favour premade sauces, which often come with premade problems, most of which can be found in the list of ingredients: sugar, preservatives, and colouring.

      Although dyes and chemicals used in many bottled sauces are what scientists like to refer to as GRAS (generally regarded as safe), who wants to worry about things like that in the food you make for your family and friends?

      That’s one good reason to take a bit of time to create your own sauce or marinade.

      The other good reason is the sugar in bottled sauce, which is often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or molasses. If you really slather on store-bought stuff, you can end up consuming as many grams of sugar as are in a can of soda. Also, because sugar burns readily, barbecue sauce brushed on meats too early chars and imparts a nasty taste to the food, defeating its mission of flavouring and enhancing.

      A good array of base ingredients for homemade sauce includes tomato sauce, vinegar (red-wine or apple-cider), dry mustard, judicious amounts of sweetener (mostly molasses and brown sugar, for flavour), Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (by preference), salt, pepper, paprika (smoked or plain), liquid smoke (natural flavours and water only), and fresh herbs.

      Now look up some recipes on the Internet. (We can’t do everything for you.)

      Marinades can be tricky, but remember that you want to tenderize and impart flavour. Salty ingredients, like soy sauce, are good in moderation, because salt helps retain moisture. Acidic components, like vinegars and lemon juice, can help tenderize meat fibres (don’t use too much for too long). Fats, usually from oils, are important for flavour and moisture and to balance acid. Fresh herbs and spices are mandatory.

      Never, ever puncture meat to allow marinade to “penetrate”—that will dry it out in cooking and create leather.

      Oh, okay: one simple and delicious marinade for chicken, pork, and fish is one-third oil, one-third lemon juice (fresh-squeezed), and one third soy sauce. Add a little sesame oil or herbs for tang and an exotic flavour profile.