Sauce: Before or After?

Q. “Are you supposed to use sauce before or after you grill chicken breasts? Or do you baste during the process?” —Brendan, Neenah

A brush applies marinade to barbecue chicken.

A. Basting can be approached two different ways: to help retain moisture and to enhance the finished product. When basting to help retain moisture, basting can be done at any time after the seasonings are set on the surface of the product. Basting too early will likely remove some of the seasoning and be counter-productive. Be sure to baste with a mop that is somewhat acidic and contains no sugar. Basting can be done as often as you like, keeping in mind that every time you open the grill you are allowing heat and moisture to escape that needs to be recovered. Most sauces and glazes are high in sugar content, and care must be taken to apply them only at the very end of the cooking process (or they will likely burn). On a side note, brining your chicken breasts for 24 hours in a ratio of 1/3 cup table salt and 1/3 cup granulated sugar for every gallon of water will reward you greatly with a juicy, flavorful product. This brine recipe works for pretty much everything that is an inch thick or less—including pork chops, turkey breasts and salmon filets.

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