Plus pitmaster-approved best practices for using it.

By Betty Gold
Updated: July 09, 2019
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Fourth of July got your fridge filled to the brim with BBQ sauce? Whatever you do, don’t toss it. Not that you need new uses for barbecue sauce, but this stuff’s good for way more than just slathering over slow-cooked spare ribs.

To help us figure out some of the best ways you can finish off your bottle of barbecue sauce—or, more accurately, incorporate it into every single meal—we spoke with Chef and Pitmaster Charlie McKenna from Lillie’s Q. He also provided us with some surprising steps you should take when using BBQ sauce to get better results.

  • Put a southern spin on nachos: top them with pimento cheese sauce, pull pork, fresh or pickled peppers, and a generous pour of Carolina BBQ sauce.
  • Spice up your favorite salad by turning your favorite barbecue sauce into a vinaigrette. Simply whisk with lemon juice and olive oil (or, better yet, drizzle them right into the BBQ sauce bottle and shake well).
  • Upgrade a classic Shrimp cocktail by combining BBQ sauce with Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon. Throw the shrimp on the grill to elevate the flavor even more.
  • Use a smoky-spicy BBQ sauce as a dip for fried jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, or Panko-crusted chicken.
  • Use ENC sauce as a topping for oysters.
  • Swirl on top of cornbread muffins—because why should cupcakes have all the fun? Pipe barbecue sauce and cheddar mascarpone “frosting” on top of the muffins as a fun (delicious!) decoration.
  • Whip together a spicy, smoky Mexican-style potato salad with red potatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, tajin and Hot Smoky sauce.
  • Make a southern-style BBQ Dog by topping a beef frank with mac and cheese, your favorite sauce (Carolina would work well), and coleslaw.

RELATED: The Guide to Pairing Barbecue Sauce With Beer

Chef McKenna’s Best Practices for Using BBQ Sauce

  • Never apply the sauce too early in the grilling process—the sugars in the sauce will burn at too high of heat and impart a burnt flavor and often create an undesirable, tough texture.
  • Apply the sauce when the meat is about 10 minutes from your desired level of doneness; This allows the meat to caramelize and imparts the best flavors.
  • Use a brush or even a sauce mop to apply the sauce evenly, and not too much, or too little. Apply about two coats, and don’t put too much pressure on the meat during the application.
  • For sauced meats that cook low and slow, never cook directly over the flame. Using a covered grill only, food should be placed between the heat sources and limit lifting the lid as much as possible, besides the saucing process.
  • Use a meat thermometer for more precision (and safety). 
  • Make sure your equipment is up to par! A dirty grill will have more flare-ups and smoke, and is more likely to burn your meats. Clean your grill frequently with a grill brush to remove stuck on food and plan to thoroughly clean your grill a few times a year.

RELATED: The Most Common Grilling Mistakes and How to Fix Them