Grill Master Secrets: How To Use A BBQ Spray Bottle
December 10, 2020 / Mr. Redneck / Comments
The last thing any BBQ host wants to serve is chewy, dry barbecue. We’re sad to say that even the best barbecue sauce in the world won’t save dried-out meat. Luckily, the grill masters who came before us came up with more than a few ways to keep things hydrated during the cooking process.
Today we’d like to discuss a time-honored Grill Master Secret that leads to tender and flavorful barbecue: the BBQ spritz! This method requires the key tool of a barbecue spray bottle. Ok, sounds pretty simple, but we still had questions:
- Why spritz?
- What do I even put in the bottle?
- How often should I spritz?
- What are the effects?
- Which kind of bottle do I use?
So consider this BBQ Spray Bottle 101. Here’s everything you need to know about using a spray bottle to keep things juicy and unfussy at the grill.
Keep The Moisture In
BBQ history has mostly consisted of finding ways to cook meat while keeping it juicy on the inside and delicious on the outside. When cavepeople were having some of the first barbecues, they definitely didn’t reach for a spray bottle.
They did figure out how to control the fire to cook things low and slow, and even built in-ground smokers. Both are great ways to keep meat from burning. But keeping moisture in is a little different.
No matter how low and slow you cook meat, it’s going to lose some moisture as it’s exposed to fire. So just add water back in, right? Sure, but what if you also added other stuff that could add layers of flavor to the meat and keep it moist?
Mopping vs. Spritzing
Many cultures have introduced some form of “mopping” to their BBQ regimen. This is just spreading a thick layer of sauce over meat to keep it from drying out. Sauces ideal for this slathering technique are sometimes called “mop sauces” and tend to be vinegar (or even beer) based.
Unless you’re cooking a huge amount of food, you probably won’t use a mop to apply the sauce— probably something more like a brush. But brushing on sauce while the meat is cooking can be messy, dangerous, and take too long. This can easily lead to an uneven result.
Enter the spritz, which is just spraying a liquid onto the meat every 30 mins or so (or as needed) throughout cooking, to quickly flavor and lock in moisture.
A spritz creates a more even coating, is faster and less messy, and can be applied from further away during cooking over an open flame.
Marinade vs. Spritz
Marinades are designed to work their way into the meat to preserve moisture and impart flavor while cooking. They can’t be topped as far as keeping meat juicy goes. The combination of salt, sugars, acid and fat in a typical barbecue sauce enhances the meat while protecting it from the flame.
When you add flame to sugar, the sugar will caramelize and create a tasty outer layer (“the crust”). But after that, the meat continues to cook and still runs the risk of getting dry.
A bbq spritz can be made of similar stuff as a marinade but is applied in layers over time. Layer after layer of this kind of caramelization results in a really flavorful outside crust that locks in all the juices and gives a nice smoky flavor.
What’s Actually Happening When I Spritz?
A spritz is a way of adding and locking in moisture. It’s important to do both because when something is exposed to heat, it basically dehydrates until it becomes ash. Adding and protecting moisture is key in this situation.
Without going too deep into the chemistry, you’re basically using the cooler temperature of the spray bottle contents to repeatedly lower the outside temperature of the meat, so that the inside stays warm while the outside repeatedly cools and forms a crispy crust.
In turn, this crispy crust locks in moisture and adds extra smokey flavor.
If the spray mixture contains oil, it will add more flavor. As previously mentioned, simple sugars will quickly caramelize on the outside of your cut and give a beautiful color and texture.
So, What Do I Spray?
There are plants of options to spritz directly onto the meat, and there are a couple bonus uses in a BBQ setting. If you end up getting a 6pack of bottles you can be ready for anything!
Juice: An extremely simple option is to spray a little apple juice. Apple juice contains malic acid, which will add to the flavor as things cook. The sugars in apple juice will slowly caramelize over time and seal in moisture.
Marinade: If you’ve used a marinade, you can place your marinade in the spray bottle and spray throughout the grill/smoke time. You don’t want to overdo it with this one, only spray when things have lost their shine on the grill.
BBQ sauce: with some special BBQ spray bottles, you can hook your sauce right up to a sprayer. BBQ sauce tends to be thicker than marinade, so you don’t need to use much for meat to stay moist. You also want to avoid overdoing it and having the sauce drip into the flames.
Water: water seems like a straightforward way to hydrate meat while it cooks, and people have definitely used this simple technique for a long time. The science itself isn’t so simple! Water by itself really doesn’t do much to keep things moist— it just leaves as steam, in the same way that splashing water on your face doesn’t moisturize it for very long. The trick is to have some kind of oil mixed with water to seal in moisture, or some sugar to create a nice crust.
What you *can* do is fill a spray bottle with water in case you get any flare-ups during grilling, this will help keep the heat down. Water can also be sprayed on the grill after you’re done to loosen up the burnt bits and more easily clean it off with a brush.
Our 3 Spray Bottle Suggestions
Spray bottles come in many shapes and sizes, and even the simplest, cheapest option will work just fine.
Make sure to use either a NEW or thoroughly washed food-safe bottle. Never attempt to re-use an old bottle that contained a cleaning solution. It may have dangerous chemicals and make your spray taste weird.
Also, clean your bottle thoroughly after every use to avoid clogs or worse.
If you’re new to using a BBQ spray bottle, start here.
These bottles come in a 6-pack, so you can try all the spray bottle options! These are easy to use, super durable, and a nice 24oz size to cover an entire day’s worth of grilling. Fill it up about half full and use the trigger to spray on meat throughout the cook time.
You’ll never lose this one, because it’s big, orange, and you’ll be using it nonstop.
This 1.5 liter heavy-duty sprayer uses pneumatic pressure to create a constant mist for spraying larger cuts with consistency. Depending on how much liquid you put in, you’ll need to pump it a few times to get it going. Then you can supersoak that pork!
Be careful to only use liquids— mixing spices will clog the spray mechanism.
“One of the funnest BBQ Accessories you will own!”
This is a favorite for pro grillers because it’s small and simple. Mr. Mister is battery-operated, super precise with an adjustable nozzle, and you can hook it up directly to most BBQ sauce bottles, for less transfer waste. It also kind of reminds us of a glue gun but won’t burn us accidentally (we hope). Have fun with this one!
The Secret Sauce
The grill master’s secret is to work smart not hard. The spray bottle is some of our greatest barbecue technology right now, but it is simply a tool to spread flavor. Make sure you don’t use just any marinade or sauce. You may want to keep it simple or go spicy. Just make sure you have fun and share!