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Your Ribs Crave Caramelization. Here's The Ingredient That Makes It Possible

Ribs on a grill
Ribs on a grill - Kanawa_studio/Getty Images

Grilling is one of summer's greatest joys, which is why BBQs are such a fun group activity. It's also one of the most versatile cooking methods — you can grill steaks, burgers, hot dogs, mushrooms, onions, zucchini — just a ton of different things. But maybe the single greatest item you can grill is pork ribs. Heck, Chili's based an entire commercial campaign around this concept.

The key thing you want when you're grilling ribs is caramelization. Unlike something like steak, which is typically seared with just salt or other dry seasonings, you want to slather BBQ sauce on your ribs when you grill them. This lends them that thick, treacly outer texture and perfect juicy bite as the sauce caramelizes. What's the ingredient that really makes this process sing? The key is one of the oldest cooking ingredients known to humanity, and a component that simply can't be left out of BBQ sauce: honey. Honey's sticky texture and high sugar content will give your ribs the perfectly caramelized exterior you're looking for.

Read more: 14 Celebrity Chef-Approved Grilling Tips To Help You Become A Grill Master

Honey Is Perfect For BBQ Sauce Because Of Its Texture And Flavor

Honey flowing off a stick
Honey flowing off a stick - dr.D/Shutterstock

In scientific terms, caramelization is the oxidization of sugar, a non-enzymatic browning reaction that causes food to release water and the sugars present in it to thicken and harden. It both intensifies the existing flavor of whatever is being caramelized and imparts the unique taste of slightly burned sugar (that caramel flavor you're used to).

Honey has the properties that make this work perfectly. In addition to literally never going bad, honey has an absolute ton of sugar in it. And because honey already has a thick texture, caramelizing it further creates a fantastic texture for rib sauce — it's thick and gooey so it'll stay stuck to the ribs instead of falling off. Caramelized honey also has a flavor profile all of its own; similar to other sugars, but with a nutty, toffee-like richness that makes it unique.

Don't Forget To Clean Your Grill Grates After Doing This

Brush cleaning grill grates
Brush cleaning grill grates - Jan von nebenan/Shutterstock

There's an important factor to note here. While grilling with BBQ sauce is great for imparting flavor and texture through the caramelization process, you absolutely have to make sure to thoroughly clean your grill grates afterward. This isn't just so you can get that satisfying sizzle (though that's important, too), but because failing to do so actually poses some health risks. That honey that creates such a wonderful caramelizing effect will harden onto the grill itself, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to hide in and then later escape when exposed to heat. It's the same principle that makes degreasing your kitchen so important: Food residue is where unhealthy stuff loves to hide.

As long as you make sure to clean up afterward, though, grilling your ribs with BBQ sauce is going to make for a fantastic meal. Just don't forget about your health in the process.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.