One of the challenges you'll face when barbecuing, grilling, or smoking is keeping the meat hydrated throughout the cooking process. If you've struggled with dry, tough beef, pork, or game on the grill, using a sprayer might be a good solution to the problem.
While simply spraying meat during the cooking process seems like a relatively simple concept, there are several things you should know about first. Plus, you'll want to make sure that you have the right kind of sprayer for the cooking you're doing. We'll make some suggestions for you in this article to help narrow down the best spray bottle options to improve the results you're getting on your grill.
Here's Why Spraying Meat Works
First off, you need to know how using a bbq spray bottle on your meat during the cooking process works. Basically, as the internal temperature of the meat rises, moisture is forced to the surface. The surface of the meat will be hotter than the inside which allows the moisture to evaporate. The process of evaporation is essential to cooking the meat, but it also is removing moisture while you cook.
Spraying your meat does not add juiciness to the meat. What it actually does is cool the surface of the meat enough to slow down the evaporation of moisture, helping to trap the juices inside.
The secondary benefit of using a spray bottle on your barbecue is that you can add texture and flavor through the use of different liquids. You can even use a spray to enhance the bark when you are smoking.
Can I Use Any Spray Bottle for BBQ?
Any bottle that sprays well will work well for barbecue. Even inexpensive spray bottles work fine with thinner liquids, but using a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle or a spray nozzle that can handle heavier liquids can give you more options for getting the perfect combination of crunch and flavor.
What to Look For in a BBQ Spray Bottle
There are a few things that you should consider when choosing the type of spray bottle to use for barbecue. You'll want to consider how much liquid the spray can hold, whether the sprayer has a mist setting or an adjustable nozzle, and whether it is heat-resistant. The best spray bottles for barbecuing are going to give you the options you want.
Look for spray bottles that are comfortable to hold and offer spray settings that you'll actually use. If the spray bottle is too big, too awkward to use, or doesn't spray the way it needs to, it won't improve your cooking and could even be dangerous.
Grill Master Secrets: How to Use a BBQ Spray Bottle
We told you earlier that there was more to using a spray bottle on your barbecue than simply spritzing some water on the meat while it cooks. There is actually a right way and a wrong way to use a spray bottle.
When to Use a Spray Bottle
You will want to spray your meat about every 30 minutes once the internal temperature is over 120 degrees. You can spritz it prior, but don't get too crazy because you'll cause the meat to slow down too much. If you are using a spray bottle while smoking, only spritz about once an hour to prevent opening the lid too often.
What to Use in a Spray Bottle
Water is not very effective in a spray bottle and won't make much of a difference. The reason is that the water will just evaporate off and won't really add to the texture or flavor significantly. Instead of using water, many people will use beer, cider, apple cider vinegar, or a water and olive oil mixture to make their meat stay moist. You can even mix your favorite barbecue sauce up in a sprayer, but you'll need to dilute it with water to get a consistency that a spray bottle can handle.
How to Unclog a Sprayer Nozzle
Inevitably, you'll end up using something in your sprayer that will clog the nozzle. The only way to clear the clog out is to disassemble the nozzle and clean the clog. When you are shopping for a spray bottle for barbecuing, one of the things that you should consider is how easy the spray bottle is to take apart and clean. Higher-quality sprayers use better nozzles that are easier to clean.
You should always avoid using a piece of wire, toothpick, or a needle to push debris out of a clogged nozzle. This can alter the shape of the nozzle opening and make the spray bottle work inconsistently. Instead, try to use water to rinse the clog from the nozzle. It's a good idea to strain your liquid into the spray bottle when you are using chunky ingredients that will clog the nozzle tip easily.
Using a Spray Bottle to Add Flavor
One of the main benefits of using a spray bottle is that you can enhance the flavors from your marinade or dry rub. One trick that we use to boost flavors is to steep our herbs and seasonings in hot water for about 10 minutes before we are ready to use them. We even use this trick with our favorite Bearded Butcher Blend Seasonings when we are grilling.
Steeping Herbs and Spices
With ingredients like cracked black pepper, chili flakes, rosemary, and cilantro, you can steep the herbs to extract the oils that hold the flavor. When you are ready to fill the spray bottle, use a small strainer to catch the additions so that you aren't clogging the sprayer.
Get a Bolder Bark
You can also use a spray bottle to enhance the bark on meat in your smoker. Mixing up a sugar and water solution, you can mist the meat. The sugar caramelizes when it is heated and will enhance the crunchiness and sweetness of the meat. Try using fresh cane sugar, brown sugar, or molasses to add even more depth of flavor.
Top-Secret Tip: Add Oils
Adding a small amount of olive oil to the spray bottle will improve the results. The oil helps to prevent evaporation, trapping the hot juices inside the meat. It doesn't take much, about a tablespoon per 12-16 oz spray bottle. Heating your water beforehand helps to thin the oil out a little.
Mixing It All Together
We use all of the tips above when we put together a barbecue spray. This is an example of one of our mixtures for using in a spray bottle.
- 2 tbs Kosher Salt
- 1 tbs Piloncillo Oscuro, grated. Substitute for brown sugar or molasses.
- Small Bunch of Cilantro leaves, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp Grated Lime Zest
- 1 tbs Bearded Butchers Zesty Seasoning
- 2 tsp whole cumin, cracked
- 2-3 Garlic Cloves, crushed or chopped
- 1 Tbs Chipotle Peppers, crushed
- 1 Tbs Olive Oil, Lemon infused
- A small splash of vinegar or apple cider vinegar
In a medium saucepan, add enough water to fill your spray bottle. Heat the water to a low simmer. It doesn't need to boil. Add in all of the ingredients and stir. Continue to heat the liquid on medium-low for 10-15 minutes until aromatic.
Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool somewhat.
Using a small sieve or strainer, remove the large pieces from the liquid. Pour into the spray bottle. Your barbecue spray is now ready to use. We love to use this on chicken on the grill. The lemon-infused oil and the herbs and spices combine to add layers of delicious flavor and the addition of the sugar helps to crisp the skin and prevent the moisture from evaporating.
Best Spray Bottles For BBQ – Time to Spritz
These are a few examples of some of the types of sprayers you'll likely have good success with.
These spray bottles come in a four-pack. They have a mist setting and a stream setting. There is nothing fancy here and the price is reflective of that.
What We Like
We like the low cost and the fact that you get four bottles. You can use different liquids in each and it's nice to have one that is just water for dealing with flare-ups on the grill.
What We Don't Like
These are cheap spray bottles and won't last forever. They are particularly susceptible to clogging and the nozzles can quickly get out of shape.
This one is pretty awesome. The sprayer body is made from lightweight and durable stainless steel that also makes it a snap to clean. It has an adjustable spray nozzle and includes a hose with an injector needle so you can even pump flavor into your meal.
What We Like
The metal body is easy to keep clean. The injector nozzle adds functionality.
What We Don't Like
The body is only lined in stainless. The sprayer itself is a plastic bottle. The spray nozzle itself isn't fantastic and clogs easily with chunky spray mixtures.
This is a great pick. We always like to avoid plastic whenever possible, and glass is the perfect solution. These are available in clear glass, blue glass, or amber glass. The bottles even have convenient measuring marks on them to simplify your solution-making process.
What We Like
The glass bottles are easy to clean and don't contribute to waste in the landfill. The bottles come in a two-pack and include a handy stainless steel funnel, storage caps, and labels that you write on with chalk.
What We Don't Like
The spray nozzle head is nothing special and may need to be replaced periodically. Some buyers report that they got leaky spray nozzles or ones that wore out quickly.
This is large at 1.5L, so you'll be able to mix up enough spray for an all-day cook-off. Unlike a regular spray bottle, you'll use the plunger to compress the air in the spray bottle. The brass nozzle is easy to clean. This is a good choice for thicker, heavier liquids that you are trying to spray.
What We Like
Pumping this sprayer up gives it enough force to handle thick saucy liquids. The brass adjustable nozzle is easy to clean.
Adding a spray bottle to your barbecue arsenal is a smart choice and it gives you better control over your final results. It's also a great way to add flavor and enhance the bark on your meats whether you are cooking in a smoker, on a grill, or on the barbecue.
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