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Glaze vs Sauce: What's the Difference?

Glaze vs Sauce: What's the Difference?

One of the most challenging things about cooking extraordinary meals is understanding the differences between very similar things. Take for example glaze and sauce. Both are a thick liquid put on meat to improve flavor, but what's the difference? Or is glaze just a fancy way of saying sauce? There are a few differences between sauce and glaze that set them apart from one another, and also a few similarities that lead to the confusion between what is a glaze and what is a sauce.

Sauce and Glaze Similarities

Sauce and glaze are both thick liquids that are added to meat to enhance the flavor and add a layer of depth to the finished product. Both sauce and glaze tend to use a sweet base that is complemented with herbs and spices. The thick consistency helps the glaze or sauce stick to the protein you're cooking. Every culture in the world uses glazes and sauces on numerous different types of meals, and flavors can range from sweet to spicy to savory and everything in between.

Differences Between Glaze and Sauce

The major difference between a glaze and a sauce is that glazes are applied to the meat during the cooking process, while sauce is a condiment added after the fact. Of course, the first thing that we hear is, "What about BBQ sauce?" Well, here's a fun fact: if you put barbecue sauce on ribs while they are cooking, it's a glaze. If you dip your ribs in BBQ sauce at the table, it's a sauce. Crazy, huh?

Glazes tend to be a thicker consistency than sauces to help them stick to hot meat. Most glaze recipes will use more sugar than a sauce recipe, while sauce recipes are more likely to use spices and herbs to add flavor. That's not to say you won't find plenty of sugar in many BBQ sauces, or that you won't find parsley, dill, or coriander in a glaze, either. You can see how something simple gets easily complicated.

Most glaze recipes you'll use will have a sweet, liquid base – typically an ingredient like soda or fruit juice that is reduced to a syrup thickness. In contrast, sauces tend to use a thicker base, like tomato ketchup or pureed chili's that is then sweetened or flavored according to the type of meat it's going on.

The best way to understand the difference between glaze and sauce is to think of the glaze as an ingredient you'll use in the process of cooking that becomes part of the finished meal, while a sauce is reserved for dipping, dunking, and drowning once the protein is ready to eat.

Our Favorite BBQ Sauce

Here is a real surprise for you: Our favorite barbecue sauce in the world is the Bearded Butcher Blend BBQ sauce. If you haven't picked up a bottle (or 1/2 gallon) of our awesome sauce yet, just do it. You'll never go back to one of those "average" sauces you find in the local stores, plus you'll have a sauce that's all-natural, gluten-free, and goes on everything. It's a perfect blend of brown sugar, molasses, and smoky spices that will step your BBQ chicken, pork, or rib game up to the next level.

How to Make a Glaze

There are dozens of excellent ways to make a glaze that's perfect for whatever you're cooking. For instance, you might want a spicy and sweet glaze when you're grilling a pork roast, or you might choose something sweeter like a plum-base for glazing Asian-style duck recipes. Regardless of the type of glaze you want, the basic steps for making a great glaze are the same.

You'll start by adding your liquid ingredients to a saucepan with sugar, molasses, corn syrup, honey, or whatever you are choosing to use for sweetness. Then, it's simply a matter of slowly heating the mixture over a medium heat and stirring constantly to prevent burning. The goal is to get the sugar to dissolve and for the mixture to take on a thick consistency. Once you've got the syrupiness you're after, all you'll do is brush the mixture onto the meat while it cooks. The glaze will caramelize, giving you meat a crispy, crunchy, delicious exterior and helping to lock in moisture and flavor.

Rib Glaze Recipe

Now that we've gone over the difference between sauce and glaze, we thought it'd be fun to share our favorite glaze recipe for grilling beef ribs. This is an easy glaze that takes only a few minutes to whip up and adds an out-of-this-world level of sweetness, spiciness, and crunchiness to ribs.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Honey
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Orange Juice
  • 1 tbsp Salted Butter
  • 1 tbsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 oz Bourbon
  • Red Chili Flakes to taste
  • A dash or two ground and dried Oregano, Dill, Mustard Seed

Directions for Making Glaze

  1. Place all ingredients except the bourbon in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Do not boil or burn the mixture.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon. The BBQ heat will cook off any remaining alcohol the hot glaze doesn't get.
  3. That's all there is to it!

Knowing the difference between a glaze and a sauce maybe isn't the most important thing in the world, but when you understand how the two ingredients are used to make delicious food, you'll know why they are important. Plus, if you're ever on a trivia game show, you'll know the answer to the question of what is the difference between sauce and glaze.