This common barbeque debate.
In the world of barbeque grilling, there is a long-standing debate about when to apply salt and other seasonings to your foods. The main concern is that these ingredients, especially salt, will dry out foods and make them tough. In reality, this theory is only half correct.
The Truth About Salt
It is true that because of its chemical composition, the salt will extract moisture from meat. Salt or sodium is one of the main components used in drying and preserving meats and other foods. But it doesn't happen in just a few minutes. It takes time.
If you put salt on your food and then let it sit out to come to room temperature before grilling, or if you are cooking foods for longer times, the salt can absorb moisture from the meat and cause it to be dry or tough. But chances are, if you are cooking a steak to medium doneness or less, adding salt just prior to barbeque grilling will not dry out the meat.
But salt doesn't need time to soak in or flavor food, so there is really no reason to put it on your foods before grilling. Why take the chance of drawing out even one iota of juicy moisture when there is no need for it?
What About Other Seasonings?
On the other hand, most seasoning rubs, such as those for pork chops or ribs, often need to soak into the meat before putting them on the barbeque grill. In addition, these types of meat take longer to cook.
So, a rub that includes salt very likely could dry out the meat. Be sure to check your ingredients and don't add salt with meats that cook more than fifteen minutes. This is also true for marinades, seasoning packets, and even pepper.
As long as the seasonings don't contain salt, it is a good idea to put them on the food several hours before starting the barbeque, or even let meats soak in the marinade overnight. If you have a seasoning packet that lists salt or sodium as one of the first items in the ingredients list, it could absorb some of the moisture from your foods.