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Guide to Barbecue Sauces


Guide to Barbecue Sauces – Barbecue sauce is a sauce used as a marinade, basting, condiment, or topping for meat cooked in the barbecue cooking style, including pork, beef, and chicken.

It is a ubiquitous condiment in the Southern United States and is used on many other foods as well.

Generally, barbecue sauces is categorized into four varieties: tomato-based sauces, vinegar-based sauces, mustard-based sauces, and mayonnaise-based sauces.

Each category can have a range of BBQ sauce styles, ranging from sweet and tangy to hot and spicy.

The base ingredients of barbecue sauce usually include tomato sauce or ketchup, vinegar, and sweeteners, such as molasses or brown sugar.

Guide to Barbecue Sauces – Other common ingredients include Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, onion powder, and various spices, which can include paprika, cumin, and chili powder


Guide to Barbecue Sauces – Original

Each barbecue sauce is unique, but those labeled as “original” usually contain similar ingredients, such as tomato, vinegar, molasses or sugar, apple or pineapple juice, garlic, mustard powder, spices, and even anchovies.

Different brands of barbecue sauce may have varying levels of sweetness or spice, depending on these ingredients.

An original barbecue sauce is versatile and doesn’t overpower the flavor of the meat, making it an excellent choice for most barbecue dishes.

Original Barbecue Sauces to Try:

Heim Bar-B-Q Sauce: This sauce is made by a family-owned business in Fort Worth, Texas, and pairs well with anything from brisket to chicken.

It has a balanced tang and sugar without being too vinegary.

It has a very tomatoey flavor and like tomato sauce, it comes in a jar, but it’s rounded out by the addition of Dr. Pepper.

Bludso’s BBQ Mild BBQ Sauce: This sauce was created by James Beard award-winning pitmaster Kevin Bludso.

It’s thick and sweet with a prominent black pepper taste, reminiscent of Lay’s barbecue chips.

It’s perfect for dipping potatoes or thick-cut fries.

Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce: Once missing from the Trader Joe’s collection, this one is a combination of sweet and tangy, which tastes great on a grilled pork chop or slathered on a smash burger.

The thick molasses makes it perfect for pairing with acidic toppings like pickles or jalapenos.


Sweet Barbecue Sauces

A bottle of Stubb’s sticky sweet barbecue sauce

Popular barbecue sauces with names like “sweet brown sugar” or “sweet honey” are often made with all the original barbecue sauce ingredients plus a generous amount of sugar.

The sweet sauces tend to have a less nuanced flavor than original sauces.

However, they are excellent for adding a sugary kick to a savory bun or heavily salted meat.

They also work well in offsetting the spiciness or seasoning of dishes like jerk wings or blackened salmon.

Sweet Barbecue Sauces to Try:

Stubb’s Sticky Sweet Bar-B-Q Sauce: A gluten-free sweet option that has rich taste and texture, especially when it’s cooked down with whiskey, bourbon, or beer, which is great on salmon or chicken.

The Tailgate Foodie’s The All-American: This classic barbecue sauce has a tangy flavor with hints of vinegar and a subtle cayenne heat.

The sauce also contains cloves, garlic, and anchovies, the secret ingredients in many recipes.

Elijah’s Xtreme Bourbon Blueberry Chipotle: This sauce is versatile, serving as a marinade and a barbecue sauce.

It has a looser texture (particularly popular in the South) and an intense flavor.

You’ll immediately notice the blueberry and bourbon notes, while the chipotle is not as prominent.

Elijah’s Xtreme Beer Bacon Maple: The moment you open the bottle, you can smell the bacon, and while you can taste a slight smokiness, the sauce’s flavor is funkier, similar to blue cheese. (Maybe it’s the anchovies.)

It would be perfect for adding to chili or burgers.


Guide to Barbecue Sauces – Spicy Barbecue Sauces

Spicy barbecue sauces add surprise element to any barbecue dish.

Some prefer a gentle heat that gradually builds.

This kind of burn comes from hot chile powders, serrano chile peppers, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and even Sriracha.

Spicy barbecue sauces are perfect for burgers and dipping potato wedges or sweet potato fries.

Mix a spicy barbecue sauce with a creamy mayonnaise or sour cream to tone down the heat.

Alternatively, add fruit juice, such as apple, lime, orange, or pineapple, to mellow out a sauce’s spiciness.

Spicy Barbecue Sauces to Try:

Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce: Sometimes store-bought saves you time and delivers on flavor.

A spicy sauce favorite for its iconic Sriracha addition, this is great for not only slathering on your barbecue dishes but also blending with mayo to spread on bread.

Plus, when you don’t have time to roast your own garlic, this sauce has done the work for you.

Stubb’s Spicy Bar-B-Q Sauce: While there is a huge element of spice here, the flavor keeps you coming back for more.

If it’s too hot, feel free to tame it with honey or ketchup.

But then again, it’s called “spicy” for a reason.

Bludso’s BBQ Hot: If you enjoy the bold and spicy flavors of jalapeno and chipotle, then you might be interested in this sauce.

This sauce includes the addition of anchovy, which adds a nice savory note.

It would be a great choice for grilling or barbecuing.


Smoky Barbecue Sauces

A bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown sugar barbecue sauce

Smoky barbecue sauces save you time and energy when trying to achieve the smoky flavor that’s integral to good barbecue.

Hickory is a particularly popular smoky flavor for barbecue, and some sauces achieve this flavor by using liquid smoke.

The liquid smoke is made by burning hickory at high temperatures to create smoke which is then collected and processed.

However, too much can be overwhelming.

It’s also worth noting that some sauce brands have a better smoke flavor after cooking or heating, rather than being consumed right out of the bottle.

Smoky Barbecue Sauces to Try:

Lillie’s Q Hot Smoky Barbeque Sauce: Most grocery stores don’t carry this, so you’ll have to buy it online, but this Memphis-style sauce has the flavor of a long, slow time in a barbecue pit with an element of heat from cayenne.

Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce: This sauce has woodsy notes and the fab squeeze bottle cap, and its inviting smoky flavor enhances any grilled item.


Guide to Barbecue Sauces – Vinegary Barbecue Sauces

To enhance the flavors of your dishes, go for vinegary barbecue sauces.

They are a symphony of complex flavors that elevate any dish they touch, even something as unexpected as fried tofu.

Whether grilling, dipping, or marinating, these vinegary barbecue sauces always bring a burst of tangy deliciousness that will keep you coming back for more.

Vinegary Sauces to Try:

The Tailgate Foodie’s Lowcountry Gold Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce: Tailgate Foodie’s sauce is a delicious blend of mustard, vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Its tangy and slightly spicy flavor pairs perfectly with grilled meats.

Try pairing it with a sausage like chorizo, which would complement the sauce’s bold flavors.

Adding roasted peppers and onions to the mix would create a perfect balance of sweet, savory, and vinegary notes.

The Tailgate Foodie’s White Lighting Alabama White BBQ Sauce: The Alabama white sauce hails from Alabama, naturally.

It combines mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and sugar.

You can substitute Alabama sauce for mayo if you run out of it (though it’s a lot runnier), and it tastes fantastic when used as a coating for chicken.


Teriyaki, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Korean Barbecue Sauces

There’s a whole world of barbecue sauces that don’t fit into the above four categories, many of which take inspiration from the barbecue traditions of other cultures.

Teriyaki sauce, for example, leads with high concentrations of sugar, sometimes pineapple and citrus, honey, soy sauce, and ginger.

Hawaiian barbecue sauce is ultra-sweet with high acidity.

Korean barbecue sauce can have a high sugar content but is loaded with green onion, ginger, onion, black pepper, and sesame oil.

Teriyaki, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Korean Barbecue Sauces to Try:

Bachan’s: The Original Japanese Barbecue Sauce has been perfected over generations and is a craveable sauce full of umami.

Widely available online, it has a blend of ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, mirin, and toasted sesame oil.

Hawaii’s Famous Huli-Huli BBQ Sauce: This delicious blend of sweet and tangy flavors resembles teriyaki sauce.

It’s made with soy sauce, pineapple juice, and ginger, and is perfect for enhancing the flavor of grilled meats.

Kraft Sweet Teriyaki Barbecue Sauce: With notes of ginger and sesame, this one would be great on a seared hot dog.

CJ Korean BBQ Original Sauce, Kalbi: This is a fantastic marinade sauce for any meat.

The sweet, tangy, umami flavor transports you to authentic Korean barbecue.

This sauce with charred ribs and topped with sesame seeds will turn your barbecue table spread into an unforgettable meal.

Guide to Barbecue Sauces – Making Them Your Own

Despite the individuality of each sauce, you can still enhance store-bought barbecue sauce every summer.

If your store doesn’t have the exact sauce you’re looking for, you can get closer to what you had in mind by putting your own spin on one of the bottles that are easily available.

For heat, add regular or pickled jalapeno, dried or fresh chile peppers, or cayenne pepper.

For extra depth and richness, throw in some sweet onion jam, or a roasted garlic head, or canned crushed pineapple.

To add interest with spices, use cumin, coriander, turmeric, berbere, sumac, and smoked paprika.

For texture, add cooked bacon pieces or chopped pickles.

For creaminess and zip, add mayo, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and grated garlic.

For an accent of citrus, add orange, lime, or orange zest, or all three.

For a bite and pow, add horseradish or spicy mustard.

Feel free to mix and match different flavors to create a complex and exciting taste.

The beauty of making your own barbecue sauce is that there are no wrong turns.

Barbecue is about having fun, taking risks, and enjoying the process.

So, go ahead and experiment, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

You might just discover the perfect barbecue sauce for you.

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