Barbecue sauce, depending on the type, can be used in many ways. Its primary use is that of a condiment or a dip for finished barbecue products or any other food that you might want to add a barbecue taste to. It can also be used as a marinade or a baste. A lot of purists will scoff at the notion of bottled barbecue sauce and in some ways, we totally agree. But that doesn’t mean that all premade barbecue sauces are bad, it just means that you have to be more careful in choosing the right one.
Barbecue Sauce Trivia
- Unless you live in the Alabama area, barbecue sauce almost always has tomato sauce as its base.
- One of the earliest records of commercially available barbecue sauce was in Georgia in 1909.
- It is said that barbecue sauce was invented in America about 500 years ago, which was about the same time barbecue was introduced as well.
Barbecue Sauce Buying Guide
There are many different kinds of barbecue sauce and we’ll go over the most common ones that are available. Of course, it would be biased if we said that Texas-style barbecue sauce was the best. Who are we kidding? It is the best! But if you would like to know more about the different types of barbecue sauces, then read on! Before we elaborate on the types of sauces, it is worthwhile to note that different meats and barbecue styles call for different sauces.
- South Carolina Style Mustard Sauce – One of the few exceptions to the tomato-based barbecue sauce way of thinking, this barbecue sauce has a mustard base that’s thinned with vinegar and spiced up with different herbs and spices. This is primarily used to dress pulled pork and other barbecued pork applications.
- Kansas City Style Sauce – This sauce is the quintessential “generic” barbecue sauce that you can usually find on supermarket shelves. The Kansas-style sauce is a sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce that has the consistency of extra-thick ketchup. The best example of this sauce would be the barbecue sauces that many fast-food restaurants serve with their chicken nuggets. But that’s not to say it’s all bad, to truly taste what good Kansas-style barbecue sauce is, you should get yours from a local artisanal maker.
- Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce – Another sauce that comes out of the Carolinas. This just shows how vibrant their barbecue culture is. This sauce is mainly vinegar, cider vinegar to be specific, mixed with hot sauce, and a lot of herbs and spices. This is usually used both as a dip and used to soak the pork as it cooks.
- Piedmont or Lexington-style – This variety is much like the Eastern North Carolina-style vinegar sauce except that it has the addition of a small amount of ketchup. This condiment is mostly used as a dressing and is also added to red slaws.
- Alabama White Sauce – Often considered as an anomaly, this sauce is made from a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, and pepper. Even though it’s good on different types of meats, this is usually paired with smoked chicken.
- Texas-Style Mop or Basting Sauce – Of course, we saved the best for last. Unlike the other sauces that are usually thick and sweet, Texas-style basting sauce is a lot thinner and is usually used as a glaze that’s basted all over the meats with a mop while it is cooking. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not used as a condiment as well. Extra sauce is usually served on the side of Texas-style barbecue and used as a dip to further enhance the taste of the meat.
Barbecue sauce is ever-evolving with many regional variations. The best way to discover different barbecue sauces is to visit barbecue joints or farmers’ markets to taste real barbecue sauces made by real artisans.
Barbecue Sauce Production & Farming in Texas
Much like regional variations, there is no one gold standard for Texas-style barbecue sauce because there’s always disagreement on who makes the best sauce. Each Pitmaster will say that his or her sauce is the best and we aren’t in a position to argue. For us, the best sauce is the one that’s right in front of us, as long as it’s served with a heaping plate of barbecue.
Many hot sauce producers in Texas will also have their own version of barbecue sauce that they sell in local specialty stores or farmers’ markets.
The best way to discover the “best” barbecue sauce is to try them and find your own favorite. Just stay away from the generic ones that are commercially produced and try the ones that are sold at farmers’ markets or any of the small-batch producers that sell in your town or city.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
One of the things to look out for when buying barbecue sauce is the use of high fructose corn syrup. By now you should know that HFCS is linked to many diseases and is just added as a cheap sweetener to keep the costs down. Aside from HFCS, many commercial barbecue sauces use artificial colorings, artificial flavors, binders, and emulsifiers. Sodium benzoate is also commonly used as a preservative in many commercial barbecue sauce products.
A wise man once said, stay away from off-the-shelf barbecue sauce, it’s nothing but ketchup, liquid smoke, corn syrup, and preservatives.
Barbecue sauce comes in two different types of packaging. Glass bottles and squeezable plastic bottles.
Enjoying Barbecue Sauces
As mentioned earlier, barbecue sauce can be used as a condiment, a baste, a marinade, or simply just a dip for any dish that needs a smoky barbecue flavor added to it.
For commercially bottled barbecue sauce, as long as it is still in its original unopened state, it should last as long as the date printed on the bottle. Once opened, commercial barbecue sauce can be stored in the fridge until the best by date due to the amount of preservatives and sugar in it.
For artisan barbecue sauces or homemade barbecue sauce, store in the fridge and try to consume within a few weeks.
Make Your Own Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce:
As we said earlier, there’s no “best” barbecue sauce, but we’re particularly partial to this recipe.
Butter, 1 tablespoon
Small onion, chopped
Garlic Cloves, 2 pieces minced
Ketchup, 1 cup
Brown sugar, ¼ cup
Lemon juice, ¼ cup
Apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons
Tomato Paste, 2 tablespoons
Yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon
Chili powder, 2 tablespoons
Melt butter in a large saucepan, add onions and stir-fry until soft, add garlic and continue to cook for about one more minute or until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and transfer to a clean jar.
Quick, simple, and tasty!