Take a look at the barbecue sauce options on the shelves of your local grocery store or supermarket today. What’s a consumer to do? So much sauce, so little time!
Faced with hundreds of commercially available barbecue sauces and millions of possible homemade recipes, how do you find the sauces that will measure up to what you want? Most of us will try a sauce someone we know has raved about. Sometimes a good ad will lure us. Often a 3-second glance at a label.
Does great barbecue require sauce or not? Some say anyone can barbecue. It’s the sauce that matters. Others say barbecue excellence requires no sauce. You decide for yourself. You’ll be in good company wherever you land.
I love it when someone tells me, “Your barbecue is so good it needs no sauce,” On the other hand, I’m not offended if someone puts sauce on my barbecue. I like it both ways as long as the sauce is good and it is applied with moderation instead of in meat drowning mode.
First, a few basic barbecue and sauce some lessons: Always judge barbecue sauce on real barbecue meat. Why? Because it’s a barbecue sauce.
Barbecue is meat cooked with fire and smoke—either hot and fast direct grilling or slow and low indirect smoking. A good barbecue sauce will complement either.
A sauce may look good and taste great straight out of the bottle. When you put a good-looking barbecue sauce on barbecue meat, however, don’t be surprised if your palate shouts, “Yuk!”
On the other hand, a barbecue sauce can look ugly, uninteresting, and taste so-so straight from the bottle—but put it on barbecue meat and your palate shouts “Wow!”
Palates differ: Yuk and Wow are relative to individual palates.
Barbecue sauce should not be used to drown barbecue meat.
Barbecue sauces can multi-task. They are good on barbecue, and many can do wonders with starters, sides, desserts and non-barbecue entrees.
Obey the Pythagorean rule: all things in moderation. Regardless of how good it is, too much is too much!
Don’t trust barbecue sauce tasting notes when Lesson One is ignored. Finger sauce, plastic spoon sauce, saltine cracker sauce and bread sauce is not barbecue sauce. If sauce isn’t tasted on real barbecue, the tasting notes are incomplete.
The best barbecue sauce is the sauce you like. Concerning personal taste there is no argument.
This summer is a good time to get sauced on some remarkable sauces from Canada, Maine, Georgia, Kansas City, California, Texas, Tennessee, and California by way of Kansas City. I tasted each sauce by itself straight out of the bottle and on barbecue pulled pork, pork ribs, beef brisket and chicken.
CattleBoyZ Chipotle Maple Bacon CattleBoyZ has outdone themselves with the new Chipotle Maple Bacon barbecue sauce honoring Robert Boulton, ambassador for CattleBoyz and ALS. It is sweet. It is thick and slow to pour from the old-fashioned latchtop bottle, but the wait is worth it. The sweet maple kiss says “Good morning, darlin’,” then whaps you with a kick of chipotle to remind you that love hurts. Chipotle gives it a gentle touch of fire, folded into maple sweetness with tiny bacon fragments.
At first bite you think “pancakes and waffles” until the chipotle hits you. It’s especially good on beef and chicken and is great in barbecue pit beans.
Denny Mike’s Mesquite Madness BBQ Sauce If you’ve met Dennis Michael “DennyMike” Sherman, you know the man is passionate about barbecue and life. No surprise that you can taste that passion in his sauces and seasonings. So what if he’s a Mainer? He’s been baptized in the holy mesquite, oak and hickory smoke of Texas, Mexico, Tennessee and Kansas City. DennyMike puts out a fantastic medley of sauces and rubs, among them one of my favorites, Mesquite Madness.
Used to be that barbecue sauce in Texas barbecue joints was a rarity. At best you might find a bottle of hot sauce or jalapeno-infused vinegar. It’s still that way in parts of Texas, but the last time Chef Paul Kirk and I did a barbecue roadtrip in central Texas there was sauce on every table and sauce for sale in every place we visited.
DennyMike’s smooth tomato base complex blend of spices with a mesquite finish says, “Hello Texas,” but it resonates far beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.
Mesquite Madness dances well with barbecue beef, pork, chicken, burgers, brats and hot dogs. And I can’t wait to use it as a dipping sauce with barbecued lobster!
3 Taxi Guys Cabilicious Tijuana Taxi Sauce It didn’t take long for these three guys to get in step with blowing barbecue smoke. According to their story, Rick, Jamie and John are “triplets” because they are so much alike, all three drawn to the taxi business. They met at a taxi convention in Las Vegas, landed in the same jail cell, and discovered their shared passion for barbecue. Suddenly there was a new line of barbecue sauces and rubs, aptly named “3 Taxi Guys.” No offense to taxi drivers, but this sauce will make your barbecue a whole lot more fun than a taxi ride in Atlanta, Pittsburg or San Francisco, the respective home towns of the 3 Taxi Guys. They make some fantastic barbecue sauces and have a lot of fun doing it. When they went to Mexico, searching for their “triplet sisters,” they took a ride in a Tijuana Taxi that inspired this sauce.
The vinegar base, slightly grainy blend of chili seasonings is similar to Arthur Bryant’s Original with added spicy Tijuana flavor notes. Outstanding on pulled pork, pork ribs, beef and chicken; especially good as a vinegar base complement to pork. I’m thinking that a splash or two in a Bloody Mary would be perfect. A splash would also put some zing in a shot of gold tequila.
Rufus Teague Whiskey Maple The Rufus Teague whiskey flask bottle and label is a stroke of marketing genius. Featuring a grainy 19th century image of an old Amish-style bearded gentleman in a Derby hat, dress shirt, tie and suit, looking straight at you with an almost smile and “Rufus Teague Made Some Sauce” next to the image, it pulls you in and inspires trust. Rufus’ story is short and sweet. He made some sauce. Everyone liked it and urged him to make more. This whiskey maple sauce pays homage to Rufus’ appreciation for good whiskey and maple syrup. The bottle, label, and story—embellished or not—grab your attention. When you try the sauce, you’re hooked.
Rufus’ smooth, sweet tomato base, stick-to-your-bones texture with whiskey and maple accents up front is a crowd pleaser. I especially like it on chicken. It is also good on beef and pork, especially on pork ribs. Yes to whiskey, yes to maple, yes to Rufus!
Southern Pride Culinary Classic BBQ Sauce Chances are, more than one of your favorite barbecue restaurants cooks with a Southern Pride gas, mobile or electric smoker. Southern Pride stainless steel insulated pits are among the most popular in the barbecue restaurant industry. It’s no wonder that since Southern Pride knows barbecue, they also know sauce. I like the philosophy expressed on the label: “At Southern Pride we believe great BBQ doesn’t need sauce, but we understand that old habits die hard. So until that time, enjoy this traditional tomato-based sauce that is a good complement to any type of meat.”
Given the list of ingredients, I expected a very sweet candy sauce. The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. There’s also brown sugar, honey, molasses and corn syrup. The masterful addition of Worcestershire sauce, garlic, natural smoke flavor and other seasonings, however, make it a very smooth and slightly spicy barbecue sauce with a tangy finish that is good at first bite with or without barbecue meat. It is aptly labeled “classic” because the flavor is what we’ve come to expect from a barbecue sauce. This one is notches above many others.
Southern Pride is good on everything. I especially like it on chicken and beef, and it will transform grilled pork, turkey or beef burgers from good to remarkable.
SuckleBusters Sweet Tangy Spicy Original BBQ Sauce SuckleBuster means “bustin’ with flavor.” Dan Arnold learned the word from his dad when he was growing up in East Texas. Dan and his wife Cheryl’s many awards testify that their barbecue sauces live up to the SuckleBuster definition.
SuckleBusters Sweet Tangy Spicy Original vinegar base with a cayenne kick is sweet up front, then tangy with a gentle cayenne kick. It is fantastic on chicken, beef and pork. Also try mixing 1/4 cup sauce per pound of ground chuck, pork or turkey burger patties before grilling. Yum!
KC Masterpiece 35th Ann. Classic KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce has launched a million dreams. Everyone who has taken or plans to take the leap into the competitive business of making and selling barbecue sauce is inspired by the Dr. Rich Davis success story. The original has been a staple in my cupboard since Dr. Davis introduced in Kansas City thirty-five years ago.
The limited edition 35th Anniversary Classic, available online or in stores in the Midwest, Colorado and Texas, is true to the original with real sugar and molasses. Smooth, sweet, tomato base with secret seasonings and a pepper finish make this “masterpiece” an American classic.
It is versatile and all-purpose on barbecue meats, slathered on a few minutes before removing from the grill or served on the side as a dipping sauce. It is the essential “secret” ingredient in my barbecue pit beans that are always a big hit. “Made with love and real sugar.” Believe it.
Eating barbecue and tasting sauces is a hands-on activity. Make sure your outdoor garden hose is working, or plan to clean up at the nearest car wash when you’re finished.