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What is your Favorite Barbecue Sauce?

May 27th, 2013

CookingBBQSummertime is definitely barbecue time, and Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. So today we salute that tradition and the art of grilling with recipes and deals. As backyard chefs are working their magic on the grill with sauces, rubs, flavorings, and family secret techniques, we’ll share some of the taste variations along with savings on accessories for the season.

No matter what you’re cooking over a pit or a grill, some say the secret to any good barbecue is the sauce. If you make your own sauce, the ingredients may well be a dash of this and a pinch of that, followed by tasting and adjusting until the flavor is “just right.” All the sauces have a base of tomato, mustard, or vinegar, but regional influences define the basic style of sauce and which type of meat you put it on. Regular sauces are applied shortly before serving; mop sauces are brushed on the meat while it’s cooking, to soak in and add another level of flavor. Here are some popular regional sauces.

  1. Kansas City style is a tomato-based sauce with brown sugar or molasses, a thick sauce that’s added to pork ribs after they’re slow-smoked up to 18 hours over hickory wood. The high sugar content of this sweet sauce would burn during cooking, so it’s typically added right before serving and sits on top of the ribs. It’s also used for chicken and sausage. (My shortcut to this flavor: I buy KC Masterpiece.)
  2. St. Louis is famous for a rectangular cut of spare ribs with a sticky-sweet sauce that’s thick and tangy. Like much of the Midwest, they also like to grill German bratwurst that has been simmered in beer, as well as Italian sausage.
  3. In Texas the preferred meat is beef, usually smoked in a pit with hickory, oak, or mesquite wood. Their mop sauce for brisket easily penetrates the meat and is more like a gravy than a sauce. The ketchup or tomato sauce base gets its tartness from adding vinegar, a splash of hot sauce, chili powder, black pepper, cumin, paprika, onion, and garlic. Many cooks also use a dry rub of spices on the meat and serve extra sauce on the side.
  4. South Carolina’s meat of choice is pork cooked over an open pit, but the state is divided over the type of barbecue sauce, with some areas favoring a tomato base and others preferring a vinegar base. In the center of the state the sauce is mustard-based, originating with 18th century German settlers, and is made from yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and spices. East Carolina mop sauce used on ribs or pulled pork is just vinegar and hot sauce, producing a tangy, spicy, and peppery flavor. Recipes for all of them are posted here.
  5. North Carolina on the east cooks the entire pig and makes a thin sauce made of vinegar and spices, while the western part of the state uses a vinegar base with varying amounts of tomato added on pork shoulder. Another variation is a “sweet and sour” dip style made with tomato or ketchup and sugar added to the mop sauce. They even put it in their slaw.
  6. Tennessee is the home of Jack Daniels Whiskey; participants in their annual World Championship Invitational Barbecue contest must include whiskey as an ingredient in their sauces. In Memphis, the thin, tangy, tomato-based sauce is served on the side with slow-cooked, hickory-smoked, dry-rubbed pork shoulder or ribs. Dry rub is paprika-based, and also used on salmon and turkey.
  7. Alabama white sauce for chicken is a regional classic based on mayonnaise and vinegar.
  8. Western Kentucky cooks make a specialty sauce from distilled white vinegar and Worcestershire sauce for the favorite meat in their area, smoked mutton or mature lamb. It can also be used on chicken.
  9. In Louisiana, barbecue is anything they put on the grill, including fish and crawfish, with hot sauce on it. Additional ingredients like chile peppers add even more heat.
  10. Florida barbecue is influenced by Caribbean barbacoa and features smoked and grilled fish like mullet, eaten with only a rub or served with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Check Buxr for deals on gear and coupons for the ingredients you need. Try some unique grilling ideas from Kraft Foods and Disney Family, Food Network, Saveur, easy chili-rubbed grilled vegetable kabobs here, or visit the National Barbecue Association site, where you’ll find some ideas for preparing meats, sides, desserts, and sauces.

No matter which sauce you prefer, everyone would probably agree that barbecue is comfort food for summer. Which of these is a favorite with your family? Or do you have your own concoction? What’s the tastiest or most unusual food you’ve ever grilled? Tell us how and what you’re cooking up this holiday in our discussion posted here.

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